Ever wondered what meal in a box services like Gousto and HelloFresh are like? We put the two recipe boxes head to head in this review.
The desire to eat delicious, home cooked food is increasingly at odds with our busy lives. This is a problem that food subscription box companies set out to solve: just the right amount of ingredients delivered straight to your door for recipes with easy-to-follow instructions.
I love to cook but the reality is that I often forget to restock the fridge with groceries, which makes actually cooking anything quite a challenge. Recipe boxes are designed to be convenient, delicious, idiot-proof and prevents food waste – but what’s the reality?
Below you’ll find our verdict and in-depth discussion of both offerings. However, if you want the short version, our family found Gousto to be better than Hello Fresh overall.
Gousto has a wider variety of recipes that feature a range of rich and exotic flavours whilst trying to tick a number of sustainability boxes for a good price. Hello Fresh provides a very similar service but their recipes are a bit lacking in the flavour department and are a little limited in their range of dishes.
Try Gousto for yourself and get 60% off your first box and 30% off all other boxes in your first month (new customers only).
What’s in a Hello Fresh or Gousto Box?
Both companies deliver fresh, (mostly) organic, high quality produce in just the right quantities to cook easy-to-follow recipes.
Each box contains all the ingredients you need including an array of spices and the chilled ingredients come packaged in a wool lining with ice packs.
Both schemes let you choose the number of meals and the number of portions you need.
Hello Fresh offers from 2 to 5 meals per week for 2 to 4 people.
When selecting a Gousto box you can choose ingredients for 2 or 4 people and you can choose 2, 3 or 4 meals per box.
There are slight variations here but both are offering pretty much the same numbers of meals for similar numbers of people.
After one round, both Hello Fresh and Gousto are pretty evenly matched.
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GIVE IT A GO
Try HelloFresh at home and get 50% off your first box and 35% off your second, third and fourth boxes!
What Types of Recipes Are in a Box?
Both companies provide a wide choice of recipes and allow you to filter based on your dietary preferences.
Gousto gives customers a choice of over 20 different recipes per week. I’ve yet to see the same dish appear in multiple weeks so their recipe repertoire must be pretty extensive. When selecting recipes you can filter by
- Meat: either chicken, beef, pork or fish
- Other Meat, typically lamb or duck
Users can leave a star rating and review of each dish they’ve sampled and many of the dishes have thousands of ratings already.
Hello Fresh Recipes
With Hello Fresh you can choose from three different box types:
- Classic: for 2 adults with options for 3, 4 or 5 meals a week, or for 3 to 4 adults and a set 3 meals a week. The menu each week consists of the largest variety of meat and veggie recipes with a minimum of 3 vegetarian recipes.
- Family: suitable for 2 adults and 2 small children (3 people) or 2 adults and 2 older children (4 people) with the option of either 3 or 4 meals a week. Each week there is the choice of up to 6 easy to cook recipes designed specifically for families as well as a selection of other non-family recipes. Confusingly they do have the option for a Family box for 2 people, but I’m not really sure what purpose that serves?
- Rapid: the same box configurations as the Classic box but with 4 rapid recipes to choose from along with another 14 recipes from the classic collection. Rapid recipes are quick to make using a maximum of 20 minutes – perfect for those that lead busy lives.
The classic box offers the option to filter as vegetarian but restricts the recipes per week to 3 no matter how many people.
It appears that there are no other allergen filtering options.
Having the ability to choose the dishes you’ll cook and eat is hugely important. Both companies provide this feature but I felt that the filtering, ratings and choice offered by Gousto gives them an edge here.
Let’s hope they continue to offer this level of customised service as they grow – although I imagine this will be a real challenge to pull off behind the scenes.
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The quality of produce in both a Hello Fresh and Gousto box is very high. All vegetables are delivered fresh and crisp and both use local suppliers and provide organic produce where possible.
Both companies deliver meat and dairy products in insulated bags filled with ice packs to keep ingredients cold during delivery.
The ice packs remain solid for hours so even if your delivery comes in the morning, you’re not at risk of your food spoiling on your doorstep.
Even in the hot summer months we’ve had no issues from either company.
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Will It Break the Bank?
Hello Fresh’s best value box is 4 meals for 4 people, where a box will cost £54.99 and works out at £3.44 per serving.
The best value option for a Gousto box is also 4 meals for 4 people priced at £47.75. This results in a serving cost of £2.98.
In reality you can often get an extra portion from each recipe, sometimes two, thus driving the cost per serving down even more.
The two companies have slightly different pricing structures for different boxes, numbers of meals and numbers of people.
However, comparing like for like (3 or 4 meals per week for a family of 4) Gousto comes out significantly cheaper and has the best value for families who order 4 meals per week.
