Over the years I’ve noticed we waste quite a bit of food in our household. Not on purpose though, it just seems to happen. After reading information provided by the Department of Agriculture stating Americans throw away 21 percent of their food, I was relieved we weren’t the only ones but I was determined to find a way to stop our household from wasting food and money. So about a month ago I decided to see if my iPhone could help. Over the last month, I’ve been using an iOS application called Freshbox to keep track of the food we purchased along with their expiration dates. My hopes were high about using my iPhone to curb our wasteful habits, but very early on I discovered it wasn’t going to be nearly as easy as I had hoped.
About 15 minutes into my first shopping trip I discovered I was going to be adding quite a bit of time to our trips to the grocery store. I felt the best way to see if Freshbox was something everyone could use was to input information in three different ways: while shopping alone, while shopping with a partner, and at home while putting everything away. One option actually worked great, whereas the other two made things slower or I felt like I was in everyone’s way.
My first Freshbox experience I decided to shop alone. I should preface this shopping trip with the fact that I don’t normally do the grocery shopping by myself like my wife does sometimes. Generally speaking, if I’m in the grocery store it’s with my wife and we’re doing the weekly shopping together. The list I had to complete was not terribly long, but there were a good 25-30 items needing to be replenished for the upcoming week. A list like this should’ve only taken me 30-45 minutes to complete. With all the inputs required for each item, it took me an hour and ten minutes to get in and out of the store. The only good part about this particular shopping experience was the fact that all the items I had just bought were stored in Freshbox and all alerts had been setup for each item as well. I was relieved the first interaction with Freshbox was over.
There were a few negatives about this shopping experience which made me hope I never had to do this alone ever again. Thankfully I went shopping for groceries on a Tuesday and there wasn’t a lot of people shopping, but I was still in everyone’s way. Having to stop, take pictures, input expiration dates and alert dates takes a bit of time and on a busy shopping day wouldn’t make you the most courteous of shoppers. Although the aisles at our favorite grocery store are quite large, I’ve seen other stores where aisle space is at a premium. I was stunned by how small aisle space was at a Safeway on a recent trip to Kauai! Shopping there on a weekend or during the busy tourist season would be an absolute nightmare.
Another negative I experienced while using Freshbox on this first trip was the small amount of pre-stored information. For example, I got a couple packages of chicken breast, but the only option available was for a whole chicken. The stored expiration dates are slightly skewed since it’s not a whole chicken, so I was forced to enter in the package information rather than using the pre-stored information. Instead of using the easy to access information, I spent time combing through all the options to eventually enter it manually anyway. Although I became more knowledgable about the applications capabilities, I wasted time standing around in the aisles looking like a lost husband at the grocery store – which was fairly accurate.
The second trip I took to the grocery store was with my wife, thank God, and things went much smoother. Having someone knowledgeable about the store you’re shopping in is great to have in general, but when you’re trying to shop and enter information into your iPhone they’re a godsend. My wife arranges her shopping lists according to how she plans on attacking the store – brilliant! We hit the ground running as soon as we arrived with a full list of shopping. I always knew my wife was great at getting through the grocery store quickly, but she made my first shopping experience look embarrassing. Having two people at the grocery store, one who knows where they’re going (her) and the other entering items into Freshbox (me) was extremely helpful. The grocery list this week was double the size I tackled just a week earlier. She drove the cart and found each item we needed and would hand it to me to snap a picture and enter all the information. We were like a fine tuned machine. We got in and out of the store with everything paid for and entered into Freshbox in fifty-five minutes; I was impressed!
Unlike the first experience, I have only positive things to say about using Freshbox this time around. Entering items was so much easier with someone who knows where everything is located in the grocery store and you can simply follow behind while inputting information into the application. I thought I was going to run into fellow shoppers a couple of times while I was walking with my head buried in my iPhone, so I decided to walk directly behind my wife while inputting information. I was more familiar with Freshbox since my last shopping trip, so entering information into the application was a lot easier.
The third and final shopping trip was unlike the other two. Instead of entering in all the information while at the store, I waited until we got home to catalog everything. I started entering items that needed to be kept cold or frozen first. After I got everything loaded into Freshbox, my wife would put items away. The time it took to store our food was doubled, but at least I wasn’t standing in the aisles or nearly running into people while interacting with the application. It was great to sit down while taking pictures, entering expiration dates, and alerts.
Out of all three shopping experiences, the second trip where my wife and I went together was by far my favorite and the easiest to enter information on our food. The time passed fairly quickly since I was busy the entire time at the store. Tackling the grocery store and Freshbox on my own was by far my least favorite of the three. Even if I knew my way around the store I still believe it would double the time it takes to shop. The grocery store we go to gets extremely busy on the weekends and standing in the way of fellow shoppers would get very irritating for everyone else. Entering everything at home, which I did on the third and final shopping trip, was much better than going at it alone but still required extra time after you return home. Don’t get me wrong, if I didn’t have someone to help out while at the grocery store, I would use this approach instead of doing it alone at the store. In my opinion, it’s the easiest option if you do all the grocery shopping for your household or are single.
