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Bit busy? WH Lab finds the answer to your weekday meal woes
There are countless benefits to subscription-based recipe boxes or food delivery services; from the sheer convenience of having everything delivered to your door instead of schlepping to the shops, not to mention freeing yourself of the mental load of dreaming up what to cook.
And we’re pleased to report that most are pretty reasonably priced too, from just £2.50 per serving — earning themselves a permanent slot on our weekly meal plan.
Recipe boxes are, by nature, meant to simplify and shorten meal prep while still allowing you to fill up on delicious and nutritious grub. So, the best recipe box for you is going to be one that helps you hit your goals (whether they involve building muscle or simply getting food on the table lightning-fast), features ingredients and recipes that make you salivate, and ticks the budget box, too.
You might also choose to bear in mind factors such as whether ingredients have been consciously sourced (both ethically and environmentally speaking), whether allotted delivery days suit your schedule, and the level of clean-up required post-cook (nobody wants to wash 30 pans on a weeknight).
Our experts in the WH Lab, have found the best recipe boxes and food delivery services to meet all requirements. And, if you’re looking for the best vegetarian and vegan meal kits, we’ve got you covered there too.
Whether you’re preparing meals for one, two, or a bigger household – you’ll know it can be difficult to avoid wasting food, particularly with so many supermarkets insisting on multipacks of fruit, veg and meat.
Shockingly, waste-prevention organisation WRAP reports that each year we throw away the equivalent of one in every five bags of shopping. Only buying what you need can help tackle this, and we think recipe boxes are a good place to start.
To check these boxes really delivered all they promised, the WH Lab spent weeks putting them to the test. From initially selecting the recipes, through to the finished meal, we crunched the macros, analysed the nutritional value, and ensured they could all be completed in the time advertised.
Of course, they needed to be delicious and filling too, so we cooked for a variety of guests who collectively gave these dishes the thumbs up.
If you have any allergies or dietary restrictions, Mindful Chef ticks a lot of boxes. Not only are all recipes dairy-free for the vegan or intolerant among you, but they’re also naturally gluten-free (anyone with coeliac disease, take note).
Nutritionally balanced, whether you eat animal protein, are pescatarian or vegan (all of which are filters online), and most meals take a maximum of 30 minutes to cook.
You can choose two to five recipes a week — whether you’re flying solo or feeding a family of four — from a choice of 20 weekly changing recipes to keep life interesting. The site is slick and straightforward, enabling you to filter by all the big Cs — calories, carbs, cost and cooking time (a godsend for busy calendars).
Our panel whipped up crispy hake with a fresh tomato and caper sauce on crushed potatoes, the portions left us full, and we appreciated the detailed macros provided.
If a long day in the office followed by a late-night gym session leaves you with approx. 10 mins to spend in the kitchen, you might find yourself resorting to more ready meals than you care to admit.
Gousto’s collab with Joe Wicks aims to provide speedy weeknight dinners, all while hitting your nutritional goals. There’s something for everyone (we’re talking meat-eaters, pescatarians, veggies and vegans), with timesaving, pre-portioned ingredients and straight-forward recipe cards to follow.
That aside, there’s over 75 dishes on the weekly menu, including “prepped in 5”, “10 Minute Meals”, “Oven-Free Feasts” and “Calorie Controlled”. The pork bao buns with mooli slaw from their recent “Hungry Traveller” range really hit the spot, and we love the convenience of being able to rate and repeat favourite recipes and skip a box when we’re on holiday.
50% off first box, plus 25% off all other boxes for two months
However you label yourself — flexi, pesci, veggie or vegan — and whatever diet you’re following (low-carb, keto?) Green Chef has you covered. Expect 22 recipes a week to choose from, and we can vouch for the bun-less beef burger with simple avocado salad (which was more filling than it sounds!).
Meal prep takes on a whole extra dimension when you’re following a specific diet, but you’ll never have to analyse macros again when leaving it in Green Chef’s capable hands, so for that reason, we’re sold.
50% off first box, plus 25% off for two months
Really, what’s not to love about restaurant-quality grub you can cook at home? Each recipe comes with freshly made pasta, a delicious and authentic Italian sauce and garnishes (and by that we mean yummy parmesan), plus step-by-step instructions to prep your dish.
Recipes can be whipped up in mere minutes, so if you’re someone who either doesn’t see cooking as a self-care activity (fair) or doesn’t have time for the slicing, dicing and sautéing that recipes usually require, Pasta Evangelists’ recipe kits are for you.
Our panel tried one of the most popular recipes – a rich, comforting beef ragù with malfade pasta and parmesan – but there are loads of equally tempting options to choose from. We fancy the vegan-friendly pea and mint raviolini next!
This one works a little differently to the rest in that you still need to buy four to six fresh ingredients yourself (normally a protein and a few veggies).
However, with boxes priced under a tenner for four meals, it can be a cost-effective way of buying into the recipe box idea. Spice kits come with a recipe card, along with a helpful shopping list that can be torn off, avoiding our normal 5pm frantic Google search to try and decide what to have for dinner.
With kits having such a long shelf life (they last months), you can say ‘yes’ to last-minute plans without worrying about wasting the fresh food in your fridge. It pushed us out of our comfort zone, trying cuisines from around the world, without having to buy hard-to-find spices which would inevitably end up being thrown out before we used them up.
Recipes can be sorted according to your dietary requirements and preferences – such as veggie, gluten-free or family-friendly – with over 100 tempting options to choose from, whether you opt to subscribe long-term or pick and choose as you please.
Try for free, just pay £1 postage
If you’re not the most confident cook, you’ll be amazed with what you can rustle up with HelloFresh holding your hand. There are 44 recipes a week to choose from — we’d recommend the hoisin beef with pak choi, green beans and zesty rice if you’re looking for a healthy takeaway replacement — and the step-by-step photo cards couldn’t be easier to follow.
Ingredients arrive precisely measured so there’s no guesswork, and portions were generous (hello, lunch leftovers!).
Get 60% off first box, plus 25% off for 2 months
At £59.99 for two, Brindisa’s paella kit is best reserved for those extra-special occasions (we’re talking anniversaries and birthdays), or when you can’t secure a spot at your favourite restaurant for date night.
As well as the ingredients, you’ll also receive a four-person paella pan for you to use again and again. However, it’s worth noting that there’s no recipe card included in this box, so this is definitely one for more confident cooks.
Despite that our panel managed to knock up a tasty selection of veggie and chicken paellas and thought the quality of ingredients was exceptional.