Life, Products, Recipes

Offline Life: Review of Gousto subscription boxes

Something completely different on the blog today – a review of Gousto boxes. It might seem a bit out of character for a book blog, but I used to post loads of recipe posts when I first started blogging, and they’re still really popular, so obviously some of you are just as into your food as I am 😉 Gousto came highly recommended by a friend, but I couldn’t find much in the way of comprehensive reviews, so I thought it might be helpful to share our experience.  The photos aren’t particularly artistic, I’m neither a food blogger or a great chef, so they don’t do the recipes justice, but they hopefully at least give you some idea!

Why Gousto?

Fiery chicken and pesto pasta
Fiery chicken and pesto pasta

In short, we’re a pair of very busy, very lazy teachers, who aren’t organised enough when it comes to meal planning, and far too often we get home on a random Wednesday, realise there’s nothing convenient to cook, and order a takeaway or go out to eat. That’s not good for our waistlines or our budget, but we just never seemed to get organised or motivated enough to stick to meal planning/shopping/cooking for more than a few days!  A friend absolutely raved about his experience with Gousto (the phrase ‘life-changing’ was genuinely used), and while we were skeptical, we figured it couldn’t hurt to try. We used a referral code which meant he got £15 towards his account, and we got 50% off our first box and 30% off our first month, picked some recipes and waited for our box to arrive.

How it works

Sticky pork and sesame pak choi
Sticky pork and sesame pak choi

For your first box, you just pick your delivery slot, choose your recipes, pay for the box and then wait!  Your box will arrive, with recipe photocards and everything you need apart from store cupboard essentials (this initially gave me pause but it really has meant things like salt and oil). The first box is automatically set up as a subscription, which you can either pause, or keep running either weekly, fortnightly or monthly. Pausing it is very easy – I tested it just to be sure!  If you keep it running, you can change your delivery day easily (more on that below) and you just get charged when the box starts being prepared at midday, three days before – this is also the cut off time for your recipe choices.  Recipes change every Tuesday so you can log in and choose your recipes as soon as you fancy, and they’ll just be prepped and charged for on your usual schedule.

Box 1

The recipes we picked for our first box were:

  • Creamy Haddock Linguine With Tomatoes & Chilli
  • Sticky Chinese Pork Chops & Sesame Pak Choi
  • 10-Min Fiery Red Pesto Chicken Pasta
  • Indonesian-Style Chicken Rice With Satay Sauce

 

Creamy Haddock Linguini
Creamy Haddock Linguini

The first recipe we tried was the haddock, which I cooked and was very easy. My other half immediately told me he didn’t fancy it when I told him that was what we were having first, but he soon changed his mind once I started cooking and he could smell it! I served it with garlic bread, and we both thoroughly enjoyed it – simple, but delicious.  Next up he cooked the chinese pork which he said was very straight forward, and was his personal favourite of the 4 we tried – the sauce on the pork was really rich, honestly very reminiscent of a chinese takeaway, and I was pleasantly surprised that the pork was soft instead of dry (I don’t often buy pork for that reason!).  I LOVED the pak choi but it was a bit too heavy on the sesame for him, next time I think we’d use half the sesame oil and make up the difference with garlic oil.  Third was the pesto chicken pasta which he cooked one night we both got home late – very quick and straightforward, very nice, and perhaps most importantly, very filling! Last but not least was the Indonesian-Style chicken rice with satay sauce: this one had a few more ingredients and I made the mistake of not reading ahead/getting things chopped before I started and trying to follow along with the recipe card… I think my chopping skills need improving before I’m quick enough to do that! It took me a little longer than the recipe card said, but it was really nice, and I think probably my favourite of the four.

Box 2

The recipes we picked for our second box were:

  • Simple Naan-Topped Lamb Rogan Josh Pie

  • Fragrant Pork, Lemongrass & Sesame Meatballs (not yet made)

  • Thai Beef Meatball Massaman Bake

  • Extra Special Bangers ‘N’ Mash (forgot to photograph this one because I was too excited to eat it!)

