FreshDirect Packaging Is Extremely Wasteful

FreshDirect is a grocery delivery service that is very handy if you, like many urbanites, do not have a car. Sadly, we have to limit our Fresh Direct usage to the 2 weeks before we move, because they pack everything in huge, mostly empty cardboard boxes. It’s insane.

Really, you have no idea how irritating it is to get one package of crackers in a huge box. It fills us with rage, and we know it doesn’t have to be this way because Peapod (which we used in Chicago, and enjoyed) has no problem using plastic bags like any sane person. (Also, back in Chicago, Peapod was cheaper than our local grocery store, which was obviously run by people from some time in the distant future where milk costs $25.00 plus tax. We called that grocery store, “The Thirty,” because no matter what you bought there, if it included more than one item, your bill was $30. ) But we digress.

It turns our we’re not alone in this feeling about Fresh Direct, as one of our readers (Janine) has sent in a link to her blog. On said blog she has photos of this strange wasteful behavior, complete with complaint letter to Fresh Direct.

Janine got a box with one package of butter in it. This is not the exception to the rule, people. This is how they package things. It’s nuts.

Janine writes to Fresh Direct:

“I just received my order and was really disturbed by the fact that one large box contained only one 1/2 gallon of milk, and another small box only contained a bag of rice. This is really wasteful packaging and hardly see a need for it. I know I’m not obligated to tip, but i do. so as a way of saying “thank you” to your workers for politely carrying my boxes up three flights of stairs…but now it really just seems ridiculous to have two guys carry four boxes up three flights of stairs when two of the boxes are practically empty. i’d really appreciate some better planning on the packing end of your process.thanks for your consideration,”

And Fresh Direct writes back:

“Thank you for contacting FreshDirect. I appreciate your feedback regarding our packaging. I’m sorry about the inefficient packaging of your order. This issue occurs from time to time because items repackaged according to the department they originate from. Due to the volume and variety of the products and orders we handle each day, it is difficult to set up a system that eliminates all waste and allows for the most efficient and economical packaging possible without some experimentation to reach that state. Going forward, we will continue to try to minimize packaging and find more efficient ways to package orders that are also economical for our customers.If you have any other questions or concerns, kindly respond to this e-mail. To reach us via phone, please review the ‘Get Help’ section of our website. Sincerely,”

How about this, Fresh Direct… Call Peapod and ask them how they do it. Because it can’t be as hard as all that.—MEGHANN MARCO

Seriously, Fresh Direct…WTF [Wastes of Space]
(Photo: Janine)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Dustbunny says:

    That reminds me — I got my groceries delivered from recently, & they arrived in approximately a gazillion plastic bags — they had put about 2 items in each bag. The delivery guy said it was due to “OSHA rules”. Huh?

  2. tinychicken says:

    I’m moving in a week. Feel free to send me your extraneous Fresh Direct boxes.

  3. She could just order more than one thing at a time. A single box of crackers. A single box of butter. Doesn’t the corner store have these?

  4. oneTee says:

    I’ve ordered from FreshDirect plenty of times and I’ve never had this problem. I usually get a bunch more stuff than you spoke about, so maybe that’s the problem?

  5. Meg Marco says:

    @structuralpoke: She is ordering more than one thing at a time.

  6. Lewis says:

    @structuralpoke: No, the point is no matter how much you order, FD could wind up sending you one item in a box. It happens.

    Personally, I’m not too worked-up over the box vs. bag issue, because corrugated cardboard, I belive, is pretty recyclable.

  7. Asherah says:

    Yeah, well…nothing so far has topped my online Office Depot order that was three highlighters in a box big enough to fit six reams of paper. (I would have walked over myself, if it wasn’t a company order and I had a business credit card.)

  8. haha, my FreshDirect orders are like that too.

    I don’t mind the packaging as described by Janine as long as my yogurt containers don’t spontaneously combust because of the pressure/weight of the other food (which has happened on more than one occasion).

