When you get out your seminar at 4 pm, it's already dark and you're in the heart of two of the worst seasons; winter and exams. Then you remember that you somehow need to do all your reading for tomorrow's tutorial, go to your societies, as well as make dinner.

While it's tempting to order in again or settle for your bog-standard spag-bol, there's a new option in the form of food boxes. You never need to have another nervous breakdown in the middle of Tesco whilst deciding what to cook for your flatmates.

What's all this Food Box chat?

Zoe Williams

If you’ve not heard the chat around town about food boxes, we might just be letting you in to a student secret worth more than gold. Food box companies market themselves to people who want to cook tasty, fresh meals without the hassle of buying ingredients and commuting. All the ingredients for a particular dish are usually packed in beautiful boxes along with idiot-proof instructions on how to cook it (sounds like music to our sleep-deprived ears!).

Here at Spoon Edinburgh, we thought we’d ask two of our students working at Spoon to each review a Food Box from two of the biggest companies and give their honest opinion on whether they're worth all the hype. Let's see if this is too good to be true. 

Food Box 1: “Hello Fresh”reviewed by Zoe Williams (2nd year Business Student)

With a tagline “Making home cooking easy,” Hello Fresh promotes nutritious and tasty cooking at home that you can make with ease. It's definitely an easy process, and reasonable if you are ordering for the first time. By creating an account, you can pick from five weekly recipes (depending on the box you've selected), order, and just wait for it to be delivered.

The website has three different boxes you can choose from: Classic, Veggie, or the Family box. I selected the Classic Box for two people with three meals. For my order, I received ingredients and recipes to make Chermoula Spiced Salmon, Mixed Bean and Pork Chilli, and Jamie’s Sicilian Spaghetti Alla Norma (they are currently running a partnership with Jamie Oliver).

Taste: All of the recipes tasted really yummy, and fresh (hopefully because of the quality of the ingredients). What I especially liked was that I got to try something new. The grain, frekkeh, that came with my salmon was really delicious and a great alternative to quinoa, couscous, or even rice.
salmon, risotto, rice
Zoe Williams

Quality of Ingredients: Everything that I received seemed to be of good quality and fresh, if not organic. Not only that, but it should all last a week, which means that you don’t need to worry about it expiring quickly.

Accuracy of Recipe: As I usually enjoy cooking, I never follow recipes exactly, but Hello Fresh!’s recipes are very clear, concise, and easy to follow, especially if you aren’t used to being in the kitchen. What makes it even easier is that most of the ingredients come packaged specifically for your meal so you don’t need to mess around weighing things.

Packaging: It all came in a cardboard box, with cushioning and ice packs inside to protect the produce. I was actually very impressed at how they packaged it, and have kept the ice packs.

Zoe Williams

Overall I have to say I was very impressed by the whole experience as the customer service is great and the food and recipes lived up to all the hype. I will say however, that the first time offer makes it very reasonable at roughly £19, but I don’t think I would pay £39 for another box.

Food Box 2: "Gousto"—reviewed by Claudia Offner (3rd year Psychology & Business Student)

coffee, tea, beer
Claudia Offner

Gousto allows you to choose from 12 recipes that change weekly, and they deliver you the recipe and ingredients to cook. As a student who loves to cook and doesn’t have much time to plan, I thought I would give Gousto a go and see if it’s simple easy approach was worth getting involved with.

When I first ordered, I chose from a range of 12 recipes that included pasta, curries, and Chinese-style noodles. Not only was the selection diverse in flavour, but there were even some vegetarian options (although not as many as I had hoped). In the end, I ordered three recipes: tomato chicken curry, super chicken noodles, and crispy mushroom dal and coriander curry. These recipes equalled out to cost £34.99 altogether but with a student discount I was able to order all these recipes for just £9.99.

Taste: When it comes down to cooking, Gousto has made it pretty foolproof to cook the recipes and the results were amazing. My personal favourite was the super chicken noodles, but the tomato curry was delicious, as was the crispy mushroom dal and coriander curry.

Quality of Ingredients: All of the vegetables, dairy, and meat were extremely fresh and could keep up for up to six days. I liked how all the ingredients were pre-measured and ready to be cooked immediately with very little prep. The spices were exact amounts and all that had to be done was cook the ingredients according to the recipe cards that came in the box. I also particularly enjoyed using new ingredients that I would have never bought at a store and I am excited to use them in other recipes now.

herb, tea
Claudia Offner

Accuracy of Recipe: As far as recipe accuracy goes, I found that my results were very close to the recipe pictures, even though they might not have been presented as nicely. Actually, in my case, I messed up a few of the recipes (by using up all of my ginger on the first recipe, when all three needed it) but my results were still very close to the recipe description.

Packaging: My recipes came in a large cardboard box and as I unwrapped my ingredients, it struck me how much packaging Gousto uses. The box was separated into cupboard food and refrigerated food. All the cupboard food was individually wrapped in either plastic or paper bags. The refrigerated food was held in a special insulated package of plastic and fabric and included ice packs as well.

tea, beer, cake
Claudia Offner

All in all, Gousto has very reliable, easy, and delicious recipes and are made to be straightforward to cook. My favourite part of Gousto was the no-hassle delivery and the fact that I didn’t have to measure anything and cook without thinking about proportions. However, I found the packaging to be excessive and not environmentally friendly. In addition to this, the prices of the recipes were rather expensive and I would not necessarily recommend Gousto to students, but it is nice to use if you want to impress your friends with your cooking skills! 

The Low-down

It seems food boxes tick all the boxes with regard to simplicity of cooking, freshness and taste. They are definitely an amazing find if you're a student trying to impress your friends on a special occasion and don't have much time. If you're just cooking for your flatmates, it might be wiser to do without ordering food boxes, as they won't do your student loan any favours. They'll probably become like Deliveroo for students—too expensive to have regularly in theory, but used pretty much every other day in reality!