Battle of the home delivery dinner boxes


From Hellofresh to the local Vegbox, we review the operators aiming to make home cooking as easy-as-pie for timestrapped (or indeed lazy) Londoners




Hello Fresh

Who are they? Originators of the home box menu service, this heavily funded company have a head start in the game of disrupting how we shop for groceries. Beginning life in Germany, they’ve grown internationally very quickly. They send you three or more complete meals each week, for two-five people. Dishes take about half an hour from fridge to table.
Our experience? Having been convinced to give it a whirl by a super-smiley doorstep sales girl, our first foray into the Hello Fresh universe ended after only a few boxes. The weekly deadline for choosing menus kept taking us by surprise, and the subsequent appearance of unscheduled porky dishes didn’t impress my Muslim-born wife. Months later, after further equally charming sales people had called and thrown discounts at us, we gave it another shot, and were impressed with the improvements. From having more menu options each week to a calendar that’s easier to manage (and put on hold), meaning no more surprise bookings, it feels like a more polished service.
The food? So simple to prepare some of it doesn’t really feel like cooking, yet the end result is always a decent meal. Choose wisely and there are some real gems too, such as a Sri Lankan fish curry and a simple chipotle steak we had last week. The menu cards quickly become patronising with their endless cutesy warnings about the heat of chilli, but having each complete meal in its own brown bag to pull out of the fridge makes it fast and fun to rattle through making.
Waste produced? Each delivery results in piles of cardboard, little plastic containers, ice packs and a bulky plastic insulation material, which on further investigation is not recyclable.
Cost per week? £34.99 (3 x meals for 2), therefore £5.83 per meal. Make sure you get an introductory offer too.
BEST FOR: Trying out to see if this whole box delivery game is really for you.
Hellofresh.co.uk

Gousto

Who are they? Brit challengers in the meal box game, they’re big on highlighting how they are helping reduce food waste by ordering exact amounts, for the table and right through the supply chain. They have more dishes available to choose from each week than Hello Fresh, too.
Our experience? When another beaming sales guy turned up at the door, I hoped Gousto might succeed where Hello Fresh left us wanting, so signed up. However, after a total of four no-show deliveries over the course of only two months, and an app that crashed wiping meal our choices, it sadly ended up feeling like this was a lot more hassle than something to make life easier.
The food? similarly easy-peasy to follow recipes, often even more so than HF. A curried coconut quinoa with roasted caulifl ower and kale was superb, whereas others such as a lamb tabbouleh or lentil kofta wraps were tasty, but strangely didn’t quite feel like a complete meal, so we ended up adding our own sides.
Waste produced? Their padded insulation is a more eco-friendly kind, being made of offcuts of wool, although it soon piles up, as does all the cardboard and plastic wrapping. All that blurb about cutting down food waste seemed a little redundant as our non-delivered boxes were repeatedly marked as ‘destroyed’ by the courier, meaning as a household, we unwittingly wasted loads more food because of this than we’d ever do normally.
Cost per week? £29.99 (3 x meals for 2), so £5 per meal
Best for? A surprising fail, although this was down to whatever logistics dramas they are having with supplier UKMail than the quality of the food. Gousto.co.uk

Ginger & Parsley

Who are they? G&P is the brainchild of a local mum named Michelle, who devised her range of premium frozen dinners to suit other rushed-off-their-feet types, who still want to eat well. Alongside home deliveries, the meals can be picked up in local posh delis like Budgens.
Our experience? Delivery slots are either before or after 6pm, however as these dishes are frozen, there’s not the hurry to whisk everything into a pan on arrival. We’d suggest stockpiling a load of meals at once in the freezer, then pulling them out on the laziest of weeknights. Most of the dishes could do with a side of rice, but boiling that is as demanding as this form of ‘cooking’ is going to get.
The food? Distant memories of sloppy microwaved lasagnes mean we rarely eat from the classic nuked black tray, however, from the aromatic wafts each of these dishes send up, you know this is not your average ready meal. Flavours are strong and dishes original. Lamb
meatballs in a beetroot stew looks beautiful, with generous pine nuts, while a coq au Riesling is drenched in quality vino. Other than the veg being cut in quite large chunks, we assume to avoid breaking up when being blast frozen (to lock in nutrients), you’d never know this was
frozen food.
Waste produced? just one plastic (recyclable) tray per person per meal, and a card sleeve.
Cost per week? Dishes range from £6.50 - £9.50 per portion.
Best for? Speed. Having a selection of these home-cooked meals in the freezer ready for impromptu meals-in-8-minutes must be the ultimate in convenience, but without compromise on ingredients or flavours. gingerparsley.com

