2016/2017 Food – Food Boxes
It’s a phenomenon that’s been bubbling away under the radar in many people’s cases for some considerable time. A number of companies will basically send you all the ingredients (or almost all, but we’ll come to that) you need to feed a set number of people 3 or 4 meals. In theory these mean you don’t have waste food or lonely ingredients hanging around that never get used, because you needed them for one dish only and you will never make it again, or, if you do make it again, by the time you get round to it, said ingredient is basically past its use by date and has turned into sawdust/gone mouldy/metamorphosed into some alternative life form!
Also with kitchens (at least in the UK) in new homes becoming ever smaller, to the point where you’d be lucky if you could swing a mouse, let alone a cat, in the space the developers think you can cook in, and you have a ready-made audience for fresh, “convenience” foods. I’m not in that situation, and have a massive, well-stocked pantry, but as there are so many trial offers going around, I decided I’d have a go and see whether any of these boxes are worth the money, given you’re usually looking at around £5-6 per head for the meals if you buy them at full price.
We started with a half price box from a now-defunct company, Marley Spoon. The resulting box was very good in terms of flavour, and ease of cooking, with good clear instructions, but I have a suspicion that they have ceased trading because they simply weren’t economically viable. The 3 meals for 2 we received were huge, and in fact each one fed us for two nights instead of one.
I’ve also tried Gousto, and again the portions are larger than 2 people really need. This is especially noticeable with anything containing grains or pasta (rice, barley, couscous, spaghetti, penne and so on) and unless you’re spectacularly greedy you’d be well advised to reduce the amount of supplied carbs that you actually prepare. For example, the lamb biriani we had last week fed both of us twice and there was still a portion left for me to have for lunch one day. Much the same happened with the meatballs with spaghetti.
HelloFresh are the other company we’ve tried. It’s fair to say they seem to have more idea of portion control, though I don’t like the limited choice of meals they offer. Unlike Gousto, where there’s a fairly long menu of a couple of dozen choices, you get a choice of five dishes each week from HelloFresh, which is fine if you don’t have a picky eater to deal with. I do and for several weeks there would have been nothing that wouldn’t have required me to substitute some of the ingredients, and that’s really not the point of these boxes as far as I can tell.
I ordered a box for the day I got back after my three-week stint in Copenhagen, and another box after my last business trip, and can see using them to ensure there is food in the house after a holiday, without needing to think about getting stuff out of the freezer as soon as I come in the door, or having to try and cobble something together from what I can find in the cupboards/pantry. I can’t see using them all the time.
On the plus side you don’t need to think about the recipes, they are without exception, clearly set out, with the steps you need to follow written down in a logical order, and a list on the front to ensure you get the ingredients you need out of the box. On the (potentially) minus side, they do require competence in the kitchen if you’re going to complete the meal in the time stated, and they do seem to generate an awful lot of washing up. Are they worth it? Yes, under certain circumstances. Would I buy one every week? No, they’re quite expensive, even though the results are tasty. Oh, and you often need to add your own oil, butter, milk, salt and pepper, which slightly gives the lie to the claim that they send you everything you need to make a meal.