Now with all our food information entered into Freshbox, how did it perform overall? I know for a fact that it helped me remember what food we had on hand that needed to be used before throwing it out. No bagels, lunch meat, bags of lettuce, shredded cheese, sour cream, or fruit was thrown away during the last month while using Freshbox. There are some items we simply forget about having in our pantry or refrigerator and they just go bad. I notoriously forget about items stored in the drawers of the refrigerator. By simply opening this application, I was able to view everything we had in our house very quickly and put together a nice lunch for myself full of items I would’ve forgotten about. In the past I would’ve dug through our fridge and pantry only to find items I couldn’t eat because they were either stale or expired. In this aspect, Freshboxwas extremely useful, but it does have its downsides.
Freshbox doesn’t sync across all devices. Think about how many applications you use across many different devices. If you’re like me you probably have a lot of them and you’ve gotten extremely used to this luxury.Freshbox will not have you reaching for the closest iOS device to look for your next meal. Instead you must have one central device storing all information. This leads to another downfall – there’s only one user to enter and subtract all food stored within the application. If you don’t eat every single meal with your family or someone takes something out of the pantry and doesn’t tell you, it won’t be subtracted from yourFreshbox list. My job requires shift-work so I don’t get to eat every meal with my family because of this. So, when my wife sits down and has a meal, she pulls food from the Freshbox inventory but unless she tells me what she uses, our inventory is incorrect. There were times I would look through our Freshbox inventory and items would be gone or there weren’t as many as I remembered entering. I started wondering if I had entered in the wrong amount, but then it dawned on me when I realized what my wife said she had eaten the night before. If Freshbox simply allowed users the ability to login, it could clear up this confusion. Users would have to choose where the information would be stored in the cloud, but with so many cloud storage services out there they could partner up with at least one of them in addition to iCloud. This pitfall made using Freshbox just a little bit harder and I was trying to figure out a way around this inconvenience.
I’ve been using Freshbox for a month now and I feel it has allowed us to avoid wasting food which allows us to save money. Simply cataloging all our food allowed me to see exactly what we have on hand and nothing is hiding in the pantry or tucked away in a drawer in the refrigerator. After a while it became obvious I wouldn’t use Freshbox on a consistent basis. This doesn’t mean I will discontinue using this application altogether, but I do see myself modifying in what capacity I will interact with it. There are items we purchase at the grocery store that we just plain forget about having on hand. I’m sure you can relate to this phenomenon too. I’m positive you don’t throw something in your cart to purchase with the intention of only letting it expire and throwing it away. I’m sure you’re familiar with some items you’re wasting or forgetting about. This is where I see Freshbox emerging as a stand out application. In my opinion, applications looking to improve some facet of our lives must be easy to use and highly functional. Freshbox as a whole is very time consuming to use, but functionally speaking provides a great service when it comes to helping you avoid waste and saving your hard earned dollars.
I will continue to use Freshbox in a more limited or modified fashion than originally intended. The past month opened my eyes to items I continually forget we have on hand which eventually goes to waste. Other items I wasn’t even aware we purchased. Like I said before, my wife generally does the grocery shopping and the only items I add to the grocery list are things I would want in my lunch at work. Outside of that, I never really know what we have on hand. I started seeing some great things making their way into our pantry. When it comes to items I specifically requested for lunch, sometimes I randomly forget we had them. Some of the fruit I asked for was buried in a drawer and was not fresh or edible. Even the lunch meat I opened over a week ago had gone bad. Now with Freshbox, a lot of things we bought never got close to their expiration date. Now I intend to use this application to keep track of items I know we are forgetting about on a regular basis with the hope that by establishing better habits we can avoid wasting food and money.
Freshbox’s ability to help our household avoid wasting food and save money longterm is yet to be determined. I do feel we are more knowledgable about what food we have on hand. If we notice there are certain foods we are throwing out more often we can simply add them to the Freshbox list to try and combat wasting them in the future. The overall ease of use for cataloging everything you purchase is just not feasible. I see myself getting burnt out from putting everything in the app during or after each trip to the store. I can honestly say photo editing applications are the only items on my iOS devices that get a bit of a pass on being somewhat difficult to use. Since we eat with our eyes too, photo editing applications do excellent work at turning a mediocre picture into something great. An old adage says, “Time is money,” and Freshbox is great at wasting more of your time, so figure out the best way it can save you money without wasting too much of your time.
(3.5 / 5)