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Best recipe boxes and food delivery subscriptions for busy families

Creating exciting, nutritious and great-tasting meals every night is hard work. That’s why food delivery subscriptions have become so popular with families, making it easier and more convenient to eat well. Here's our guide to the best recipe boxes available in the UK today, whatever your dietary requirements.

By Gemma Lumley | Last updated Jul 25, 2023

Selection of recipe box meals

The best recipe boxes are a quick and easy way to cook healthy and delicious dishes. They contain high-quality ingredients, from lovingly prepared meat and fish, pinches of spice that will pack a punch and fresh, vitamin-packed vegetables. You will also receive a step-by-step guide to the recipe that will make cooking a stress-free experience, plus you can try something new without having to buy a whole new cookbook.

Most parents would like to save time where possible, and Mumsnet users are always keen to find solutions to make family meal prep easier, whether it’s investing in the best food processor to make chopping veg a speedier process, or using an efficient pressure cooker to shave time off making meals. While you do still have to prepare and cook the food with a meal kit box, they allow you to plan meals with ease and have the ingredients delivered directly to your door, bypassing hours spent perusing supermarket shelves, without compromising on taste and freshness. There's also food delivery boxes available where all you need to do is heat up the pre-cooked meals - which type you prefer is entirely down to you and your family's needs.

Sounds fantastic, right? Fresh food delivery boxes are available for families, pasta lovers, people who live alone, vegans and vegetarians. If you’re on a gluten-free diet, there are options for you too. You can also choose from rolling subscription services where you can order the ingredients for a week’s worth of restaurant-standard dishes from the sofa or go pay-as-you-go for treat night meals.

To help you find the best recipe box for one, two or more, we’ve thoroughly vetted the meal kits Mumsnet users have tried, tested and loved, analysed the recipe boxes food industry experts recommend and scrutinised authentic consumer reviews.

Best recipe box 2023: at a glance

1. Best overall recipe box: Gousto

Gousto dishes

Price on writing: From £2.99 per portion | Find out more

Key specs

Feeds: Two to four adults | Delivery frequency: Weekly | Special diets catered for: Vegetarian; vegan; gluten-free; dairy-free

What we love

  • Quick and easy recipes

  • Lots of choice

  • Flexible subscription

What to know

  • Deliveries made by a third party

  • Cost per portion is more expensive when ordering fewer meals, so may be quite expensive if ordering for one or two people

What Mumsnet users say

“We are a family of three adults. Gousto recipes are generous, so a two person meal can easily stretch to three.” (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user CraftyGin)

“I use Gousto. We buy the two box option but they are generally quite big portions so stretch to three.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user dueindecember10)

Our verdict

Gousto have been delivering food recipe boxes since 2012 and have developed their service to be the best. Members of the Mumsnet forums frequently mention being delighted with their Gousto experience. They offer a wide range of superb meals from around the world, plus traditional British fayre - the creamy sausage and pea pasta is a favourite in particular. There are plenty of tasty vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options too.

Gousto recipes are illustrated, easy-to-follow and quick to make. Unlike some recipe boxes, your dish will look exactly as it does on the recipe card. We were impressed with the excellent quality of the ingredients and the generous size of the portions; we often had some left over for lunch the next day.

The subscription service is fully flexible and the prices are good value (the cost per portion is reduced with the more meals you order in a box which is ideal for families). You can choose the number of meals and portions you need each week and it’s simple to change your choices, pause or cancel. Gousto is a B Corp company, which means that they strive to be sustainable too. As a reflection of this, their packaging isn’t excessive and is mostly recyclable.

Read next: See our pick of the best bread maker to make baking your own loaves a breeze

2. Best value recipe box: HelloFresh

Hello Fresh dishes

Price on writing: From £3.15 per portion | Find out more

Key specs

Feeds: Two to four adults | Delivery frequency: Weekly | Special diets catered for: Vegetarian

What we love

  • Large range of recipes

  • Fast cook recipe options

  • Generous portions

What to know

  • More packaging than other boxes but not excessive

What Mumsnet users say

“HelloFresh do boxes for three. We get them and we enjoy them very much.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user Restlessinthenorth)

Our verdict

HelloFresh is another of the recipe boxes that Mumsnet users shout about. They started their service in 2011 and have a loyal following of customers thanks to the rotating menu to choose from each week, which includes a family favourites and calorie smart range.

