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Eating Inside the Box

by Kady Matsuzaki

Photography by Olivia Falcigno

Hanger (simultaneous hunger and anger) plus laziness is an awful combination. The refrigerator, pantry and snack drawers are all empty, and yet a trip to the grocery store is unthinkable. You could just lie in bed and watch Netflix while ignoring your growling stomach.

Or you could give a food subscription box a try.

Food subscription boxes deliver curated selections of food to a subscriber’s door, eliminating the need to leave the house. There are many types of subscription boxes, from ones that contain just snacks to ones that provide fresh ingredients to cook entire meals. With these boxes, customers can fuel their busy lives in a convenient and delicious way.

Blue Apron and Plated produced the first stateside meal subscription boxes in 2014; HelloFresh had been working with the model in Europe since 2012..Each of these startups promises fresh ingredients, easy-to-follow recipes and quick preparation. Subscribers choose meals from a rotating menu, then boxes of ingredients are delivered to their homes at requested intervals.

Freshly provides a full meal without the added chore of cooking. Instead of enclosing ingredients and a recipe within the box, Freshly provides premade, microwavable meals that can be warmed up in minutes.

The term “microwavable meal” may conjure up images of floppy T.V. dinners, but all of Freshly’s options are gluten, refined sugar and additive-free.. The company’s goal is to make customers “happy, healthy and more free to pursue [their] passions.”

College students may not need a full meal subscription box—especially when living in dorms—but the need for snacks persists. Companies such as Graze and Urthbox offer subscription boxes filled with wholesome snacks at various price levels.

Urthbox and Graze capitalize on the element of surprise; company buyers select snacks for the boxes based on consumer preference. Users can later buy the ones they enjoy in larger quantities .

"Graze was like opening a surprise every month,” said Caroline Casey, a senior at the University of Delaware. “The longer I used it the more they got to know me and my preferences. The containers also allowed me to snack on the go in a healthy way.”

Being healthy is great, but sometimes treating yourself is more rewarding. Enter companies like Candy Club, Treatsie and Orange Glad, which create boxes full of artisanal candies, baked goods or other sweets.

More niche subscription boxes have also entered the market. Mantry, which describes itself as a “food-of-the-month club for men in North America,” provides artisanal product boxes tailoring specifically to men. Possible items include smoked meats, bourbon BBQ sauce and chipotle peanuts.

On the opposite end of the cultural spectrum, Skoshbox boxes are packed with kawaii Japanese snacks and knick-knacks. Familiar foods like Pocky and matcha Kit Kats are mixed in with quirkier selections such as tomato gummies and spicy cheese crackers.

Raw Spice Bar is spicing up lives with monthly boxes of three fresh-ground spice mixes, alongside recipes and suggestions on how to use them. Each spice blend is globally inspired, leading to exotic meals at home.

Food subscription boxes are not only limited to food; Tea Sparrow, Bitters + Bottles, Craft Beer Club and MistoBox are all thirst-quenchers.

All kinds of different teas can be explored with Tea Sparrow. Co-founder Michael Menashy said that his love of loose-leaf teas began in China when a factory owner showed him how to brew tea; Tea Sparrow is his way of “sharing this experience with you.”

For those who prefer to caffeinate with coffee, MistoBox is a way to try brews from all over the country. Each subscriber is matched with a “coffee curator,” who learns customer preferences and picks beans for the box each month.

If you need another reason to subscribe, MistoBox struck a deal with Mark Cuban on Shark Tank in 2013.

Students who are 21+ can take advantage of the Bitters + Bottles and Craft Beer Club subscriptions. Both fill their boxes of boozy bottles with two intentions: expose subscribers to varied types of alcohol and help stock a home bar. Bitters + Bottles also includes cocktail recipes and tips on how to invent personal mixed drinks.

Few things beat a consistent source of delicious food and drink, especially when a trek to the grocery store threatens a lazy Sunday in sweats. Instead of ignoring inevitable hunger pangs, try a food subscription box. Your stomach will thank you.

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