 

Naan-topped pie
Naan-topped pie

We made a slight mis-judgement with this one in terms of delivery timings.  We ordered the first box to arrive ASAP because we were excited, but then changed our delivery day for the second box to Monday, so we’d have the meals ready for the week. The only problem is that it meant we didn’t have a full week between boxes – the system pointed that out to us and we shrugged it off, but it meant box 2 arrived just before we’d finished the first one.  Since that meant the dates didn’t quite stretch far enough, I froze the pork for the meatballs, and we haven’t yet tried those (that’s the plan for dinner tonight). The other three recipes were all very good though – my other half’s favourite was the meatball bake, which I made. In terms of prep, making the meatballs from scratch was a bit more of a faff than I’m used to, but after that it’s very easy; I popped it in the oven, set a timer and went to watch Line of Duty. When the timer went off, I added some more ingredients, stuck it back in the oven and went back to my episode until it was ready. My kind of cooking! I loved the Sausages and mash, which had onion marmalade and was warming, tasty comfort food, but the rogan josh pie was probably the stand out recipe for us.  My other half cooked this one, and it’s basically a curry, topped with naan bread and then baked – it was seriously rich, and actually a big portion each, more than I could finish (which rarely happens if I’m honest). All in all, another winner.

Overall thoughts

Massaman Beef Meatball Bake
Massaman Beef Meatball Bake

Most importantly for me, the food is delicious – my photos absolutely do not do them justice!  If you’ve ever spent any time with me in real life, or seen me on twitter, you’ll probably have grasped by now that I am an absolute foodie; great food is often the highlight of my day (especially a week day). Although the boxes are a bit expensive (if you were going to buy the ingredients from the supermarket, it’d work out cheaper for sure), they’ve been absolutely worth it for us. We’ve been trying recipes we otherwise wouldn’t because I don’t have to buy a whole bottle of mirin for one recipe for instance.  I also take great comfort in knowing it is literally Gousto’s business to pick recipes that work and taste good – I have a lot more faith in them than I do in my ability to pick a good recipe! From a food waste point of view it’s been great – I don’t cook too much ‘just in case’ or end up with carrots that I was sure I’d use for something and then forgot all about until they were mushy. I find we’ve been looking forward to our recipes, and although we have to cook, they’re rich enough, and varied enough, we still get some of the excitement of eating out, for a lot less – although the boxes seem expensive, they’re not really much more than eating out once a week, which we were doing pretty much every week, if not more than once.

We had moved to primarily poultry or vegetarian for environmental reasons, but with Gousto I obviously can’t say “that recipe sounds great, but we’ll do it with chicken instead”, so we’ve been eating more meat than usual.  At the moment the novelty of the exciting recipes is drawing me in, but I would like to start focusing on bringing that back down again. It’s likely to mean choosing the chicken meals though, because I think I’d feel the prices were a bit high for purely vegetarian meals.

Indonesian-Style Rice and Satay Sauce
Indonesian-Style Rice and Satay Sauce

The service is great: you can either have a subscription (weekly, fortnightly or monthly) or you can order one off boxes.  If you set it up as a subscription you get a reminder email telling you to pick your recipes, and if you don’t pick them, Gousto picks for you based on things you’ve previously ordered. While we haven’t yet had this happen (too excited to choose the recipes!) I think this is a great function, because it costs no more than the usual service but could take literally all the thought out of meal planning: just wait for the box to arrive and then cook! Your second box comes with a folder to store your recipe cards, so even if you stopped the service at some point, you’d have the recipes you loved.  There’s quite a lot of packaging, but they’ve done quite a bit to reduce it and now most of the packaging is either biodegradable or recyclable, which is something I love.  Realistically I imagine we use about the same amount of plastic as if we were buying the ingredients from the supermarket, if not a bit less, and as I said, we have a lot less food waste.

All in all, we’re really enjoying Gousto, and it’s a service we intend to keep running. You may have seen on Twitter that we’d like to lose a little bit of weight, and because we can see the calories in each recipe before we order, we can look forward to something tasty and indulgent but that won’t blow the calorie budget like a chinese takeaway (e.g. the Indonesian-Style Rice was ~530 calories).  We have the four meals/two people service, which basically covers our weekdays when we’re shorter on time and energy. We often go to family’s for dinner one day over the weekend, and do something with friends for another, which only leaves 1 meal to cover, which is perfect for us, as it means we can easily do a quick shop on the way home on a Friday to cover the whole week.

If you’re curious and would like to give it a go, I’ve got a 50% off your first box & 30% off your first month referral deal you can use (the same way I signed up!). If you’ve already tried it, I’d love to know your thoughts!

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