If you care about food provenance and sustainability, you’ll be impressed by HelloFresh’s dedication to using local producers, cutting out the middleman and being carbon neutral. They are, however, often criticised by consumer reviewers for using too much packaging. When we tested it out, however, we were pleased the ingredients are pre-portioned to avoid food waste.

We were impressed by the vast range of available recipes and that many only take 20 minutes to cook. The recipe descriptions are accurate and have helpful notes, such as the level of spice in the dish. The ‘Premium’ range is fantastic for special occasions, and there are also plenty of family-friendly everyday dishes.

Overall, we found HelloFresh a great way to add new dishes to our repertoire (the above pics were the results of some of the recipes we tried), and the app is easy to use and navigate to choose your menu for the week. We also liked that you could skip deliveries in advance too if you’re away or just don’t fancy a box that week.

3. Best home recipe box for versatility: Simply Cook

Simply Cook flavour pots

Price on writing: Free trial box (£1 postage), £9.99 per box after | Find out more

Key specs

Feeds: Two to four adults | Delivery frequency: Weekly, fortnightly, monthly or every six weeks | Special diets catered for: Vegan and vegetarian

What we love

  • Letterbox-sized packaging

  • Fully customisable recipes

  • Generous portions

What to know

  • You need to buy some ingredients separately

What Mumsnet users say

“Simply Cook. You have to buy your own fresh ingredients but that’s what I like. I can use the fattest, nicest prawns if I’m feeling flush or swap to vegetarian only when I’m less so.” (Reviewed by Mumsnet user Ducksinthebath)

Our verdict

Simply Cook differs from most recipe boxes in the UK. Each meal kit contains the herbs, spices and flavoured pastes needed for the dish and a comprehensive and easy-to-follow instruction card. The meat, fish and veg required must be bought separately. This makes the Simply Cook service one of the cheapest and allows you to decide how much you want to spend on the rest of the ingredients.

Thanks to the small size of the contents, even though you’ll be receiving enough for four meals, a Simply Cook delivery will fit through your letterbox and requires minimum packaging. In addition, the use by dates on your ingredients are long. So if you change your mind about what to have for tea, or are short on time and are wanting to whack something in your air fryer or slow cooker instead, it won’t go to waste.

The range of recipes available is extensive, and customers are encouraged to rate what they have tried. If a meal is poorly reviewed because it’s a faff or doesn't taste great, it is removed from the list within a month. Busy families will enjoy the 20-minute cook options and the ability to customise each recipe to suit everyone, from the carnivores to the vegans.

Read next: The best George Foreman grill for low fat family cooking, as recommended by Mumsnet users

4. Best healthy recipe box: Mindful Chef

Mindful Chef dishes

Price on writing: From £3.66 per portion | Find out more

Key specs

Feeds: One to two adults or a ‘family’ | Delivery frequency: Weekly | Special diets catered for: Gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan; vegetarian

What we love

  • Fully flexible subscription

  • Healthy options

  • Focuses on nutrition rather than calories

  • High-quality ingredients

What to know

  • Lack of imagination with meat-free protein options

What Mumsnet users say

“We have tried Mindful Chef recently and were very happy with the food and recipes.” (Suggested by Mumsnet user anniegun)

Our verdict

Mindful Chef is a company that puts health and taste at the heart of its meals. It’s a great place to start if you want to eat a more nutritious diet. Refined carbs, gluten and dairy are absent from each dish but they still taste amazing. The recipes are enticing; some only take around 15 minutes to make, ideal for busy weeknights. We love that a team of nutritionists works hard on the recipes available each week too.

Veggie or vegan? There are many plant-based options, each balanced to include a healthy protein source such as tofu or tempeh. It's a great way to cut back on meat and get more inventive with veggie dishes, but there are options available for you too if you don't want to go entirely meat-free.

We love the ethos of Mindful Chef too. It's a carbon-neutral company who also donates a school meal to a child in poverty for every meal a customer buys. Check out One Feeds Two for more information on this heartwarming initiative. In addition, all packaging is recycled and recyclable, the ingredients are UK sourced, and it is a B-Corp company.

