Mumsnet picks: best recipe boxes

chopping board and ingredients

Even the most enthusiastic family cooks struggle to rustle up cooked-from-scratch dinners seven nights a week – hence the explosion in delivered-to-your door recipe kits and food boxes. But are they any good? And which one would work best for your family? With the help of Mumsnetters, we give you the lowdown on the cream of the crop.

We've also snagged a 50% discount on your first and fourth Abel & Cole boxes, in case you wanted to try them out. AND they've thrown in a free bottle of prosecco, just for Mumsnetters. Nice. Simply enter MUM50 at the checkout to claim your discount.

Recipe boxes… a what now?

Recipe boxes contain all the bits you need to cook at least one delicious meal – everything from prepared meat, to portions of veg and thimbles-full of exotic spices – plus step-by-step recipes cards which walk you through the dishes.

After that, it gets a bit more complicated: some services offer pay-as-you-go boxes, for example, while others require you to sign up to a subscription. But don't worry – we've done the legwork for you, scrutinising the most popular providers to help you decide which is the best one for your family.

Abel & Cole, organic seasonality from £36.99

Abel & Cole were among the first off the block in the fresh-food delivery business, and have been in the business now for 28 years. You're probably already familiar with their huge selection of fruit, veg, meat and fish boxes, plus extras like nice wine and even shellfish. Now they've branched out into ready-to-cook recipe boxes too.

As with their famous veggie boxes, there's a big emphasis on seasonal, organic produce. They can't help when you fancy strawberries in the middle of a snowy winter, but they'll give you an eco-friendly glow and it's a great way to try new stuff without too much risk.

Recipes range from the intriguing-sounding Halloumi, Chickpea & Spinach Curry and Crispy Skin Thai Salmon Salad, to popular classics like Tandoori Chicken Skewers with Raita and Golden Pork Schnitzel with Tomato & Basil Spaghetti. Plenty to get your teeth into.

I have found Abel & Cole has challenged my cookery in a really good way, helping me to try veggies I have avoided since they were ruined by school dinner over-cooking.

What's in the box?

As standard, each box includes three meals with enough food to feed two people comfortably. If three meals isn't enough you can easily add more recipes from Abel & Cole's extensive menu.

Is it family friendly?

They don't yet offer a box specifically targeted at families – each meal will only serve two adults, so if you are looking to feed some youngsters you'll have to double up.

How often will you receive your box?

Abel & Cole recipe boxes arrive weekly, so once you have chosen your preferred box you will find one at your door every seven days – simple. There is also a nice feature which allows you to skip a week (in case you're going on holiday) and you can cancel your subscription at any time. There is a £1.25 delivery charge for each box.

Mumsnet verdict

Best for: people looking for a little midweek indulgence who like to cook seasonally. There is huge amount of choice on Abel & Cole – if you don't fancy a recipe box that week, you could opt for the monthly British cheese board (Mmm… cheese.)

Get your box now at Abel & Cole and remember to apply claim your discount (and prosecco) with code MUM50.

Riverford, locally sourced produce from £24.95

Whereas Abel & Cole are the champions of organic seasonality, Riverford are all about locally sourced produce. With thousands of farms across the UK, not only will you be getting some lovely produce, you'll also be helping the local economy at the same time. Win-win!

Riverford offer a range of fresh ingredient boxes, from fruit and veg to meat and dairy, as well as a “farm shop” box for your cupboard essentials, but they are no stranger to recipe boxes either. With options to suit a variety of dietary requirements, Riverford really come into their own with their “quick” meals feature: quick meals are designed to go from box to table in around 30 minutes. They also offer “light” boxes which provide recipes under 500 calories per serving.

Do look through all of the different options – a basic box costs £24.95 and prices go up from there.

What's in the box?

The cheapest box includes everything you need to cook two delicious meals for two people plus a handy step by step recipe card to make cooking a cinch. Another neat trick is the ability to supplement your weekly box with additional produce – just in case you fancy picking up a couple of Barbosa onions (don't we all?).

We've found the quality and taste to be consistently much better than supermarket produce.

Is it family friendly?

All Riverford boxes are designed to cater for two people so you will struggle to feed a family unless you are happy to have very small portions. There is the option to upgrade to a three meal plan but, once again, each meal will only serve two.

How often will you receive your box?

Riverford is a pay as you go service which allows you to schedule multiple boxes at once. This means you won't be tied to a subscription service but will need to remember what dates you have ordered you box.

Mumsnet verdict

Best for: people who enjoy supporting their local economy, appreciate good quality, and don’t like being tied to a subscription service.

Get your box now from Riverford.

Gousto, spoilt for choice from £24.99

Gousto is one of the original recipe box companies and is perhaps the most well known (along with Hellofresh). If you are looking for a simple, seamless service to deliver fresh produce to your door then keep on reading: with 22 recipes available, there's plenty to choose from.

Every week you can log onto their website and choose whatever recipes tickle your taste buds. You have complete control over what comes in your box so there won't be any surprises on your doorstep. You can choose an exotic harissa chorizo with white bean mash, or keep it simple with an uptown egg and chips.

I am not a fussy eater, but my kids don't like certain things, so I didn't want to receive any surprise recipes. The other thing I like about Gousto is that I can plan my calorie intake in advance as well.

What's in the box?

A standard Gousto box will include produce and recipe cards for two meals, to serve two people. There is also the option to add additional recipes if you fancy upgrading your package for a week.

Is it family friendly?

Yes! Gousto offer a specially crafted “Family box” which includes up to four recipes and enough food for two adults plus three kids. You will need to pay extra though so if £47.25 per box seems a little steep it would be better to seek out other options.

How often will you receive your box?

Gousto boxes arrive at your door weekly. As it is a subscription service, you will need to tell Gousto if you want to take a break from your box or are popping on holiday for a week.

Mumsnet verdict

Best for: families looking for complete control over their recipe box and mountains of customisation.

Get your box now from Gousto.

Hellofresh, minimal waste from £34.99

Hellofresh want to help make cooking easier and more enjoyable. Instead of going down the organic or seasonal produce route, Hellofresh have focused on ease – but don't for a moment think this isn't a quality box.

In each box you will receive the exact amount of produce to cook a delicious meal, making food wastage less of a problem. Each recipe provides an estimated cooking time and a difficulty rating. If you are looking for something quick and easy, choose something with a lower difficulty.

I get ridiculously excited about it coming once a month and cook from the recipe cards the rest of the time. I love love love it.

What's in the box?

The entry level box for Hellofresh is three meals for two people which comes in at £34.99 – though your first box is only £9.99. You will receive everything you need to cook your meal, from the actual produce to a detailed recipe.

Is it family friendly?

Like Gousto, Hellofresh do offer a family friendly box – but it will cost you £53.99. Each box does include enough food for a family of four to enjoy three meals, but it is more expensive than other boxes available.

How often will you receive your box?

Hellofresh is a subscription service which allows you to set regular delivery slots (maximum once a week) but you do have the option to pause or cancel your subscription at any time. The dashboard is slick and easy to use so you don't need to worry about mountains of boxes waiting for you if you go away for a couple of weeks.

Mumsnet verdict

Best for: people looking for easy-to-follow recipes and who don't like wasting food.

Get your box now from Hellofresh