The best recipe boxes - according to Mumsnetters

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.

What is a recipe box?

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, scouring the boards for Mumsnetters' honest reviews to help you decide which is the best one for your family.

1. Hellofresh

1. Hellofresh

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

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.

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 offer a family friendly box. You can still tailor the number of melas and portions you want to recieve, but each recipe is limited to using two pots so there's less washing up afterwards.

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.

“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.”

Mumsnetters can now get 35% off their first four boxes with Hellofresh – just enter MUMSNET35 at checkout to redeem your discount.

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2. Abel & Cole

2. Abel & Cole

Best for: people looking for a little midweek indulgence who like to cook seasonally.

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, cheese, 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.

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. The box is priced according to which recipes you pick, so throw in some of their delicious veggie and vegan options to keep it more affordable.

Is it family friendly?

They don't yet offer a box specifically targeted at families – each meal serves two adults as standard, but you can increase the number of portions to suit your family.

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.

“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.”

Fancy giving it a whirl? Save £30 across your first three shops at Abel & Cole and get a free coconut hand cream in your fourth using the code TREATMUM at checkout.

T&C’s: £10 off each of your first three deliveries over £20, and free Urterkram coconut hand cream (75ml) in your fourth. £1.25 delivery fee applies. Offer does not apply to those who have an order or delivery in place with us already. Abel & Cole reserves the right to end the promotional period at any time. Offer expiry dates apply. See website for full T&Cs.

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3. Riverford

3. Riverford

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

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?).

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.

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

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4. Gousto

4. Gousto

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

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.

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.

“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.”

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Related: Check out Mumsnetters' five best slow cookers and make cooking for your family hassle-free.

5. Mindful Chef

5. Mindful Chef

Best for: people looking for healthy, low-carb options that are quick and easy to prepare.

It can be difficult to eat healthily and maintain weight-loss progress when you're juggling school runs, swimming lessons, piano lessons, and more. Lucily, Mindful Chef are on hand with Some Mumsnetters find the recipes supplied in recipe boxes a bit overly complicated, but all Mindful Chef recipes are guaranteed to take less than 30 minutes to prepare and have less than 8 steps to follow.

They don't use refined carbs in any of their recipes – that means no pasta, no white rice, no bread – making them a good option if you struggle to meal plan without these staples (or you just don't like them). Coeliacs don't have to miss out on the fun either – all Mindful Chef recipes are dairy and gluten-free.

What's in the box?

Choice of 16 recipes every week fresh pre-portioned ingredients and matching recipe cards in an insulated cardboard box.

Is it family friendly?

Mindful Chef don't offer a special family box, but there is the option to order a four-person box. However, the maximum number of portions you can have delivered in one box is five (in a one-person box), 10 (for two people), or eight (for four people). So, for a family of four, each box will contain two meals of four portions each. You can opt to receive boxes on a biweekly basis, though.

They support families in other ways too – for every meal they sell, Mindful Chef donate a school meal to a child living in poverty, so you can eat well and feel make a difference at the same time. There is also a nice option available where you can send a gift voucher to a friend or family member in need of some TLC.

How often will you receive your box?

You can opt for weekly or biweekly deliveries and you can skip, pause, or cancel your boxes at any time. The organised among us can order a box up to six weeks in advance – especially handy if you want to have something waiting when you get back from holiday – or you can just order what you fancy at the beginning of the week.

“We use Mindful Chef and love it. It's healthier, lower carb, the quality of the meat and fish is great, and there are plenty of veggie and vegan options.”

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6. Simply Cook

6. Simply Cook

Best for: families who don't want to be tied to delivery slots and like to shop for their own fresh ingredients.

Simply Cook is a bit different from other recipe box providers because, instead of sending you a big parcel packed with everything you need to make your chosen recipes, they send you a letterbox-sized kit containing recipe cards and all the spices, herbs, and hard-to-find-in-your-average-supermarket ingredients that will make your food taste amazing. Your recipe card will tell you which fresh ingredients (usually about four and no more than six) you need to buy to make the recipe.

Each box costs £9.99 and delivery is free.

What's in the box?

Your box will contain contains four easy-to-follow recipes – chosen in advance by you – and four corresponding ingredient kits. Each kit is contains ingredient blends devised by professional chefs. It's not just herbs and spices though, your kit might feature culinary pastes, infused oils, garnishes, rubs, or specialist stocks as well.

Is it family friendly?

While Simply Cook don't have a tailored option for families, the boxes they make are inherently flexible. Each ingredient kit can season up to four portions, but you can use less and save some for later if you are only cooking for two. Also, as you buy the fresh ingredients yourself, you can substitute any ingredients your family isn't keen on without any wastage. You also don't need to be in to receive the delivery if you have a letterbox, which is a big plus for busy families.

How often will you receive your box?

You can choose how often you'd like to receive a box: once every week, two weeks, four weeks or six weeks. Simply Cook works on a recurring subscription basis, but you can cancel it at any time.

“I haven't used any of the others but I am enjoying using Simply Cook. There's lots of choice and my kids are really enjoying choosing and helping to cook some of the meals. DH and I had Keralan prawn curry tonight which was really delicious.”

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