Recipe boxes; what you need to know

Riverford stir fry

Since going back to work full-time, I’ll confess, continuing the illusion of being a domestic goddess is tough.
I walk in the door and the last thing I feel like doing is cooking, let alone making any kind of decision about what to cook, do we have the ingredients in and can I be bothered to stand in the kitchen chop chop chopping.
All I want to do is sort the kids’ homework, make a cup of tea and vegetate on the sofa.

But then I heard about recipe boxes. I’ve been wanting to try them out for a while now. I have friends who have made the leap and they all rave about it. My friends don’t tend to rave, being members of the slightly cynical middle-aged club.
But would I like the recipes? Is there enough food for a hungry family? And are they worth the money? These are the questions that stopped me trying.

Then I was offered the opportunity to try three different boxes and I jumped at the chance!
So, here are the three boxes and what we thought.
Obviously as review boxes I didn’t really get to experience the ordering service, their customer service, nor do I know ongoing what they are like to use every week.
But this is an overview of single boxes and their contents.
With all of the boxes you get to choose the recipes from a selection – some bigger than others – that you then order and they deliver direct to your home.
You get all the pre-measured ingredients, you cook them and you look really really good. That was the bare minimum I was expecting anyway.

What I really loved was that it made us try things we probably would never have tried before and added a few recipes to our repertoire!
That slightly bizarre-looking cauliflower thing in the picture below? We eat it all the time now (it’s Romansco by the way and it has a slightly nutty flavour).

Riverford Recipe Box 2

Riverford Recipe Box
Meat box £39.95 – 3 meals for 2 people.
www.riverford.co.uk

First look
I love the box these come in; each recipe is partitioned off with all of the ingredients needed and the herbs and spices measured out into little plastic pots.
The meat is contained in a biodegradable cool bag, which you need to pop in the fridge.
I can’t wait to dive it; it looks so inviting. It looks like something you’d find on Jamie Oliver’s kitchen counter.

Quality/Quantity of ingredients:
The vegetables are very fresh and attractive and the ingredients are very clearly packaged.
The box we had was to feed two but there was easily enough for three people – the meals were huge.

Riverford Recipe box ingredientsRiverford recipe box chopped vegetablesRiverford recipesRiverford pork steaks

The recipes:
We had three meals in the box; Pork Steaks with warm saffron, romanesco, leek and potato salad, Beef & Shiitake noodles, Shakshuka with crispy pitta.
I’d definitely make two of them again and the best part was they were all super easy to make and really tasty.
The recipe cards are really easy to follow and it gives clear instructions on how long the meal will take and how many days you’ve got before you have to cook it.
The recipe cards are also nice enough to keep and store for future use and give a little section to add your own notes which I liked.

Pros:
I loved the packaging and how when you open the box it all looks so inviting. The paperwork was also very clear on when the meals had to be cooked by and the packaging was all either recyclable or biodegradable.
The recipes smelt amazing and you’re also sent a useful little recipe booklet to compliment the recipes you’ll be making.
It’s all organic and seasonally sourced – a big plus for me.

Cons:
Where all the ingredients are weighed out and spices in little pots so you can easily just add them to the recipe without having to weigh or measure, a couple of items didn’t make it clear.
Such as the mushrooms which came in a little box but I didn’t know if I was supposed to use all of them or had to weigh out a certain amount. The same with the coriander.
Also at nearly £40 for a box, that works out at around £6 per meal. However, as one of the meals is non-meat that’s a lot to pay for a vegetarian option I thought.
There’s also not a huge choice of meals each week – which could be a good or a bad thing!

Mindful chef ham hock recipe

Mindful Chef Recipe Box
Meat box £42 – 3 meals for 2 people
www.mindfulchef.com

First look
Again these recipes come in a nice sturdy box, but this time the ingredients (except the meat) for each recipe is contained in its own bag. We had a beef bag, a chicken bag and a pork bag – really like the fact that there are three meat meals and it feels I’m getting my money’s worth.
Again the meat comes separately in a biodegradable cool bag.
The bagged system is great as it means you can simply take one of the bags out of the fridge and everything you need for your meal is right there.

Mindful Chef recipe box

Quality/Quantity of ingredients:
The vegetables were fresh and lovely looking. The meat high quality and the extras such as tinned tomatoes and coconut milk were also high quality.
I’m really picky about our cuts of meat and always try to pick seasonal, organic veg so was very impressed with this.