Read next: The best Instant Pot multi-cookers, tried and tested by Mumsnet users

5. Best vegetarian recipe box: Grubby


Price on writing: From £5.75 per portion | Find out more

Key specs

Feeds: Two to three people (regular box) or four to five people (family box) | Delivery frequency: Weekly on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays | Special diets catered for: Solely vegan food

What we love

  • Designed for vegans - lots of choice

  • Recyclable packaging

  • You can choose your meals four weeks in advance

What to know

  • All plant-based - not great if you have non-vegans in the family

What Mumsnet users say

“I got a meal box from a company called Grubby, you pick three recipes and each recipe serves two to three people. We have it for two of us with leftovers for lunch. I am a meat eater but I love trying new things and this didn't disappoint, it made me realise that plant-based alternatives aren't always less tasty for sure.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user HotCrocolate)

Our verdict

Vegans can miss out on variety when it comes to food boxes. Happily, Grubby is now on the scene, and they have made producing yummy plant-based meals their focus. Their organic ingredients are grown on family-owned farms local to the Grubby factory.

We loved the mix of fun and responsibility in the Grubby ethos. Their 60+ dishes are nutritious, tasty and colourful, plus a Spotify playlist to cook along to is listed on the recipe card. Subscriptions are flexible and allow you to pause, change, and cancel your account quickly.

We were delighted to see that the minimal packaging is recyclable and there's the option for London-based customers to have their recipe box delivered by bike. A meal is donated to a child in need every time you purchase a meal too. Mumsnet users say it’s great for couples, with enough for lunch the next day - just dish it up into the best Tupperware or bento box ready to tuck into the next day.

6. Best vegan recipe box: Allplants

Allplants meals

Price on writing: From £4.99 per portion | Find out more

Key specs

Feeds: One to two adults | Delivery frequency: Weekly | Special diets catered for: Vegan; vegetarian; gluten-free

What we love

  • Recyclable packaging

  • Ideal for vegans

  • Great for convenience

What to know

  • Expensive

  • Essentially a pack of ready meals - not ideal if you want to cook more

Our verdict

Allplants is a vegan and vegetarians’ dream food delivery box. It is also a brilliant way to try a plant-based diet for a week. The company has created over 100 meals, from light and fresh salads to rich pasta and fragrant ramen. For super busy people, there is also a smaller range of breakfasts, smoothies and puddings, and each meal comes ready-cooked, so you just need to heat it.

The Allplants menu arrives in an ingenious insulated box, so it remains frozen throughout its journey. Delivery is free, and the packaging can be recycled or returned to Allplants for reuse multiple times. In addition, microwaveable tubs are biodegradable.

Their customers' health is as important to the chefs who prepare the meals as the taste, so their food has at least two servings of vegetables or fruit and doesn’t contain preservatives. However, the meals are all ready prepared so it's less of a recipe box in the traditional sense. This is great for busy people looking for convenient meals, but if you want to cook more, a different service might be better for you.

Read next: Looking for some work from home lunch inspiration? See our pick of the best sandwich toaster for quick and tasty meals

7. Best organic recipe box: Riverford Organic Farmers

Riverford dishes

Price on writing: From £13.45 for two | Find out more

Key specs

Feeds: Two adults | Delivery frequency: Weekly, on a set day | Special diets catered for: Vegetarian and vegan

What we love

  • Organic ingredients

  • Excellent quality

  • Recyclable packaging that can be returned to Riverford

What to know

  • No gluten-free or dairy-free options

  • Limited menu

  • Pricey

What Mumsnet users say

“The Riverford ones are nice for good everyday food. A good way to try things you might not normally consider.” (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user CookEatRepeat)

Our verdict

Riverford Organic Farmer's dinner boxes are packed full of fantastic quality, organic ingredients that will efficiently and quickly combine to make delicious meals. The exciting recipes change weekly and include plenty of vegan and vegetarian choices. There is, however, nothing suitable for gluten-free or dairy-free diets.

