Marley Spoon Review - Part 2
So it turns out comparing a home delivery meal kit to your own grocery shopping is harder than I thought. The challenges in my comparison were:
Packaging waste comparison of a whole jar/bag of food vs a small sachet.
Food waste comparison when I purchase the whole cauliflower vs receiving a cauliflower that has had the leaves already removed.
These are the groceries I purchased. The first picture are all the groceries I purchased, the next image are those in plastic and the last image are the foods I had at home already.
I really wanted the comparison to be as fair as possible and also a practical as possible. For example, I could have reduced my plastic waste even further by shopping at a bulk food store or farmers markets. But not everyone has access to these options so I stuck with my local fruit and veg shop and grocery store.
This is the left over vegetable scraps.
This is the soft plastics that we single use or only one serve per package. That's still a fair bit of soft plastic.
Here are some of my assumptions to find the amount of soft or hard plastic per recipe and how I avoided any extra food waste:
Grains - the Marley Spoon recipe had 125g rice, quinoa and barley. I substituted this for McKenzie's Barley, Rice & Bulgur Superblend 350g rather than buying 3 bags of grains. The Best Before date is 26/08/2022. With 3 serves in a pack - I'll easily use this before its too late. I weighed the empty bag and divided by 3.
Garlic cloves - I bought I whole garlic bulb. I then doubled the garlic in the recipe (I did this the original recipes too from my own stash of garlic as I have an addiction). At the end of the week I had 3 cloves left. This was quickly used up in the next dish I cooked - so no food waste aside from the garlic skins.
Fresh herbs - where I could I bought them without plastic wrap. I stored them in paper towel in a closed container in the fridge. I then added any spare into salads during the week and a little mint into a cocktail and used them all up - no food wasted. Any plastic wrap was counted in total in my plastic waste.
Dry herbs - I used a mix of buying new herbs if I didn't have any or used up my current supply. To calculate the plastic waste I purchased the Hoyts herbs that come in soft plastic. I emptied the bag and weighed it. I didn't buy any spice blends as I wouldn't be able to use up the whole jar before they expired (yes dry herbs do expire, they get less flavoursome). Instead I mixed my own based on quick recipe searches. To calculate the total dry herb plastic waste, I divided one Hoyts plastic wrap which was 4g total by 4 serves, 1g of soft plastic waste per dry herb. I wouldn't waste any dry herbs as I only used a small selection (garlic, sesame seeds, onion, cumin, coriander, oregano, chilli flakes, cinnamon, sumac) that I use on a regular basis. I still got a good flavour variety by mixing different combinations and no food waste.
Hummus - the tub I purchased was 200g. I used 100g in the recipe and used the remaining 100g on some toast for lunch. No food waste. I divided the weight of the tub by 2.
Sunflower seeds - I purchased a 200g bag of sunflower seeds, their Best Before date was 16/08/2022. I have a year to use the remaining which I'm confident I can, I'll also store them in the fridge to keep them as fresh as possible. I divided the total weight of the bag by the number of serves (10).
Greek yoghurt - I purchased the small 200g tub and used 100g in the recipe and put the remaining 100g into my breakfast the next day. No food wasted. I divided the tub by 2.
Kaffir lime leaves - the smallest container had a lot of lime leaves in it. I used what the recipe called for and froze the rest. I'll use them as I need them. I've done this before and the flavour was preserved. No food waste and I divided the empty container by number of serves, roughly 5 serves.
Tamarind paste - I had a jar in the fridge - no plastic waste. Any left over paste that I can't use through will be frozen until I need it. No food waste.
Fish sauce - I used this from a bottle I already had. No plastic waste counted.
Currants - I substituted for sultanas as I'll give the remaining sultanas to my little one for snacks so I don't waste any food. I purchased the small serves as they actually had less plastic. I then divided the plastic wrap by the number of serves (6).
Peanuts - I substituted cashews that I already had. I keep my nuts in the fridge to keep them fresh and if I still couldn't use them quickly enough, I keep them in the freezer. No food waste. I divide the bag they came in by serves (4) based on a 40g serve.
Sesame oil. Only a small amount of plastic around the bottle top.
Korean chilli paste - I used what was called for in the recipe. Used another serve in a lunch dish (cheats ramen) and froze the rest for when I need it again. No food waste. I divided the container by number of serves (10).
Marley Spoon Waste
Food waste = 358g
Total soft plastic = 149g (7.7 kgs a year)
Hard plastic = 72g (3.7kgs a year)
Food waste = 533g - when I took out the cauliflower leaves I got 381g so comparable.
Total soft plastic waste = 59.7g (3.1kgs a year)
Hard plastic = 17.7g (920g a year)
Marley Spoon was great for low food waste, in fact 175g less food waste than when I purchased food myself. However, once the cauliflower leaves were removed from the equation, there wasn't a real difference. One of the biggest challenges with food waste, I believe, is buying and cooking only what you need. This is where meal kits are great as it takes the quantity guess work out. However, with a little planning and considered grocery shopping you can get to the same low level of food waste.
The plastic waste was significantly less. By choosing meal kits you could be potentially adding an extra 4.6kgs of soft plastic to landfill or to RedCycle. To be honest, I thought this would be much bigger, especially given all the little packets of plastic, the bubble wrap and the ice pack.
So I guess the question is, does the extra plastic balance the lower food waste. For me it's a big no. I can and do compost my veggie scraps so I don't waste food and the small difference just doesn't justify an extra 89g of soft plastic a week. If meal delivery kits could find a better and more sustainable way to keep food safe than bubble wrap and plastic ice bricks then I'd be on board.
What this exercise did teach me is how much soft plastics I still buy and I'm going to make more of a concerted effort to reduce this where I can.
What do you think? Did these results surprise you?