Last fall, I ordered a subscription to Ample. At the time, I felt a little guilty, because the peace of mind of having a clean meal replacement/backup option regularly delivered to my house seemed like a luxury. Just this week I got my first Butcher Box. But this time, I don’t consider it an indulgence.
Why? Because I got my head out of the marketing surrounding grocery delivery and subscription services and took another look at them based on science, history and the realities of modern life. (You know that saying about those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it? That’s where we are, and it sucks just as much as you might expect.)
So, in case your head has been trapped in the marketing morass like mine was, here are five excellent (science- and history- based) reasons to consider grocery services and subscriptions as tools of positive change rather than luxuries.
- Deliveries used to be standard. As recently as when my parents were little, fresh milk was routinely delivered to people’s front doorsteps every morning. When their parents were little, it was common practice for people to have everything from freshly butchered meat to entire houses delivered right to their doorsteps! Until much more recently than most of us think, it was the standard for people to walk into stores, tell the shopkeeper what they wanted, and have their lists filled for them.
- Our current system is explicitly designed to maximize commercial profit at consumers’ expense. Although most people outside the industry aren’t aware of it, supermarkets are giant boxes of distilled manipulation. Billions upon billions of dollars in marketing research have been funneled into determining the precise layouts, colors, and other triggers that hijack consumers’ brains (and their children’s!) and prompt them to buy. Specifically, to buy more and to choose what producers most want to sell. (Psst – it’s the stuff with the highest profit margins!) We’ve been sold the idea that the current setup is for our benefit when, in reality, every time we set foot in a store we’re waging a battle we’re sorely underprepared and underequipped to win.
- Grocery services can be a key support for healthy lifestyles, habits, and choices. Did you know that decision making and energy are limited resources? It’s true! In fact, it’s why habit scientists and efficiency experts routinely recommend that people develop strong positive habits and look for ways to “automate” or limit decisions to spare their brain power for bigger, more important things. (This is the same idea behind the capsule wardrobe and personal uniform.) When you look at it that way, is it really a good use of our time to make lists and shop every week – sometimes for than once – for things like eggs, milk, and bread that we use at a pretty consistent rate? Ask yourself how much more time and energy you’d have if you just got those things regularly delivered… and then ask yourself what truly meaningful things you could accomplish with those freed up resources!
- The more people use grocery services, the more common, efficient, and low-cost they become. This nice for everyone, but essential for people with limited mobility and other conditions that make shopping difficult, dangerous, or impossible. On a personal note, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve wished that I could send food to a long-distance friend or family member in the midst of inhuman stress or crisis. But aside from fancy gourmet baskets, the pickings have been slim. That’s improved noticeably in the last year or so, but the point remains – the more we use these services, the more options we’ll have when we need them. And in our mobile, aging society we’re only going to need them more in the years to come.
- Big box stores are rarely efficient. Not to go all crunchy hippy on you here, but big box stores are They eat up real estate, electricity and all kind of other resources in massive quantities. Not because they need it, mind you, but because that’s what it takes to house the marketing they’re using to hijack our heads. The more ways we find to side-step that control, the more incentive companies will have to look for small, more energy efficient operating models over the long term – and we all benefit from that on a dozen fronts.
No one option is ever going to be right for everyone. But next time you see an opportunity to simplify your life and improve your diet and habits, remember to check the marketing that’s been stuffed into your head at the door and make your decision based on what’s best for you without the judgement, hype or guilt.