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Recipe boxes have been around for a while, but should you get one and, more importantly, which one?
We’ve investigated all you need to know…
Why should you get a recipe box?
Less waste: The ingredients in recipe boxes usually come in with the exact quantities you’ll need – so there’s no wasting food. There’s nothing worse than having to throw away a whole bag of spinach at the end of the week when you only needed a tiny bit.
Less time meal planning and shopping: Who among us hasn’t got to a Wednesday with no clue about what they want to have for dinner? For days when inspiration is lacking, there’s nothing better than having someone else put a menu together for you. Plus, it might actually encourage you to spread your apron-clad wings into new culinary ventures as you won’t be cooking the same old safe recipes you rely on week after week.
Healthier meals: If you struggle to fit cooking fresh meals everyday, getting yourself a subscription food box could actually make your diet a lot healthier.
All this recipe chat is getting us hungry!
Gousto is one of the original recipe box providers, and we can see why. With 40 recipes available each week to pick from, it’s unlikely you’ll ever get bored.
The meals range from quick (as little as 15 mins!) and easy, to their ‘fine dine in’ option – an upgrade that means you get premium ingredients for a more indulgent meal. They also offer a range for anyone who loves a British classic, the Everyday Favourites. You can choose from a few selected faves like speedy spag bol, spicy-as-you-like chilli con carne, creamy chicken curry, ready to roast chicken and comforting cottage pie.
The recipe providers are also taking strides to reduce waste, announcing that they've solved their pledge to reduce plastic in 2019 by 50%.
COST: £2.98 per meal based on a four-person box
Created by three school friends in 2015 and now funded successful sports stars like Sir Andy Murray and Victoria Pendleton CBE, Mindful Chef is the UK’s favourite healthy recipe box service according to Trustpilot reviews.
All recipes take a maximum of 30 minutes to prepare, which ensures you don’t spend too long in the kitchen, and the recipes are perfect for people who are stuck in rut and looking to innovate their midweek meals in a healthy way. There’s sixteen different recipes to choose from every week – think peanut satay pork with wild rice, leek & red pepper and Vietnamese pho with courgetti noodles, tofu & cashews.
They cater for different diets such as gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, flexitarian, vegetarian and pescatarian diets, so you can personalise your box to your lifestyle. It’s also one of the healthiest options, as all recipes created to be nutritionally-balanced and are free from dairy, gluten and refined carbs.
COST: £4.50 per meal based on a four-person box
Abel and Cole's big selling point is its high-quality, organic produce. The company was founded in 1988 and describes itself as an expert in ‘organic, seasonal, wild food that’s extra special’.
Working with smaller suppliers, a subscription to Abel & Cole is a surefire way to ensure you're supporting local trade, and the company tries to keep all produce as green as possible through farming and delivery methods.
There are plenty of vegan and veggie options, and while there are no specific diet recipes, the recipes are generally for healthy, fresh and light meals.
Meal prep and cooking time varies in length from recipe to recipe, but as a generally rule you can expect to spend a little more time in the kitchen with this recipe box.
COST: £6-£8 per meal based on a two-person box
With three different subscription boxes to choose from – Classic, Family and Rapid - Hello Fresh has most scenarios covered.
If you want quick family meals that use two pots or less (to save on the washing up) and have been tried and tested by kids and adults, the Family box is the one for your.
They also cater for the more adventurous to want to try different dishes with the Classic option, or for those who are always short on time and want recipes that are ready in 20 mins with the Rapid box.
Recipes are varied and include meals like beef ragu rigatoni, red Thai prawn curry, and veggie fajitas.
COST: Classic box - £ 3.44 per meal based on a four-person box
Thanks to its compact packaging, Simply Cook boxes are small enough to fit through your letterbox, meaning delivery couldn't be simpler. Each recipe card is teamed with three pots of spices, pastes and dry ingredients (with a long shelf life) so you can pick and choose when you want to cook up each meal. The recipe cards include garnishes and additional serving suggestions, encouraging cooks to get creative in the kitchen.
Simply Cook was founded by Oli Ashness in 2014, with the aim of bringing more originality and excitement to meal times, urging consumers to stray from their typical, tried-and-tested dishes.
The choice is varied, with an assortment of rice dishes, curries, stews and bowl food making up the bulk of the menu. There are plenty of diet-specific recipes, too, including light, gluten-free and vegetarian options.
COST: £2.50 per meal based on a box that feeds two-four
MuscleFood is perfect for those opting for a protein-heavy diet, offering a large range of meat products, including chicken, steaks, mince, sausages and bacon. While the name would suggest this recipe box is mainly for those who want to bulk up, its diverse range of products make it suitable for anyone looking for protein-packed meals, extending far beyond the stereotype of chicken, broccoli and brown rice.
In terms of diet options, there are plenty of low-cal recipes to choose from, using leaner meats like turkey and low-fat sausages. They even have their own low-fat line of beef, called Lite Beef. The rump steaks in the Lite Beef range are just 1.3% fat, making them an incredible 72% less fat than a standard steak.
There are plenty of options for meat-eaters, from the bumper new customer Fresh Lean Meat Hamper, which feeds a family of six for £85, to the Do The Unthinkable weight loss plan, which works out at just £1.88 per meal.
COST: Varied, starting at £1.01 per meal based on a six-person box
If you’re trying to lose weight, but don’t have the time (or the energy) to count calories or plan delicious, healthy meals you’ll actually look forward to eating – then Balance Box is for you.
Delivered twice weekly; each box contains all you need for either three or four days, including your breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with two snacks. The portions are controlled, and carefully balanced to keep cravings and hunger at bay and you can chose a plan that totals either 1200 or 1800 calories.
There are plenty of meat, meat-free, vegan and gluten free options, with dishes including: mango and chia seed yogurt with granola, smoked salmon ceviche salad, lamb curry and coriander rice, and Japanese miso cod and oriental style quinoa.
COST: Prices range from £22.99 to £32.99 a day dependent on the meal plan selected, a £4.95 delivery fee is applied per box out of London deliveries
Riverford is all about locally-sourced products, so you know you’ll get fresh ingredients for delicious meals. However, quality comes at a price – the cheapest recipe box (vegan) starts at £11.20 per meal for two, and can go up to £15.70 per meal for two for prime cuts.
You can fully customise the boxes before you buy them, with options like ‘quick’ meals (from box to table in around 30 minutes) and ‘light’ – recipes under 500 calories per serving.
The boxes are designed to cater for two people, so they’re not family-friendly – perfect for a special date night in though!
COST: From £11.20 per meal for a vegan box and from £13.90 per meal for a meat box.