Gousto prices as at NOVEMBER 2020
|2 meals||3 meals||4 meals|
|2 people||£24.99 or £6.25 per serving||£29.99 or £5.00 per serving||£34.99 or £4.37 per serving|
|4 people||£31.75 or £3.97 per serving||£42.75 or £3.56 per serving||£47.75 or £2.98 per serving|
Hello Fresh prices as at NOVEMBER 2020
|2 meals||3 meals||4 meals||5 meals|
|2 people||n/a||£29.99 or £5 per serving||£34.99 or £4.37 per serving||£41.99 or £4.20 per serving|
|3 people||£32.99 or £5.50 per serving||£41.99 or £4.67 per serving||£48.99 or £4.08 per serving||£59.99 or £4 per serving|
|4 people||£34.99 or £4.37 per serving||£45.99 or £3.83 per serving||£54.99 or £3.44 per serving||n/a|
Despite being similar in price, both companies are pretty expensive compared to a manual trip to the supermarket or online shop. I guess that’s the price you pay for quality and convenience but it’s certainly not cheap.
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Sustainability: Food Waste & Plastic
One of the common complaints I hear about meal kits is the extra amount of packaging that they contain.
And it’s true, they do involve a lot of packaging, from the box that the meals come in, to the individual servings of spices.
But it’s not just about the packaging, there’s also the food waste to consider.
Fundamentally meal kits will always score high as an advocate for food waste reduction. Boxes only contain the exact amount of foods that you require so you’ll only be left with peelings and skins at the end of the meal.
Given that the UK households waste a staggering 7.1 million tonnes every year, meal kits provide a great solution to avoiding soggy strawberries and wilted lettuce often found in fridges.
Both brands achieve just a small amount of leftover vegetable peels and food scraps. HelloFresh typically have less fresh produce in their meals which has a knock-on effect of reducing the amount of food scraps.
Plastic & Packaging
Both brands use insulation packs to keep the meat and dairy cold during delivery.
Gousto uses a natural Woolcool liner that can be repurposed or home composted.
HelloFresh on the other hand use a liner made from recycled plastic which is difficult to recycle once received (most councils don’t accept this product).
HelloFresh state they are working on reducing their plastic but are not as definitive in their statements as to how they are doing that, nor have they set themselves a percentage target they’re aiming to achieve.
THE REMAINING WASTE
Both meal kits resulted in a significant amount of packaging waste but very little food waste.
Here’s what was left from a Gousto box with 4 meals. The minimal food waste can be found in the bottom right hand corner of the photo.
HelloFresh individually parcel up the ingredients for each meal in a paper bag which resulted in additional waste.
While this is great for convenience, it’s perhaps a little unnecessary. This is what was left after a box, again with 4 meals.
Overall, if you’re looking to reduce your environmental impact, Gousto is the way to go as they appear to be more committed to sustainability.
You’ll keep your food waste at a minimum and use the least amount of plastic possible.
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Ready, Steady, Cook!
Both services provide recipe cards which are easy to follow. Hello Fresh goes into a bit more detail, whereas Gousto tries to keep instructions brief and to the point – they also send you a handy folder for keeping all your recipes organised which is a really nice touch.
Hello Fresh instructions can sometimes be a bit prescriptive, for example we had the following tip: “the chicken is cooked when no longer pink in the middle”, which might grate on more experienced cooks but will be helpful if cooking is a bit out of your comfort zone.
One area that is always very hard to judge when writing recipes is the timings. I’ve found both to be a little optimistic with their 30-45min estimated cooking times.
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Can I Lick the Plate?
The ingredients from both providers are very good – much better than I ever expected before trying either of them.
The majority of the recipes are good, hearty, home-cooked comfort food but occasionally there’s an interesting twist or exotic ingredient here and there. Here are some example recipes:
- Butterflied chicken with feta, leek and minted potatoes
- Sizzling steak stir-fry with purple sprouting broccoli and noodles
- Firecracker prawns with Chinese leaf and basmati
- Asian chicken skewers
- Trisha’s apple and pork tortillas
- Italian bangers and mash with cavalo nero and red onion marmalade
- Jerk chicken with rice and peas
- Halloumi steak with celery, walnut and grape salad
- Yasai curry aubergine with raw carrot and coriander salad
- Beef noodle salad with toasted peanuts and zesty lime dressing
The Gousto recipes are delicious and full of flavour, and many feature exotic herbs and spices. The Hello Fresh offering is good but not as adventurous and not quite as tasty.
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Service with a Smile?
We’ve had no issues with either company so have yet to take their customer support team for a spin although we did tweet Gousto to ask about a recipe card folder, which they responded to promptly.
Both have easy to use websites and deliveries have always been on time, with no missing ingredients and no spoiled food.
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Recipe boxes definitely are a convenient option as I discovered while doing this Hello Fresh vs Gousto review.