IMG_9548Mindful Chef red thai curry

The recipes:
We had three meals; Ham hock, baby spinach and cauliflower-broccoli bake, Pear, pumpkin and peppered steak ratatouille and Red Thai chicken curry with butternut squash and courgetti.
The recipe cards are basic but still high quality and great to keep, with easy to follow instructions.

Pros:
You get to choose from 5 recipe options each week: one red meat, 1 chicken, 1 pork, 1 fish and 1 plant-based dish. I liked that each meal was in its own brown bag so it’s easy to grab and go as it were!
The Thai curry was particularly gorgeous – would absolutely go out of my way to make that again.

Cons:
One of the recipes called for a spiraliser and we definitely don’t have one of those in the house! It’s not exactly an everyday item, so we just couldn’t make that one part of a recipe which was a little disappointing.
It’s also a bit more expensive than the other two, but you do get a wide choice of recipes and you can choose all meat, or a fish recipe too.

Marley Spoon recipe cards

Marley Spoon
Family box £48 – 2 meals for 4 people
www.marleyspoon.co.uk

First look
The box isn’t quite as exciting as the other two, but it’s what’s in there that counts!
Each recipe comes in its own labelled bag so, again, you can take a bag directly out of the fridge and know everything you need is right there.
Again, the packaging is completely recyclable which I love and the meat comes in a separate cooler bag – again completely recyclable.
I love opening one of the brown paper bags and getting all excited at what’s inside. It’s these little things that count!

marley spoon

Quality/Quantity of ingredients:
The vegetables were OK, nothing which made me go ooooo, but that could have been the recipes I chose. There were plenty to go around though, they certainly don’t scrimp on the ingredients. The meat was lovely and additional ingredients, such as yoghurt, were brands I love.

Marley Spoon chickenroasted vegMarley spoon chicken and roasted veg

The recipes:
We had two meals: Rich beef one pot and Chicken and roasted veg. Both were really easy to make and tasted delicious but they weren’t exactly adventurous and a bit every day I thought.
They are supported by excellent step-by-step and very stylish recipe cards with plenty of photos to help you every step of the way. There was plenty to go around but I do feel the recipes weren’t great the week we opted to try them out.

Pros:
These were really easy family recipes that both he kids devoured and were really simple and super quick to make on the fly.
The recipe cards are also excellent with very clear step by step instructions and images so that even my 10 year old could probably make them!

Cons:
I felt it was a bit expensive for what you get and there wasn’t really anything to set it apart from its competitors.
The recipes were a bit boring – but that could have been the week we opted for. The one pot beef was a nice family meal, but I’m not sure I’d class the chicken and roast veg a family meal?

So in conclusion, yes recipe boxes are a bit expensive, but you are getting quality, seasonal ingredients and you’re also paying heavily for the convenience.
But my absolute favourite thing is that every time I’ve come home to one on my doorstep, it’s felt like a wonderful gift that I get to rummage through and ooo and ahhhhh at, and you can’t grumble at that!

Have you tried out a recipe box? I’d be really interested to hear what you thought.

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7 Responses to Recipe boxes; what you need to know

  1. We had our first “hello fresh” box in November, full price they’re £39 for 3 meals for two people. We have them pretty much every other week and I am surprised how much I like not having to think about shopping & also the lack of wasted food I throw away has gone right down – they get my thumbs up! Interested to try some of the other providers too. Cx
    Claire Lancaster recently posted…HomeSense Faux Flower MarketMy Profile

  2. Alli Marshall says:

    We’ve been using Hello Fresh for a few months now, although we tend to only have it one weekend in a month due to the cost; there’s no way I’d be able to afford to feed a family of 6 using the box.
    I love not having to think about what we are going to be eating & the recipes are simple to follow and as a result we now include some of them as regular meals.
    The only downside for us it that the portion sizes can be a little small for our liking, but we do have large appetites.

  3. Sarah says:

    I’ve tried Hello Fresh, which was fab initially but then the quality of the veg went down hill – you *had* to eat the 3 meals on the first three consecutive nights or it went a bit yuck. I’ve also tried Gousto, but didn’t like the recipes as much as HF. To my eternal shame we got a Riverford box but things happened & we didn’t eat ANY of the meals. Ashamed face.

  4. Pingback: Hello Fresh meal box review - Sticky FingersSticky Fingers

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