Recipe boxes are boxes with fresh food ingredients measured to fit recipes sent with the box, delivered to your door, ready to be cooked by yourself.
When I first heard about this concept I immediately loved it and wanted to try it out. Since living in London I very rarely cook for myself, often eating ready-made meals (although usually from Marks & Spencer’s, so not as bad as many others) or take-away food.
The reasons for these types of services are clear to me: It is more convenient (no shopping, searching for rare ingredients, carrying it home, etc), healthier (fresh, often orgaanic, nutritionally balanced recipes, etc), eco-friendlier (less waste due to exactly measured ingredients, less packaging, often organic, etc) and learning new recipes (diversification of your diet, trying new tastes, (re-)learn how to cook, etc).
I heard about two of these services (Gousto and HelloFresh) because they are currently advertising a lot. That prompted me to search for more similar services and I decided to try them all. It would otherwise be unfair to judge a whole concept if I happened to try the wrong one. And I love comparing things.
It is important to note that unfortunately most of these services might not be very sustainable (at least not here in the UK). There is a very interesting article from the founder of (now defunct) Dinnr detailing why Dinnr failed. Lots of other services existed which failed similarly. I assume that is the reason for the current heavy advertising from some of them.
I guess there are only two such services which are much less likely to fail: Riverford and Abel & Cole actually deliver vegetable, fruit and meat since decades. Recipe boxes are just one of the services they provide. Even if that particular branch fails, the companies themselves (and their veg and other boxes) most probably won’t go bankrupt.
So, I ended up trialling 7 different recipe boxes over the course of 7 weeks, using the most standard selection from all of them (3 meals for 2 people). That means that in the end I will have cooked 21 different dishes, i.e. 42 portions.
And I will compare them all in upcoming blog posts over the next 2-3 weeks.
What I don’t need to compare is what they have in common: The boxes all cost between £35 and £45 (and there are lots of special offers and vouchers floating around). All have vegetarian options. All can be cancelled easily. All claim to send local, seasonal ingredients. All will fill you properly. All boxes last over 24 hours outside a fridge when they are delivered due to ice packs (and often wool liners). And all can deliver to your work (or let them leave the box at your designated place at home, but that is not really an option in London).
It is easy to judge these boxes when it comes to simple facts. Convenience, choice, eco-friendliness and transparency are the points I can be relatively sure of. (I cannot really judge the health aspect.) But taste is a different matter! On the one hand it’s easy to judge how tasty something was (or not). On the other hand it is obviously subjective and also based on the small subset of only three recipes. Is three enough? It’s most probably not statistically relevant. Although what makes it worse is that despite all the fact-based decisions, the sense of taste is so emotional/irrational and at the same time important that it will overpower all the other facts and will influence your decision heavily.
I will publish my naturally biased rating of the recipes’ tastiness anyway as of each box all the recipes were either consistently great or consistently bad or consistently mediocre. I am aware that might be a pure coincidence, though.
Articles in this series
- Trialling recipe boxes: Introduction (this article)
- Trialling recipe boxes: The Original Supper Box
- Trialling recipe boxes: Riverford
- Trialling recipe boxes: Marley Spoon
- Trialling recipe boxes: Gousto
- Trialling recipe boxes: HelloFresh
- Trialling recipe boxes: Abel & Cole
- Trialling recipe boxes: Mindful Chef
- Trialling recipe boxes: Conclusion