    There has always been a definite problem with boxes that are overpacked in the same shipment as boxes that have a single item (or two). Those overloaded boxes generally have food items that end up breaking open before I actually get the delivery. It’s frustrating for sure.

  9. Buran says:

    @LewisNYC: It is, but so are the bags. I have a lot of them. I wad up a ton of them inside one bag, then put them into the curbside recycling box or take them to the store and drop them into the bag recycling bin there.

  10. Buran says:

    @Asherah: I’ve received one single compactflash card in a box big enough to hold a monitor before. Sad.

    And this was from

  11. TPIRman says:

    @Buran: Yeah, I’ve experienced the disproportionate Amazon box, too. And like the FreshDirect nonsense (which I’ve also seen a number of times), it doesn’t seem to matter whether you order multiple items or not. It’s an effect of whatever warehouse system they have set up.

    On an unrelated note, is the linked blog post a hot mess of text, or is it just my browser?

  12. faust1200 says:

    Well it’s not really a waste if you consider that the grocery stores are simply re-using the megaboxes that are shipped to them. They’re just passing the savings on to you! ;)

  13. Odwalla says:

    It was explained to me once that most ecommerce sites buy their shipping boxes in bulk to save costs. They place large orders for a single size of box with a box company in order to be able to negotiate a deep discount. They’ve calculated a box size based on their average shipment and will pick one the box manufacturer has available that closely matches that requirement. The deals are attractive to the box manufacturers because they don’t have to tool up a new run for a custom size box (or a number of difference custom sized boxes). Since the customer is buying off the rack and buying a large quantity the box manufacturer’s setup costs are minimal so they make more profit faster.

    The ecommerce site doesn’t care about the size of the box as they pay for shipping based on weight, not volume. To you and me it’s wasteful, but to the ecommerce site it’s less wasteful than spending money to buy and rack a number of different sized boxes.

  14. MagicJewball says:

    Speaking of inefficient, I consider FreshDirect quite a charitable company. This is because I have never, ever placed an order with them where there isn’t something I didn’t order in the box as well as the actual stuff on my list. Since 95% of the time it’s something I don’t want, it ends up with the local food bank. Thanks, FreshDirect!

  15. Onouris says:

    How can you even be complaining about cardboard boxes, which are easily recyclable, and recommending the use of plastic bags? That’s rediculous.

  16. Buran says:

    @Johnny: It has some blockquote tags, so maybe it didn’t fully reload; give it another try.

    Since I posted that, my newegg order of an Athlon X2 Socket 939 CPU arrived (upgrading my Athlon singlecore while I can) and the box is big enough to hold several large paperback books … and it’s the OEM version with no extra packaging or heatsink (I’m going to re-use the heatsink I got with the retail single-core).


  17. Buran says:

    @Onouris: Plastic is also heavily recyclable!

  18. Onouris says:

    Not many people do, and plastic has to be mixed with new plastic most of the time to be of any use. Makes it somewhat pointless.

  19. pestie says:

    Having never lived in a city, I still can’t get my head around this idea of not owning a car. I realize it’s a perfectly rational thing given the circumstances, but it’s like someone saying, in all seriousness, “I don’t have any kidneys. Yeah, I never really needed ’em.”

  20. Onouris says:

    If you do live in a city, not having a car makes sense, as public transport is infinitely cheaper. In Sheffield (England, mind) I can get just about anywhere I want on the tram for 80p a day, unlimited use.

    That might not be the case in America, mind, my experience of America is non-existent public transport or inordinately expensive taxis.

  21. workandrent says:

    Seriously? I have to audition to post a comment? Is this blog quasi-run by Edelman PR?

  22. samrosenb says:

    i just received my freshdirect order today and had a bottle of horseradish all by itself in a box. the other two boxes were hardly full and since they also had condiments in them, i don’t think that their explanation that this is a department seperation issue makes any sense.

