Rashaun always posts on Facebook about Graze, this snack box subscription she has where they send her a snack box, every week, for $5 a box, which sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Of course, Graze is like the Studio 54 of snack boxes and you need an invite code to enroll, and Rashaun is fresh out of invite codes, so I’m SOL. (She also said the snacks are sometimes expired, so whatever).
I am hypoglycemic so I always carry snacks with me so I don’t become a crazy low-blood sugar bitch. My go-to snacks are typically fruit, nuts, raw veggies, and dark chocolate, but I’m always up for a change of pace, especially now that I don’t have access to my beloved Trader Joes for my snackin’ needs. I started getting a ton of Facebook ads for Naturebox, another snack subscription service, so I immediately jumped at the chance for delivery snacks. Unfortunately, unlike Graze, with NatureBox you pay $20 a month for ONE box, something I didn’t realize when I enrolled. The one box includes five bags of snacks (although my last box came with a “bonus” snack, I think because I tried to quit my subscription and they lured me back in with a discounted rate). They advertise the box as containing 15-20 servings of snacks, which is probably only true if you order a lot of the cheapo starchy snacks, since those bags tend to contain more product. For reference, the bag of chili-lime pistachios contains 2 oz, or two servings of nuts, while the bag of “Masa Crisps” (flax seed corn chips) contains five 1/3 cup servings. I sometimes get lazy/busy and graze instead of eating actual meals, which means I can easily plow through a box in less than a week. It’s like a monthly paycheck vs. weekly ones- I’m more likely to blow my monthly snack allowance in one sitting than if they were portioned out on a more frequent basis. You can order bigger volume boxes but I’m more into novelty over quantity.
I got the introductory price of $10 a month for the first month. I felt deep ambivalence upon receiving my “Discovery Box,” which contained dried granny smith apples, garlic sesame sticks, “Masa Crisps” (ie corn chips), orange granola, and chipolte almonds. The box seemed a bit heavy on the cheap carbs, which are neither “healthy snacks,” nor something I would purchase when left to my own devices. I called to cancel my account (they don’t offer a way to do it through the website) and they offered to give me the $10 price for three more months, plus the option of choosing my own snacks this time, so I decided to give them another chance.
This time around, I opted for (mostly) healthier stuff and ordered dried pears, dehydrated veggie chips, chili lime pistachios, pumpkin seeds, and a seasoned snack mix containing nuts and crackers. They throw in some Masa Crisps for free, which kind of makes up finding out that I couldn’t eat the bag of pumpkin seeds, because they are one of many substances that can potentially interact with the effectiveness of my birth control pill. Despite my reservations, it is still really exciting to get a box of snacks in the mail. However, I am also fully aware that I can buy almost identical products at the bulk bins of several local grocery stores. I decided to do some sleuthing as to how much money I was losing or saving by going with NatureBox.
I did the math for my most recent box, in which I selected mostly higher-quality snacks, and even factored in the freebie they gave me. I compared the total box price to bulk bin prices at natural foods store Sahara Mart in Bloomington, IN based on the serving sizes listed on the Nature Box bags (most servings are about 28-30g, about 1 oz. I adjusted the math for the products for which 1 serving was more than 1 oz).
Roasted salted pistachios
$9.49/lbt = $0.60/oz X 2 servings= $1.20
Masa Crisps aka Flax Seed Corn Chips (“bonus snack”)
$2.99/lb= $0.18/oz X 5 servings= $0.93
$9.99/lb= $0.62/oz X 4 servings= $2.48
Ball Park Snack Mix (similar to Zesta Fiesta mix) $3.49/lb=$0.22/oz X 4 servings= $0.88
Dried Pear Halves $4.99/lb=$0.31/oz X 4 servings=$1.24
Pumpkin Seeds $6.99/lb=$0.43/oz X 4= $1.72
Total price of equivalent snacks purchased in bulk: $8.45. $7.52 if you subtract the bonus snack.
That’s really not that bad compared to the $10/month price, and may even be cost-effective as long as you load your box with the big ticket nuts and dried fruit and steer clear of stuff like granola and corn chips. However, you’re paying a full $12.48 on top of bulk price at the normal $19.95 per month price. Is that really worth the convenience?
I realize that there are shipping and packaging costs for Naturebox, and there is also time and effort involved in going to the store, but I’m guessing most of you probably go grocery shopping anyway, so it’s not like you’re going out of your way as long as you occasionally shop at a place that has bulk bins. You can also purchase bulk snacks online even more cheaply, I imagine.
This is what it would take to make Naturebox worthwhile for me:
1. More realistic pricing. If their standard price was $12/box they’d still turn a profit and I’d be willing to pay that for the convenience and fun of receiving a package in the mail.
2. An option for weekly or bi-weekly boxes.
3. Nutritional information and information about the quantities in the snack bags listed on the website.
4. A way to cancel the subscription or put it on hold via the website, instead of having to call a phone number and talk to a person who will try to talk you out of canceling.
5. More exciting options. Almost everything Naturebox offers can be purchased at my local food co-op bulk bins. One of the things I miss about Trader Joes is the unusual stuff they offer like kale chips, salmon jerky, chili crusted dried mango, kaffir lime peanuts, dark chocolate covered ginger, etc. The reality is the type of stuff I crave is probably too expensive for them to offer, though I would pay $20/month for higher quality exotic snacks.
Recently I’ve also been courted by another service called Goodies Co. which is $7/month but instantly lost interest when I discovered they are powered by WalMart. They also have very little information about what foods you will get, with no option for personal selection. They finally posted selections from this month (there was literally no information before) and it included blue raspberry and pink lemonade gummy sour straws. No thank you.
So readers, would you drop that extra $ to have snacks delivered to your door, shop for snacks the old fashioned way, or reject snacking entirely as a bourgeois American institution? Let me know in the comments.