There’s less meal planning, no trip to the supermarket and also less time in the kitchen collecting all the ingredients together.
But which recipe box is the winner?
Both companies provide excellent quality ingredients and very tasty food but overall Gousto just has the edge.
Not only is Gousto’s food more interesting and more full-flavoured, their service is (significantly) cheaper and they have a wider variety of recipes for you to choose from each week.
Please note, the discount will apply at checkout automatically.
Other Questions You Might Have
What Else Do I Need?
In both cases almost everything you need is provided in terms of food and instructions. The only extra ingredients that you’ll need to have in your cupboards are oil (both vegetable and olive oil) as well as butter, sugar, salt and pepper.
However, you do need to watch out to make sure you have all the required kitchen equipment. Some recipes need particular equipment like a food processor, rolling pin or pestle and mortar.
Gousto includes a list of these items on their recipe cards so you can check when you order a recipe, HelloFresh unfortunately does not.
Can I Order a One-Off Box?
Gousto makes it very easy to order a box when you want it. You can configure your account in two ways:
- On a subscription basis. A box is delivered on a frequency that suits you. The options are: every week, fortnightly or monthly on the day of your choosing.
- On demand. You order any box as and when you want it. You do need to pause the default subscription to do this, but this is easy within the online portal or using the Gousto app.
When ordering a one-off box the cut off for any delivery is midday, three days before the desired delivery day. Gousto also allows you to have multiple deliveries within a week if you want.
HelloFresh doesn’t make it as easy for a one-off delivery, but it is possible. HelloFresh boxes are on a subscription basis only, but you can skip deliveries and change the delivery date.
To have boxes delivered on a one-off basis simply skip all the deliveries except the weeks when you want a box. You do need to be careful with this method to make sure that you always remember to skip/unskip your deliveries as required.
There’s also only a certain number of weeks in advance that you can skip deliveries so you need to continually visit the delivery system to keep it updated. We tested this method successfully without any issues (with a calendar reminder to update the skipped/unskipped deliveries).
The other option is to pause your subscription (see details below on how to cancel) and then unpause when you want a box delivered. We didn’t try this method but theoretically it should work.
HelloFresh has a much earlier cutoff date than Gousto so you do need to plan in advance a bit more. Orders need to be made (or skipped) before 11:59pm on a Tuesday for delivery of a box the following week. It is not possible to have more than one delivery per week with HelloFresh.
How Easy Is It To Cancel?
It’s easy to cancel and close a Gousto account, without having to jump through any hoops, and without having to speak to a real person (great if you’re busy or want to cancel at some strange hour of the day!).
There are three ways to cancel: within your account settings in the app or on the website, by chatting to the Gousto team using their messaging system, or by calling their customer care team.
HelloFresh is a little more complicated and involves two steps if you want to permanently close your account. First you need to update your account settings to stop deliveries – this is only available on the website. This really just pauses your subscription but your account remains open.
If you want to actually close your account you need to email or phone the HelloFresh customer support team and request that your account be permanently closed.
If you are looking to close, or pause, your subscription, make sure that you update your account before the cutoff date else you will receive your next box (unless it’s skipped).
Are the Boxes Available Nationwide?
Gousto delivers to almost all UK mainland postcodes. To check if you are within their delivery area check their frequently updated list here.
HelloFresh delivers to mainland UK, The Isle of Wight, The Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey (Excluding Herm) and Northern Ireland. They don’t deliver to the Scottish Highlands or Islands. You can check your postcode here.
Are There Any Extra Costs?
On both platforms, the box price is all that you pay, delivery is included.
But, you do have to watch out that you don’t order any of the recipes that incur an additional cost. Gousto calls these ‘Fine Dine In’ recipes while HelloFresh refers to them as ‘Premium’ recipes.
Both platforms also have additional items that you can optionally add to your box. You can choose treats such as desert and wine, or kitchen implements from Gousto Marketplace. Similarly, HelloFresh Extras include ready-made desserts, wines and bread.
Who Owns the Companies?
Gousto is a British owned company, trading under the name SCA Investments Limited, with headquarters in Shephard’s Bush, London.. The company was started by two friends, Timo Boldt and James Carter in June 2012.
The two co-founders appeared on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den back in August 2013. Since then the company has received numerous rounds of funding from angel investors and venture capital funds.
HelloFresh on the other hand is a German company based in Berlin. The company was founded in November 2011 by Dominik Richter, Thomas Griesel, and Jessica Nilsson.
HelloFresh has grown to become a global brand, operating in the US, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
HelloFresh is now a publicly traded company since its IPO in November 2017.
Editor’s note: this article was originally published in February 2016 but has been revisited and updated as of July 2017, February 2019 and November 2020. Please note, this is NOT a paid promotion and remains an impartial review based on personal opinion. Neither Gousto or Hello Fresh knew we wrote it at the time.