  23. tinychicken says:

    @pestie: I live in a part of my city (Buffalo, NY) where I cn easily walk to everything I need. Also, in addition to free health insurance, my employer gets me a free bus pass every month. And if neither of those methods works at the time, I’m friends with a cab driver whom I can call at any time and get picked up in about 10 minutes. So no car for me.

  24. cabinaero says:

    @Odwalla: That’s just not true. While a company *may* get a decent discount for ordering vast quantities of a single sized box, the cost savings are not from tooling. Almost all orders ship in a standard RSC (regular, slotted container) which is cut by easily adjustable knives, not a cutting die. Most corrugators have a few standard-sized knife setups so downtime and retooling costs are kept to a minimum. Besides, most online retailers are using generic shippers — corrugators can run out n-thousand of a standard size (say 9x9x12) and sell them as needed.

    The cost of buying and shipping extra board is going to outpace the cost of just buying a line-up of correctly sized boxes.

  25. j.b. says:

    You must be buying differently-shaped things from me, or at odd phases of the moon. I’ve had the one-item-in-big-box experience maybe twice (that is, 5 boxes full of stuff and one box with 1-2 things in it), and I’ve been using FD for about 4 years now. If you’re seriously experiencing a delivery where you’re getting one item per box, and still putting in a $100+ order, I guess I’d be pissed too. Otherwise, I guess I’m not seeing the ‘rage’ justification. Not with so much else to be enraged over in this world…

  26. matukonyc says:

    What does FreshDirect’s packaging have to do with tipping the delivery men?

    Also, it seems kind of silly to complain about waste when no boxes would be wasted if you just get went to the goddamned grocery store oneself! One could argue that the whole concept of getting groceries (easily available to you) is “wasteful.”

  27. royal72 says:

    if you don’t like the fucking service, don’t use it. the time it took you to write a letter, wait for a reply, pass it on to consumerist, read through everyone’s rambling comments (like mine), and generally get all riled up, you could have gone to the store and been back three times… only in america do people find a way to bitch about being lazy fucks and turn it into an environmental issue.

  28. lmao @ royal72

  29. Buran says:

    @royal72: So I guess people who legitimately have a reason to use the service, like elderly people who can’t drive, like disabled people who cannot travel in a car for whatever reason (which is a temporary result of some medical treatment) and don’t have any nearby family/friends who can help, people who otherwise cannot make it to the store, are all lazy fucks?

    only on the internet do rude fucks like you not think of the fact that there are legitimate uses of services like this, and have to spew as much profanity as possible (don’t I sound like a rude fuck? I’m matching attitude with attitude to make a point) to fucking sound superior to other people?


  30. Buran says:

    @royal72: Oh, and I guess your lazy fuck of a mind doesn’t consider the fact that some of us don’t want to sit there and watch waste happen and want to do something with it.

    If you want to flame something, go find something that actually deserves it. This isn’t it.

  31. I do agree however that these companies can find a more efficient way to deliver their products.

  32. suburbancowboy says:

    Even if it is recyclable, it takes energy and resources to manufacture the box, and it takes energy to recycle it. The ability to recycle something is not a valid excuse that allows us to indiscriminately use things. The phrase is “Reduce, Reuse, Recyle”. Reduce being the first step in the process. Also, big empty boxes mean less items per truck, which equals more fuel wasted to transport items in a half empty truck.

    As for plastic bags being recyclable, yes they are, but almost no municipalities bother with it. Why? “It costs $4,000 to process and recycle 1 ton of plastic bags, which can then be sold on the commodities market for $32 (Jared Blumenfeld, director of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment as reported by Christian Science Monitor” And the recycling of plastics is a highly toxic procedure.

  33. jgodsey says:

    that’s stupid.
    I recently started using Peapod which is home delivery from Stop and Shop. They don’t boxes. they put them in ‘normal’ t-shirt grocery bags (the kind that should be illegal) inside green transport’bins’ and then driver/delivery guy carries the bags into your house for you. It was nice, i saved a lot of money by NOT going to the grocery store.