Independence Market

Who are they? Another UK startup, launched in Putney and expanding across London rapidly, with Kentish Town the latest neighbourhood to enjoy coverage. Meals are ready-made, so there’s not even a menu card to follow, just heat and eat.
Our experience? They promise delivery within a timeslot that night if you book by 1pm. After our Gousto travails, I felt a little sceptical, however sure enough, a courier knocked at the door right on time with a brown bag full of effortless dinner.
The food? We chose their Malaysian beef rendang, something that restaurants often rush, since the
authentic dish requires hours of slow-cooking until the meat has fallen apart and the sauce become rich and dry. A meal that usually takes five hours to prepare is certainly one to have express-delivered, but what arrived was not a classic rendang. It was, however, a perfectly passible beef curry, with quality seared chunks of meat in a richly soupy coconut broth. It came with fun DIY balls of ‘num num’ naan bread and the serving for two was enough to have leftovers the following day.
Waste produced? Similar to having a takeaway, although using biodegradable containers for rice. The curry was in a bag and salad in a box. Dedicated courier means no need for ice packs and insulation, at least at the moment.
Cost per week? From £5.75 for a single helping. Deliveries are charged at a fl at rate of £2.25 no matter
the size of your order.
Best for? Individuals, as they offer single portions of some dishes, and no commitment to regular orders.
independencemarket.com

Vegbox

Who are they? Environmental champs Transition Kentish Town run local weekly pick-up points.
Our experience? We’ve few years, dropping in to The Grafton for our regular bag.
The food? earthy, organic produce.
Waste produced? Zero. The ‘box’ of veg is in fact a recyclable nylon bag with a drawstring to bundle into a neat little triangle that fits any pocket, making it super-easy to return each week. You can even return the plastic and paper bags the veg comes in for reuse.
Cost per week? From £7 per week for 5 varieties of veg. There’s a low income discount rate (20% off ) available too.
Best for? Culinary adventure. If you like a challenge, working out what to do with a huge turnip, or incorporating wildcard veg such as courgette flowers or fractal-tastic romanesco into meals can be rewarding and creative.
vegbox.org.uk

M&S Foodhall 1-hour delivery

Who are they? The nation’s trailblazers in quality convenience food have been slow to catch up in the home delivery game. But now they’re using their Camden High Street branch to test out an ultraspeedy concept: delivering an effortless meal for tonight, plus selected grocery items from the familiar Foodhall ranges, all to your door as swiftly as within an hour of placing the order.
Our experience? Selecting meals from the website is very easy indeed, and the choice is familiar if you’re already a fan of their stores. Tempting options to add wine, beer or dessert to the menu at the click of the mouse mean assembling an impressive dinner requires little to no thought. Wider Foodhall items are laid out cleverly too, so you can shop by aisle, or take inspiration from curated meal ideas, such as all you may need for a complete Sunday roast, romantic movie night, or even a Champagne breakfast.
The food? It’s M&S, so you should know the drill. This is more a hybrid of meal delivery and weekly grocery shop, but perhaps that’s more realistic than some other options.
Waste produced? It’s the same as going for a standard shop.
Cost per week? There’s no ongoing delivery calendar to attend to, you simply order via the website when the mood takes you, i.e. when you can’t be bothered to visit the store, or want to rely on the inspiring ranges to take the hassle out of putting together a shopping list. A guaranteed timeslot delivery is £4.99.
Best for? The indecisive. There’s no need to think ahead, even when entertaining guests. Everything you need is potentially less than an hour from your door.
marksandspencerfoodhall.co.uk

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