Instagrammable, home cooked, nutrious meals are more in demand than ever – but, if you are anything like us, so is your time. Even on those evenings that you do get a free hour and feel like getting your Heston on, you often find yourself hampered by a lack of forward planning to make sure you have the right ingredients in your cupboard.
Enter meal box delivery services. These companies have been springing up all over the place claiming to deliver sure-fire recipes to your door. They boast the highest quality ingredients, simple instructions and little bit of flair in the meals they pull together – but it’s hard to know which service to pick.
Well, the reviews are in. Two companies have been rising above the rest and can claim to be the most popular meal box delivery services in the UK – Hello Fresh and Gousto. However, do they live up to their claims and are they actually worth trying? We signed up to both for a week to find out.
How They Work
You just go to their websites, sign up and put in the offer code. You then just select your meals and they deliver them out in a box. It’s that simple.
When signing up to either service you should definitely look around for a deal. We managed to get 50% off on both boxes. At Gousto you can get 25% off your first 4 boxes using the vouchercode PROMO254:
For Hello Fresh you can click below and use the code 18JANHF, which will get you 50% off your first two boxes.
On an ongoing basis, Gousto costs from £2.98 per serving, if you go for the family box with three meals a week, to £6.25 a serving if you go for two meals a week for two people.
Hello Fresh starts from £4.00 per serving if you go for a family box with four meals a week. It goes as high as £5.83 a portion if you opt for it to come three times a week with meals for two.
On Gousto, if you go for four meals a week for 2 people, it works our at £4.37 a serving. On Hello Fresh, the same option costs £5.25.
So yeah, Hello Fresh is the best part of a quid more expensive per meal.
If you are worried about committing every week, both services provide the option to pause your subscription – or you can have the box delivered every fortnight etc.
Each week on Hello Fresh, you get to choose between 10 meals, if you go for the “Classic Box” option. We can’t remember the full range of options we got to chose from at the time of our review, but we were not short of choice. Here is this week’s selection from their website:
Speedy Stir-Fry Steak
Sicilian Caponata (with Herbed Pork and Garlicky Ciabatta)
Prawn & Chorizo Spaghetti with Fresh Vine Tomatoes
Rainbow Pepper Fajitas
Creamy Mustard Chicken
Dukkah and Honey Crusted Duck Breast (but with a fiver surcharge for this!)
Pulled Chicken Burgers (with Wedges and Tangy Slaw)
Sweet Potato Cottage Pie
Roasted Aubergine (with Quinoa, Halloumi and Cherry Tomato Salsa)
You can also opt for a “family box” option, which has recipes for 3/4 people, or a rapid box which has meals that take under 20 minutes to cook.
On Gousto you get to choose from about 25 meals – and they all look delicious. They are also conveniently broken down by category. Their menu for the current week is available without logging in here.
Neither service has a limited menu, but in terms of choice, there is a clear winner.
Both deliveries came in good time on the day they were scheduled for. When you sign up you can choose your delivery days. Both include weekend deliveries.
If you want to adjust what is in your box, you need to do so 3 days before they are due to arrive otherwise both services will send you random meals from that week’s menu.
Both come with their perishable ingredients packed in wool insulated bags filled with ice packs. We waited for 6 hours before opening each box to check the system worked. We were not disappointed – the ingredients were kept fresh.
Hello Fresh sends through a binder and 5 large printed instructions on A4 card. They go into a lot of detail and we had no difficulty following them. We’re not great cooks, so appreciate everything being spelled out.
Hello Fresh tends to arrange each dinner’s ingredients (apart from the perishables) in a colour coded “Meal Bag”. It sounds like a small point, but it does save a few minutes at the beginning of the week when you have a whole box of ingredients to rifle through.
Gousto also comes with a binder and instructions. These are A5 in size and laminated so they don’t get dog eared. However they tend to have less detail and we found them a bit harder to follow. At points we felt had to guess what they meant (though not enough to have any true kitchen disasters).
Winner: Hello Fresh
Both services has excellent ingredients. You are looking at Waitrose levels of quality from both services.
Winner : Tie
Both go overboard. We ordered boxes with servings for two and after most meals we were able to go back for seconds. We’re not health bloggers who eat like sparrows either. We like our food, and on some meals we found ourselves totally stuffed.
The Taste Test
We’ve provided an in-depth run down of each meal, but for those in a rush you can scroll down to our conclusion.
- Hello Fresh
Teriyaki Beef (with Bok Choy and Brown Rice): 4/5. Prep time 30 mins. 613 calories.
Awesome start to our Hello Fresh experience. The ingredients were top quality and the instructions were simple to follow. Bok choy is not the sort of thing we’d ever pick up in the local Tesco Metro and white sesame seeds are not the kind of thing we’d have lying around the kitchen to just add into a meal. They’re not just for looks though, they do genuinely add an extra dimension to the meal. We’re left a bit impressed (and a bit smug) by our “own” culinary creations.
Fragrant Paella (with chicken and chorizo): 3.75/5. Prep time 30 mins. 742 calories.
Making a paella in half an hour seemed crazy, but the timing was spot on.It’s also a one pot meal, meaning washing up is a breeze too. The additions of saffron (the most expensive spice in the world and worth more in weight than gold we are reliably informed) and paprika gave it a traditional robust taste.