  34. LAGirl says:

    @pestie: having grown up in LA, i used to think the same thing. until i lived in NYC. if you live in the city, you don’t need a car. it’s pretty awesome. you can take the subway, bus or taxi to wherever you need to go. the only time it kinds of sucks is walking the 6 blocks to the subway at 8AM, in January, when it’s freezing cold and snowing! or late at night when it’s snowing and your psycho cab driver refuses to take you over the Williamsburg bridge.

  35. dayjayvw says:


    In response to your comments, I hardly think he attacked any menatlly retarded, cripples, elderly, paraplegics, etc

    I believe he was only commenting on the OP.

    Buran, have you been able to confirm the OP, is mentally or physically handicapped, or are you yourself making general assumptions?

  36. Gloria says:

    @pestie: More cities now also have excellent hourly/daily car rental systems that are really convenient for occasional users who don’t need a car every day. They make it even easier not to own a car.

    @dayjayvw: Can we confirm the OP is perfectly able-bodied and -minded, or are you also making general assumptions?

  37. RandomHookup says:


    When I was in the Army, we had soldiers who enlisted to be truck drivers, but had never driven a car (usually NYC kids). It’s like it’s a whole different country.

  38. zibby says:

    I have the occasional WTF moment with FD, but usually they pack things pretty efficiently.

  39. slapstick says:

    I walk to the grocery store 12 blocks away, and carry my groceries back in a duffel bag. It’s not because I’m a super-environmentalist; it’s because I don’t have a car and trying juggle a bunch of plastic bags isn’t worth the effort.

    I don’t understand why more people don’t use cloth bags for their groceries. Even the cheap ones last for a long time, and you don’t end up with twenty bags containing 3 or 4 items each.

    Not FreshDirect related – more grocery bagging related!

  40. mac-phisto says:

    i believe a big part of this has to do with how they pay for shipping. generally, these larger corporations contract shipments by volume & build the shipment within that specification (volume of boxes x no. of boxes). yes, it is wasteful, but it actually ends up costing the company less in most cases b/c they are not shipping per piece.

    either that or there are multiple origins for food product & they are not broken down & repackaged in a central warehouse.

    @slapstick: i used to use my cloth bags until my cats turned them into their lounge chair. ppl look at you strange when you walk around with a couple bags covered in cat hair.

  41. kerry says:

    @matukonyc: Hear, hear. I live no closer than 1 mile from any decently sized supermarket, and do not own a car. I walk to the store, as exercise, a few times a week. In fact, I often opt to walk to further stores to get more exercise and see other parts of the ‘hood. I have a large, reusable grocery bag that fits on my shoulder and is comfortable to carry. Getting groceries delivered would be wasteful and unnecessary. For large trips the boyfriend and I use public transportation and travel on the weekend, sometimes splitting up to hit multiple stores at once. We can go to the meat market, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Jewel in one trip if we coordinate our efforts, no cars and no plastic bags. Plus, I don’t think there’s any delivery service that would do the same.
    Buy your own grocery bags at

  42. Buran says:

    @dayjayvw: The OP’s comment called anyone who used the service a “lazy fuck”. No exception. With profanity included. If you really think there’s a valid reason to use services like this you don’t make broad generalizations, and then swear like a sailor to make yourself sound superior.

  43. synergy says:

    @pestie: In San Antonio, TX you can get a bus pass for the month for only $25. I have a car, but since the bus that stops in front of where I work goes by two blocks from my apartment 6 miles away, this is infinitely cheaper.

    I filled up my Honda Civic on Saturday and that cost me $31. Taking the bus every day to and from work is a lot cheaper than taking my car, spending on gas, paying for a parking permit at work, and opening myself to car accidents and adding mileage to the car.

