The Gousto experiment
I’ll admit it – I’m not too keen on cooking, never have been. Most of the time I find it boring, but it’s gotten even trickier after moving in with my fiancé. Coming from two different cultures we also have vastly different preferences in food – so I end cooking rather infrequently. But ready-meals and take-out really don’t seem like a viable long term solution so we decided to spruce things up by trying out a weekly recipe box. I looked into a few of them (Hello Fresh, Gousto, Abel & Cole) and settled on Gousto.
What is a weekly recipe box?
Gousto is essentially a subscription service available to anyone on mainland UK, where you choose the recipes you’d like to cook online and Gousto delivers all the necessary ingredients in the right quantities as well as the recipes themselves straight to your door. All you have to do yourself is, well, cook the meal.
The cost works out around 5£-7£ per serving, which isn’t cheap (although cheaper than some other recipe boxes or take-out). You are certainly paying for the convenience and recipes. On the other hand, the ingredients sent by Gousto tend to be of excellent quality and Gousto tries to use organic products where possible. Such products tend to be costly in the store as well.
Overall I think it works out for couples better than for families, because there is no way to buy ingredients in small enough quantities in the shop that would let you prepare a meal for just two people. So chances are a lot of those ingredients will get wasted unless you’re willing to cook every night of the week and re-use the same ingredients.
Gousto is a subscription service so you automatically get signed up for regular weekly boxes, however it’s easy enough to manage that subscription or cancel it entirely (and there are no hidden fees). Since I wanted to try Gousto out before committing, I suspended my subscription as soon as I ordered my first box and made sure there were no further deliveries scheduled to arrive. I decided to go for 3 recipes, which would see me cook Gousto dinners three times a week.
I could only order a box 3 days in advance (so no last-minute ordering when you just want to skip grocery shopping). That is also Gousto deadline for choosing recipes to include in the weekly recipe box or making any changes to your order. If you don’t make a choice but have an active subscription, Gousto will choose recipes for you. Gousto thankfully sends an email reminder about that deadline coming up so you can go and pick your recipes yourself. I haven’t found the need to change my choices after I’ve made them and three days seems reasonable. In fact for me that’s the entire point – to think once about what I’m going to be cooking the following week and then not waste any more time on it until it’s time to make dinner.
The first box
My first box arrived around noon and was delivered by a Yodel courier. On the day of delivery I got a couple of emails and texts about the delivery process. I first got an email about the package being out for delivery and then another one about it being delivered. Meanwhile the texts I got gave me a 2 hour delivery window and a confirmation that the box has been delivered. Four messages on delivery alone seems a bit excessive to me and I’d prefer they would keep it down to just one or two messages on one medium of my choice.
I happened to be home so the box got handed straight to me for unpacking, but the boxes are packaged so that ingredients stays fresh (and cold) until you get home. Having said that, my box came during a heat wave in London so I’m quite happy the box didn’t stay outside my flat for the entire day. I am not entirely convinced the ice packs in the box would last that long, with or without the wool insulation used.
The box itself contained all the required ingredients in precise quantities along with some marketing materials. I was very impressed with the quality of all the ingredients, except ginger (more on that later). It certainly looks like Gousto is trying to provide fresh and high quality ingredients. Most items were in Gousto branded packaging whilst some were obviously sourced from somewhere else and came in their original packaging (see the pictures of Halloumi cheese above and the soy sauce sachet below). Upon closer examination, the outsourced items seemed to be produced in and imported from their country of origin which speaks volumes about the lengths Gousto is willing to go to provide excellent ingredients.
My only gripe with the ingredients (which I informed Gousto about) was the quality of ginger which seemed to be less fresh than everything else. I thankfully found I could still use most of it for cooking, but that required me to remove the outer layers of the ginger root to reveal fresh ginger underneath. Since I own a kitchen scale, I checked the ginger amount sent against the one required by the recipe. I found that Gousto sent me 22g instead of 15g, so I assume I’m not missing much by trimming off the dry layer. I haven’t weighed any other ingredients apart from ginger and coriander because I feel no need to do it – the recipes seem to be working out great! But interestingly enough I noticed that there was twice the amount of coriander necessary provided, which makes me curious about the preciseness of all the other ingredients as well. I wonder how re-making these dishes without using Gousto sent ingredients would work out, although it’s hard to imagine that a little more of any ingredient could change them much.