Pan-Fried Chicken Breast (with sweet potato mash and peppercorn sauce): 4.25/5. Prep time 40 minutes. 555 calories
This one didn’t excite much when we heard the name, but we chose it to see what Hello Fresh can do with a simple meal. They smashed it. The thing that elevated this meal was the sauce, made by mixing the water from boiling the sweet potatoes with chicken stock, peppercorns and sour cream – as well as a little tip to not wash the pan you cook the chicken and to use this to make the sauce. It’s all very straightforward, but the results are just delicious.
Tomato-Garlic Beef Ragu (with courgette, spaghetti and Italian cheese): 4.25/5. Prep time 25 minutes. 759 calories.
Quick to make and bursting with flavour. The best thing is you don’t have to worry about the recent health warnings around jar sauces and can still get a meal out in under half an hour. We’re ready to say goodbye to Dolmio day.
Somehow it claims to be 5 of our 5 a day on the recipe card. We’re pretty sure that is a misprint.
Pan-Fried Tilapia (with crushed New potatoes, green beans and tarragon sauce): 5/5. Prep time 35 minutes. 339 calories.
This is, hands down, our favourite meal of this whole experiment. Tilapia is not a fish we’re used to, but it has a mild taste that allows you to hang off other flavours, and that’s exactly what Hello Fresh has done with this meal. The creme fraiche and veggy stock pot and tarragon sauce is out of this world (even for us who went quite easy on the tarragon). In the coming weeks we find ourselves whipping this sauce up to go with other meals too.
This is a simple meal, but the bravery of Hello Fresh’s team to rely on their subtle choice of flavours shines through. It’s also only 339 calories to boot!
Sticky Pomegranate Persian Halloumi: 4.5/5. Prep time 30 minutes. 808 calories.
Full disclosure: You might want to knock half a point off our score, as we’re bound to be biased towards anything containing halloumi.
Full marks for innovation. Gousto has us mixing halloumi with ras el hanout (a North African spice mix), with cinnamon, cumin and dried rose petals….as you do. Throw in some pomegranate molasses and some bulgur wheat and we realise we are way beyond anything we could do without a recipe box.
It’s not all just for show either. This tastes stunning (so long as you are not one of those who HATES sultanas mixed with savoury food) and, though we have to take this on trust, authentic.
Argentinian Beef Burger (with chimichurri mayo): 4.25/5 Prep time 35 mins. 900 calories.
Chimicurri mayonaise? What the hell? Gousto has us feeling pretty adventurous in the kitchen. The quality of the ingredients shine through, but so does the attention to detail in the recipe. The chimicurri sauce – a mixture of vinegar, garlic, herbs, mayonnaise and chilli and cuts through the taste of the burger perfectly.
This is an Argentinian delight, but is also a bit of a showstopper meal. It’s clearly not the sort of thing you could come home to every single night and at 900 calories we are left feeling a bit guilty. If you’re after a meal for when your pals come round though, this is for you.
Sea Bass (with garlic and herb potatoes): 4.25/5. Prep time 20 mins. 283 calories.
283 calories! Are you joking? This super slimline meal instantly got us excited (and relieved following last nights’ gut buster). It’s also a pleasure taste-wise, with the delicate sea bass flavour being complimented by capers, garlic, lemon and parsley. It’s a simple, but effective set up.
However, this is the first real direct comparison we have with Hello Fresh as it reminds us of their Pan-Fried Tilapia. Unfortunately for Gousto this meal is nice, but doesn’t blow us away. The quality of the ingredients holds up in each, but the gremolata dressing just doesn’t match up to the stock/creme fraiche sauce in the Hello Fresh recipe….and it wasn’t even a close run thing.
Chicken Teriyaki (with Sugar Snap Peas): 2.75/5. Prep time 25 minutes. 691 calories.
We had been riding high on the delivery in a box wave – but being perfectly honest, this meal was a low point for us. Early on in the cooking process (from step 2 here) we could feel this was not going to work and that the teriyaki chicken was going to come out a bit watery. We would have liked more detailed instructions to be sure.
This is a highly rated meal on the Gousto website, so maybe we did something wrong, or perhaps this is just a harder meal to get right. In any case the result was not good.
We were left scratching our heads though – the Teriyaki meal from Hello Fresh was super easy and tasty. Definitely a win for HF.
Swedish Meatballs, Mash and Green Beans: 4.25/5. Prep time 30 mins. 543 calories.
Phew! A return to form for Gousto. This meal is head and shoulders above the Ikea canteen. The simple Scandi take on meat and two veg is easy to put together and pairs savoury and sweet just right. It’s a cold night when we tuck in, and the gravy has us in comfort food heaven. Again, at a lean 543 calories we also have room for a decent dessert too.
We had no issues at all with either provider so can’t vouch for how well they would deal with customer complaints. Gousto and Hello Fresh both have a very respectable rating of 8.6 on Trust Pilot at the time of writing.
Both services are excellent, but for us Hello Fresh just nudges it. The meals are better (to our tastes) and you the instructions are easier to follow. It’s a close run thing, but we are more excited about ordering from Hello Fresh again than Gousto.
The problem is we have heard from plenty of reviews from other people who prefer Gousto for its more daring meals. If you are a more experienced cook, then this could be the option for you.
We’d recommend signing up for both for a trial and picking the one you want – you might as well take advantage of the introductory offers which work out cheaper (and tastier) than super market food. You can then pick which one you want – or, as one of our friends who can’t decide between the services does, alternate between the services each week.