Can trendy recipe boxes like HelloFresh and Gousto really help you to save money and reduce food waste?
- The subscriptions are ideal if you want to try out new dishes
- They range from £45 to £87 a week for five meals for two people
- Most have offers of up to half price this month to entice new customers
- A subscription that sends you only what you need could help drive down waste
If you want to save money on your grocery shopping, a food box subscription is perhaps not the most obvious choice.
Firms such as Hello Fresh and Gousto send customers a box containing a few recipes and all of the ingredients needed to make them.
The subscriptions are ideal if you want to try out new dishes, but they do not come cheap – ranging from £45 to £87 a week for five meals for two people.
However, most have offers of up to half price this month to entice new customers. That reduces the price per portion dramatically.
Firms such as Hello Fresh and Gousto send customers a box containing a few recipes and all of the ingredients needed to make them
The subscriptions are ideal if you want to try out new dishes, but they do not come cheap – ranging from £45 for Abel and Cole to £87 for Mindful Chef for five meals for two people per week
Furthermore, as the cost of food soars – by 13.3 per cent last month – a subscription that sends you only what you need could help drive down waste and therefore expenditure.
So The Mail on Sunday’s Personal Finance & Wealth team headed to the kitchen to try out four of the most popular boxes to see if they could save money – and become culinary connoisseurs at the same time.
Curry was tasty but I’m going back to the quiche (sorry, doc)
Jeff Prestridge tries Gousto
I CAN understand why fitness guru Joe Wicks is a lover of Gousto recipe boxes. They make for mouthwatering meals – and are very much health-focused.
Last Tuesday night, I decided to forgo my usual M&S quiche in favour of Gousto’s aromatic Sri Lankan-style haddock curry. Wow, wow, wow.
The decision to go healthy was in part driven by a full-on medical 36 hours earlier that confirmed what I knew already: that I eat too much of the wrong stuff at the wrong time of night (after 9pm).
Although the recipe card was in theory easy to follow, it didn’t stop me making a complete Horlicks. Coriander stalks were thrown away prematurely. A blender – required to mash up a mix of onion, ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, curry powder and those discarded stalks – took an age to locate. By the time I had found the rusting blender, the basmati rice was glued to the bottom of the pan. Note to self: read menu notes from start to finish before embarking on the cooking journey.
Yet, miraculously, it all came good in the end as boiling water – infused with creamed coconut, red wine vinegar, soy sauce and sugar (I nearly used icing sugar by mistake) – was added to the curry paste. In went a battalion of tomatoes and a shoal of haddock bites and my meal was ready to consume.
So, a Gousto convert? Sadly, no. I don’t have time to prepare such gourmet feasts during the working week. And my kitchen not only smelled like a fish farm afterwards, it also looked as if Gordon Ramsay had gone on the rampage. It will take a week to clean up the mess. One other negative: the box was awash with plastic.
Gousto at the weekend? Maybe. But not Monday to Friday. For me, it’s back to the quiche (sorry, doc). It’s not as fulfilling, but it’s cheaper (£3.70 versus £9 full price for my Gousto meal) and more convenient.
A TRIUMPH… EXCEPT FOR ALL THE PLASTIC
Rachel Rickard Straus tries Hello Fresh
AT least once a week, I message my household’s WhatsApp group: ‘What should we have for dinner?’ We’re often lacking inspiration and so one of us will end up traipsing around a supermarket on the way home from work.
But last week we tried Hello Fresh. We cooked a tomato risotto, tofu wraps and a laksa. Delicious.
Nine pounds for a vegetarian meal for two is not cheap – although the current discounts make the cost more palatable. It would have been far cheaper had we bought the ingredients ourselves.
But groceries are so expensive at the moment that I can go to the supermarket, add a few extra things to my basket and spend £30. I would try Hello Fresh again, if only the ingredients weren’t wrapped in so much plastic.
What am I going to do with all these spuds?
Sarah Bridge tries Abel & Cole
‘SO,’ said my boyfriend Stephen as he peered into the box. ‘That’s two New Year’s resolutions sorted.’
Eating healthily and trying new recipes were on our list of 2023 plans and the box of veg from Abel & Cole would certainly help. It even felt like a mini-extension of Christmas as we untied the string around the box to reveal what was inside.
A rather odd Christmas present, though: six large tomatoes, two onions, five parsnips, a bag of leafy chard, a large broccoli, green bananas, lots of kiwi fruit, a bag of potatoes and a huge aubergine. But it was reasonably priced compared to buying the same at the supermarket as it was all organic.
The first night we tackled the chard, lightly sauteing it with garlic and coriander seeds from the kitchen cupboard. The next night we went all-in on the potatoes, grating them, squeezing the water out and then frying into a large rosti.
But I fear that over time our enthusiasm might dwindle. I would struggle to think of new parsnip and potato recipes each week if they were a regular fixture.
As I travel a lot, I buy frozen veg to avoid waste, which is cheaper and more practical than this box. It wouldn’t save me money if I kept the subscription, but I might stress about what was going off.
MAGAZINEIS A REVELATION – BUT A GWYNNIE-STYLESUPPER ISN’TCHEAP
Toby Walne tries Mindful Chef
Mindful Chef is at the fancy end of the mealbox market – for Gwyneth Paltrow types who understand that ‘harissa squash with quinoa’ is something you can actually eat.
But that conscious uncoupling from the supermarket does not come cheap. A double serving of ‘heura plant-based chick’n and turmeric noodles’ costs me £22.
Inside is a big fat turnip that turns out to be something called celeriac that I could buy from a grocer for £1.
There are two carrots (20p at the grocers), a red onion (20p), kale (80p), rice noodles (£1) and vegetarian chicken (£3).
There are also small portions of ginger, garlic, tomato, harissa, turmeric paste and vegetable stock. I think I could save £10 by buying the ingredients myself.
Even with the discount, I would not save money. But the recipe magazine is a revelation.
Unlike most cookery books that collect dust on a shelf, this one is actually useful – forcing me out of my lazy comfort zone with a detailed guide on how to prepare a meal. It turns out that I could cook all along.
WOULD YOU SPLASH £87 ON MEALS FOR A WEEK?
Abel & Cole
Price for five meals for two: £45.44
Special offer: 50 per cent off first and fourth box.
Meals: Costs £20.95 for a medium-sized fruit and vegetable box for two people. A ‘quick’n’simple’ weekly meat box costs a further £22.50. Ingredients in the box can be swapped for free. Recipes on its website.
Price for five meals for two: £46.98
Special offer: 50 per cent off first box and 25 per cent off further boxes for the first two months.
Meals: Choose from more than 75 recipes for two every week. Recipe cards are included with packages that can include vegetables, fruit and meat ingredients.
Price for five meals for two: £45.48
Special offer: 60 per cent off first box and 25 per cent off for two months.
Meals: Choose from more 20 recipes a week – from quick, easy-to-cook and calorie-counting dishes to ‘family friendly crowd-pleasers’. Includes recipe cards.
Price for five meals for two: £87.49
Special offer: 25 per cent off your first four boxes.
Meals: Choose from 20 different recipes that change every week. Typical meal is £19.50 for two – but varies from £11.50 to £27.75. Includes detailed recipe booklet.
l All prices include delivery.
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