Certain exotic ingredients necessary for my chosen recipes (such as Indonesian long pepper and Himalayan extra fine pink salt) were obviously provided in double the quantity, allowing me to cook these dishes again without needing to figure out where I can get more of the ingredients. I think that is a nice little touch because I definitely intend to cook these recipes again!
I cooked my first dish that same evening. It turned out to be very easy to cook. All the recipes contain detailed instructions with pictures so it’s hard to get things wrong. However I did find that the cooking process generally takes longer than what Gousto predicts – in fact about twice as long if you’re not in a hurry. It’s also best to do most of the chopping beforehand. There simply isn’t enough time to peel and chop two carrots, a piece of ginger and some garlic in the three minutes it takes for onions to brown on the pan! But I didn’t mind this because the resulting dish was still simple to make and incredibly delicious! The result also looked very similar to the picture on the recipe (or even better) so the recipes can be trusted when choosing your dishes online.
By the time I had cooked my third dish I was somewhat surprised that I actually ENJOYED cooking when the headache of choosing what to cook and scouring the shops for all the various ingredients was removed. And I got plenty of compliments from my fiancé who really enjoyed all the dishes I had prepared. We ate as much as we could and always had some leftovers, because the portions are quite generous. Now that is an all around win. Plus, bonus points to Gousto for making their recipes so that they don’t require a lot of pots and pans to prepare – there is less washing up to do!
The second box
Despite the quality of ginger I felt my first Gousto box was a hit, so I ordered another box to come (this can be done without re-activating one’s subscription). I received my second box much the same way I received the first. It came around noon and I once again got a multitude of messages about the delivery process. Since the weather was a lot cooler, it seemed that the ice packs were less thawed. Still, the difference wasn’t very big so perhaps my fears of the box staying cold even in hot weather are ungrounded.
The unboxing of the second box revealed a few surprises. First of these was a little vegetable cleaning brush as a gift from Gousto, which I thought was a nice touch. The second surprise however was less pleasant – a missing ingredient! Instead of 4 garlic cloves necessary in my recipes, I only received three. And I was missing another ingredient (spring onions) entirely. After contacting Gousto I was offered a 5£ discount for the next box as an apology for the mistake. I feel like 5£ is not really sufficient for the hassle of having to go out and buy the missing ingredients, but it is better than nothing. However, I may be less lenient if this repeats in the future. It may also be a deal breaker for those, who absolutely don’t have the time or inclination to deal with potentially missing ingredients.
As for ginger, the piece I received in this box seems to be dry as well so it may be a problem Gousto has with ginger roots in general. I tend to choose spicier recipes that often contain ginger, so I’ll need to see what happens in future boxes.
These issues aside I was once again struck by Gousto trying to use really high quality ingredients. All of the vegetables were in excellent condition and none of the packaged ingredients were scheduled to expire sooner than in 5-6 days from the box arrival date (something that you can sometimes struggle to find in a store). Overall I was very impressed with the ingredients that actually came in this box.
I have yet to cook more than one recipe from the second box, however I have high expectations. I will update this post after cooking all the dishes to show what the other recipes turned out to be like.
I love that Gousto lets me choose from 12 recipes each week, which gives me plenty of choice to find dishes that would work for both me and my fiancé. There tend to be quite a few fairly exotic and interesting recipes coming from places like Asia, South America and Mediterranean, and I actually really enjoy that. For those who don’t there are always a few local British recipes as well. I personally love the cuisine of many countries so I mainly use Gousto recipes to explore interesting dishes. I find that it’s a great way to learn to cook dishes I’d normally only come across in restaurants – dishes that actually make me want to cook them!
Overall I really enjoy using Gousto, although there are a few glitches – I feel they still have some issues to work out. But those things aren’t a deal breaker for me and I’m going to keep using their weekly boxes to see what their overall performance is. In the meantime I remain excited about cooking up some more interesting dishes – and that is what really makes Gousto work for me.