If sustainability and protecting the environment are essential concerns for you, choose Riverford, a company with B-Corp certification. Their packaging is recyclable and can be returned to the company for reuse up to ten times. In addition, their organic credentials are impeccable.

Riverford recipes are easy to follow, and the descriptions of each dish are accurate. Some meals take over an hour to cook, but this can be a joy on a Sunday afternoon with a glass of wine. If you love hearty, traditional foods and lighter salads and stir-fries, Riverford is a superb choice, but it can work out quite pricey per portion.

8. Best meal box for pasta: Pasta Evangelists

Pasta dishes

Price on writing: From £5.85 per portion | Find out more

Key specs

Feeds: One to two adults, but you can select more portions | Delivery frequency: Weekly | Special diets catered for: Vegetarian; vegan; gluten-free

What we love

  • Minimal cooking required

  • Minimal packaging

  • Good choice of dishes

What to know

  • Expensive to order often

  • You may want more variety than pasta-based dishes

Our verdict

Pasta Evangelists delivers stunning Italian food that takes minutes to prepare. The pasta, rich sauces, and tangy parmesan are excellent, and the recipes are authentic. Plenty of recipes are available, from traditional chef’s favourites to adventurous weekly specials. Vegans, veggies and gluten-free diets are all catered for with thoughtfully designed dishes rather than ones that are simply chucked together.

Delivery can be on an ad-hoc basis, so Pasta Evangelists would be an excellent treat for birthdays or anniversaries, as puddings and wine can be included in your order. Alternatively, there is a subscription service but, be warned, it’s expensive!

Pasta Evangelists strive to use minimal packaging, and if you live near their London base, the box will be even smaller as you won’t need as much cooling technology. The portions of pasta are enough for two adults, or if you're dining alone there will be plenty left to dish into your lunch box the next day. Meals can be frozen too, so if you’re planning a dinner party or stocking up for a busy week, you can order well in advance.

9. Best recipe box for wannabe chefs: The Cookaway

Cookaway recipe box

Price on writing: From £28 for two adults | Find out more

Key specs

Feeds: Two to four people | Delivery frequency: Tuesday - Saturday (no subscription) | Special diets catered for : Vegetarian; vegan; full ‘Free-From’ range

What we love

  • Excellent for creative and adventurous cooks

  • Free delivery

  • No subscription

  • Impressive Free-From range

What to know

  • Expensive

Our verdict

Adventurous home cooks will enjoy the range of 180 international recipes available from The Cookaway. The authenticity of each dish is guaranteed as the chefs that develop the weekly menus specialise in their particular cuisine. There are creative vegan and vegetarian options too.

Delivery from The Cookaway is free, and you can order as and when you need, as there is no subscription service. So if you’re planning a dinner party and lack confidence in cooking, ordering a selection of imaginative dishes from here is a fab idea, as the recipes are easy to follow and will impress your guests.

Reviewers were disappointed with the amount of unnecessary packaging the dishes came in. However, to be fair to The Cookaway team, they have worked hard to ensure it is all fully recyclable. One of the best elements of these recipe boxes was the generous portions, you get two sides with each main meal, and you will likely have leftovers for the next day.

10. Best easy-to-follow meal box: COOK

Cook box

Price on writing: From £4.97 per portion | Find out more 

Key specs

Feeds: One to eight adults  | Delivery frequency: No subscription - order on an ad-hoc basis | Special diets catered for: Vegan; vegetarian; gluten-free; dairy-free

What we love

  • Click and collect available in some parts of the UK

  • Eight portion entertaining options

  • Arrive conveniently ready cooked and frozen and can be cooked without defrosting

What to know

  • No fresh options

  • Not ideal if you want to cook the meals from scratch

Our verdict

COOK offers a range of lovingly prepared frozen meals that are nutritious, tasty and can be cooked in minutes without defrosting. The standard portion sizes are large, and there are many vegan, veggie and gluten-free dishes.

COOK meals include indulgent desserts, fun party food and yummy snacks, and they can be bought in cost-effective bundles. The new parents' collection of nutrient-packed dishes is a fantastic gift idea too. The entertaining packages for up to eight people are excellent if you love to have friends around but aren’t a confident chef.