  44. synergy says:

    @slapstick: IAWTC

  45. royal72 says:

    “So I guess people who legitimately have a reason to use the service, like elderly people who can’t drive, like disabled people who cannot travel in a car for whatever reason (which is a temporary result of some medical treatment) and don’t have any nearby family/friends who can help, people who otherwise cannot make it to the store, are all lazy fucks?”

    somehow i don’t think they’re complaining to much about an extra cardboard box. they’re just happy that such a service exists.

    “only on the internet do rude fucks like you not think of the fact that there are legitimate uses of services like this, and have to spew as much profanity as possible (don’t I sound like a rude fuck? I’m matching attitude with attitude to make a point) to fucking sound superior to other people?”

    well thank god i used the fucking word fuck, to fucking allow you to fucking tell me how you really fucking feel. let it rip! about time people got fucking pissed and actually did something.



    “Oh, and I guess your lazy fuck of a mind doesn’t consider the fact that some of us don’t want to sit there and watch waste happen and want to do something with it.”

    gimmie a break, how does sitting in front of computer and bitching (just like this), have anything to do with helping and helping what for that matter. there are a billion things you can do to “help” the environment by your own hand if you are that worried about it. think about one thing you do everyday in your life and follow the train of how it’s made/created/delivered to you and it’s impact on planet earth. did you flush the toilet, take a shower, turn on the lights today? how much went into making hot water, disposing of your waste, and power plants creating/delivering the electricity to make those things happen?

    “If you want to flame something, go find something that actually deserves it. This isn’t it.”

    yes it is and that’s the whole point. if you don’t like how a company does business, then don’t use them and be sure to make the only difference you really can, by keeping your money out of their pocket.

  46. I am not going to get into a long rant but I aggree with royal72

  47. not_seth_brundle says:

    @pestie: As someone who moved from a city where a car was basically required to one where it’s completely optional, I can attest: You VERY quickly get used to not having to make a car payment, pay insurance premiums, pay property taxes and/or vehicle registration, buy gasoline, washer fluid, oil changes, etc., find a parking spot, remember to move your car to the other side of the street on street-cleaning days, wash off bird poop, repair side-view mirrors torn off by some idiot driving too close to the parked car…

  48. evilhapposai says:

    Ever wonder why Best Buy is more expensive (well, other than the screwings from replacement plans)? I work in the media dept and every 2-3days we get 10 or so HUGE heavy plastic totes and many more cardboard boxes. most are basically empty! Like this Monday we had 7 yellow totes, 1 was half full of cd’s the other’s had 1-3 cd’s each in them! The cardboard ones had a bit more in them but still were half at best. They were not special orders or anything just old titles that were to be put out on the shelf. I know businesses use their own shipping and have diff prices but JEEZ with just a bit more planning they could get much lower prices and give the employees more hours!!! ….and dont get me started on the amount of paper I see wasted there everyday.

    Best Buy is TRULY the devil….unfortunately the only place hiring in my area at the moment =(

  49. newyork718 says:

    FD packaging, among other things, led me to order from a new company that apparently just started competing in new york. I just got my delivery from Bread-n-Brie and it was awesome! They pack everything in really nice shopping bags, give gifts with every order, I even got a call from their president thanking me for being one of the first customers. The website still needs a few improvements, but it’s a really cool design with super-easy navigation.

  50. Helvetian says:

    @newyork718: link?

    And I thought I was alone. I just had a delivery and this is the exact listing:

    Box #1 = bag of apples
    Box #2 = two pints of ice cream and a pot pie
    Box #3 = box of cereal and cookies
    Box #4 = several grocery items
    Box #5 = fresh bread
    Box #6 = remainder of grocery items

    Needless to say I was annoyed, the boxes are so tedious to break down and dispose of. It was my first order, so I thought it was a glitch in the system. I was surprised to see so many boxes arrive. I’m affraid to order again if everything will come in so many huge boxes. It’s convenient to have delivery but the boxes are a headache.