Lately, when my friends and I trade tips about navigating adult life, the thing that comes up most often is cooking.
We all want to make fresh, healthy, exciting food, but we want to do it in a way that is cost effective, minimises waste and takes as little time as possible. Online grocery shopping (with day to day top-ups for fresh ingredients), batch cooking and recipe blogs all help, in their own way, but for sheer convenience, it’s difficult to beat the various meal kit delivery services that have sprung up over the past few years.
Having tried and loved – but ultimately given up, for cost reasons – a competitor service, I was already pretty family with the idea behind Gousto when the opportunity arose to try out the service. Once you sign up, you can choose up to four from a weekly selection of 22 recipes, designed for either two or four people. The team will then package up fresh ingredients in the exact portions you need to recreate those recipes at home, all delivered in their “woolcool” packaging which keeps the meat and vegetables inside fresh for up to 24 hours if you’re not at home when the box arrives.
As far as I’m concerned, Gousto differs from – and beats – other boxes I’ve tried in two important respects. First, the sheer variety of meals you can choose from on a weekly basis means that even the fussiest eaters (me!) are sure to find something that they like. Secondly, and more importantly, when you sign up for Gousto it’s really easy to order a one-off box to try – unlike with a certain other service, where you have to sign in every week to make sure that your deliveries are still “paused” and that Wednesday won’t herald an unexpected forty quid withdrawn from your bank account and box of groceries on its way.
The most difficult part about ordering was narrowing down what recipes to choose. For my sample box, I was able to select two meals for two – ultimately opting for pork bibimbap (a Korean dish, which translates as “mixed rice”) and blackened cod tacos.
I was really impressed with the quality of the ingredients, which arrived neatly packaged as promised and came complete with colourful recipe cards and a Gousto-branded wooden spoon (I assume because this was my first box). The recipe cards break down the supplied ingredients, equipment and store cupboard supplies (such as salt and pepper) needed for each dish and include a rough idea of cooking time and nutrition information. They’re also designed to be kept afterwards, with the idea being that you can go out and repurchase the ingredients and cook your favourites again.
I made the bibimbap after work one night. It was easy to prepare within the 40 minutes indicated by the recipe card, and I really appreciated the authors’ realistic expectations of what pans and utensils the average person is likely to have in their kitchen. No expectation that you have seventy different pots and pans on hand here: once you’ve made and set aside your spicy pork, the card makes it clear that your garlicky pak choi can and should be prepared in the same pan, without rinsing. Despite my strong feelings about the frequent appearance of fried eggs on top of pan-Asian cuisine (if you’ve ever had the misfortune of eating ramen with me, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about) I followed the instructions (almost) to the letter on this one – cutting the yolk from my egg before serving, of course.
Being dyslexic, Stringer isn’t really one for written-down recipes. He also has this marvellous ability to transform a dish by chucking in the odd pinch of spice or leftover ingredient, although with me being such a fussy cow he rarely gets let loose in the kitchen these days. I was thrilled to get home from the gym one night though to these picture-perfect blackened cod tacos – with the spicy mayo included in the kit left out, of course. What made this even more impressive was that I’d used up the spring onions for this recipe when I hadn’t read the card properly the night before, and Stringer had to pop out to Tesco halfway through cooking to replace them.
The one downside of Gousto is the price. Their boxes are priced extremely competitively when compared to other companies offering similar services, and are certainly worth the money when you consider the quality of the ingredients and the way that the model eliminates food waste – as well as the reusable recipes, which must cost plenty to develop and are honestly good enough to appear in books. And yet, paying a premium for the convenience of perfectly portioned ingredients delivered to my door feels like an indulgence too much: I can just imagine the face of my dad, who regularly trawls the reduced to clear bit in the supermarket looking for goodies for me to stock my freezer with, when he reads this post.
Two meals for two people, as included in the box I was sent, costs £27.49, or £6.87 per serving – a cost which, understandably, comes down depending on the size of the box that you buy. Now, while that’s obviously much cheaper than restaurant food, I’ve had takeaways that are cheaper than that and that don’t leave you with half as much washing up to do afterwards.
As a treat every so often though? Gousto is great value, and the company makes it so easy to order a box as and when time and budgets align. I’ll definitely be back.
Fancy giving Gousto a try? Sign up, and save up to £25 off your first box, with my referral code LISAM240260 (NB: I’ll get some money off too).
This post contains PR samples, but all views are my own and unbiased.