Delivery isn’t free, and there’s a £30 minimum spend. However, there is a growing network of COOK stores where you can collect your meals. Unfortunately, ordering is on an ad-hoc basis, with no subscription service. This is a shame as ordering regularly in bulk would be more convenient and help customers reach the minimum spend amount.

Read next: The best deep fat fryer for indulgent DIY takeaways

Recipe box offers

Most recipe box services offer an introductory offer so you can try it out before paying full price. Here are the latest offers*:

*Subject to availability and T&Cs. Offers correct at time of writing.

How do food delivery boxes and recipe meal subscriptions work?

A food delivery box will contain pre-cooked meals you can eat after a spin in the microwave or a blast in the oven. Recipe boxes include a step-by-step recipe and the ingredients to make it, but you must combine them and cook them.

A subscription to either of these convenient ways to eat will require a regular, automatic payment and a weekly or fortnightly delivery of all your meals. Most companies will remind you to choose which meals you want and the portion size required a couple of days before they are delivered.

Some food delivery services, such as Pasta Evangelists, don’t need a subscription. So if you have a busy week coming up or fancy a Saturday night treat, you can order as a one-off.

Your meals or ingredients will likely arrive in insulated packaging. Cooling technology will be used where appropriate. Often, it is possible to choose a day and time for delivery. However, small businesses may only have one delivery day in your area.

Is it cheaper to buy ingredients from the supermarket?

Yes, shopping for and cooking your own recipes will be cheaper. However, recipe boxes are still great if you enjoy saving time, eating well, cooking imaginatively, and introducing your children to new foods.

If waste is an issue when you cook adventurously, food recipe boxes will prevent that. They will send just the right amount of spices, herbs and veg for each meal. You will also save the petrol needed for endless supermarket runs, an excellent boost for your pocket and the environment.

What is the cheapest and healthiest food delivery service?

Our best recipe box for value is HelloFresh, especially if you choose their family option, which works out at just £3.15 per meal. The service also allows you to change your subscription plan, so if the kids are away with their grandparents for a week, you can adjust the number of meals you need.

Fresh food delivery boxes can be as healthy or indulgent as your choice of recipes. That said, most recipe boxes will be designed to provide a balanced meal with plenty of veg, lean protein and sensible portion sizes. Riverford Organic Farmers are particularly good at family recipe boxes using high-quality ingredients such as rainbow veg sourced at their organic farm.

Which meal delivery service is the best for vegetarians?

When you’re vegetarian or vegan, food boxes delivered to your door can be a fantastic way to discover nutritious new foods and delicious recipes. Our picks of the best recipe boxes have vegetarian options, and most have vegan choices too, though these are often limited. Mindful Chef has one of the most extensive ranges of non-meat recipes.

If your family is all vegetarian or plant-based, choose a food delivery service that caters exclusively to your dietary needs. Companies such as Allplants and Grubby are focused on producing healthy, balanced and exciting recipes so you won’t feel like an afterthought.

How we chose our recommendations

To find the best recipe box delivery service, we scoured all the most recent reviews to see what food lovers and nutritionists were saying and what was new to the market. Then, we assessed them against our criteria for what we’d choose for our own families.

We then sought out the parents' advice on the Mumsnet forums to discover what recipe boxes they had subscribed to, what they thought and if they were still using them. We also made notes on any that hadn’t impressed Mumsnetters and why.

From there, we consulted in-depth reviews on expert websites. We then collated both lists to develop a shortlist of recipe boxes that had won industry awards, accolades and applause from real parents. We also chose food delivery services representing the best menu choices, nutrition, and value for money.

Why you should trust us

Mumsnet has been helping parents make their lives easier since 2000, and, in that time, we've investigated, tried and reviewed thousands of products.

We strive to provide honest and independent advice you can trust, and we spend hours scouring the Mumsnet forums and online bestseller lists to find amazing products that real parents love.

As a mother keen to provide her family with delicious and nutritious meals and who appreciates value for money and not spending hours food shopping and cooking, our writer Gemma was determined to find the best recipe boxes UK food delivery services provide.

Transparency is vital to us, and that's why we're always honest about where we find our recommendations. We write about products we feel offer the best value to most parents – the ones our users recommend to their friends and family.