*Update 14/09/15* I wrote this in May but in the last few weeks I’ve had a couple of emails from Marley Spoon customers complaining about the service. There are a couple of comments below reflecting similar negative experiences. I haven’t altered my review at all below in light of this, but please do your research before signing up to any subscription service as it seems like this one in particular has riled a few people!
Ahhhh, box subscription services. Don’t you just love ’em? You can get everything these days through a box subscription service it would seem, from the latest beauty must-haves to gluten-free snacks to more mundane things like sanitary towels and chocolate for ‘that time of the month’. (Yep, really!).
I’d never seen the appeal of the vast majority of box subscriptions to be honest, but then I started seeing ads for recipe boxes and I thought it seemed like a pretty good idea. You get sent a recipe – and the exact ingredients needed to make said recipe – at a frequency to suit you and your family.
Marley Spoon is one of the companies doing recipe boxes here in the UK and last week I tried out the service.
The company originated in Germany, but is now gaining fans across the UK (and Europe) and I can totally see the appeal of the product. You choose a delivery day and if you want enough ingredients for three meals or two (I chose two) and the number of portions, then you choose which recipes you want to try for that week. The recipes are all created by their in-house chefs (although they are doing some awesome food blogger collaborations which is pretty awesome!) and they make the most of seasonal ingredients, so it’s a great way to try something new.
The week I tried, there were three vegetarian options to choose from but obviously if you eat anything and everything you’ll have a lot more choice on which recipes to order.
I opted for a Korean rice and spicy tofu with peanut-sesame topping recipe and a gluten-free cauliflower pizza recipe. I was able to choose a timeslot for delivery and then I just waited for the food to come like a kid awaiting Christmas.
Everything was superbly well packaged. Sustainability is a big thing for Marley Spoon and they will recycle your packaging or you can recycle it yourself. You could understandably worry about fresh ingredients arriving in a ‘fresh’ state, but the packaging is very clever (sheep’s wool is used with ice blocks to keep everything perfectly insulated!) and I used the packaging to transport some of the ingredients to Manchester a couple of days later and the ice blocks didn’t melt at all in the sheep’s wool even having been in the car for 3.5 hours….so it’s all been pretty well thought through. (And I will definitely be keeping the sheep’s wool packaging to use an insulator again and again!)
The recipes were exceptionally easy to follow and before you choose them they let you know what you’ll need to supply yourself but it’s only ever the very basics – a grater and salt and pepper, for example. The recipes seemed to be designed with the assumption that the cook won’t have anything on hand other than the most basic equipment, so you really should be ready to go when the food arrives.
You get the exact amounts of everything, whether that’s a tablespoon of sesame oil or the exact amount of chives. There’s no waste, which is crucial. Let’s face it, it can be a pain to accurately plan meals throughout the week and not end up throwing food in the bin.
You get the calorie count for each portion too which is really helpful, they’re not ‘low calorie’ recipes (the ones I tried weren’t, anyway) and the portions are REALLY generous. I ordered for two but both recipes could have easily fed three. The calorie count could be a lot lower with modifications, but I wanted to make the recipes exactly as stated to review them properly.
The Korean rice dish tasted, to me at least, too strong and quite salty. I can’t tell if that was the fault of the recipe or just a personal preference thing, but it seemed oilier than it needed to be (I cook tofu a lot and maybe I just prefer using less oils/marinades) and I felt like the rice was very gingery….but I do think that’s probably a Korean influence thing rather than a fault of the recipe. I couldn’t finish the huge portion because of how rich it was. It was delicious at first but then a bit overpowering.
The pizza recipe was my first foray into the uber trendy world of cauliflower pizza bases and it was surprisingly filling. I actually really liked the taste of the cauli, buckwheat & flax seed base. We didn’t have any baking parchment so used foil for the tin and this was a massive fail as the dough stuck to it, but that was our fault entirely. I know from making normal pizzas that baking parchment is an important element of a successful base! Foil is not a substitute, people. STEP AWAY FROM THE FOIL.
Again, the calorie count seemed high for this recipe, so much so that I would rather have just had a normal pizza. I think it’s because the topping was made with garlic and creme fraiche rather than tomato, but if I am having cauliflower pizza over ordinary pizza then it HAS to be because it’s less calories.
As for the price, two recipes at two portions each would cost £36 per week, so £9 per portion. That includes delivery. It gets cheaper if you have more portions and more recipes of course.
To me, it seems like quite a high luxe service….you are definitely paying for the convenience factor. I live next to a giant supermarket and I am a fairly confident cook already with well stocked cupboards, so I don’t “need” a service like this.
That being said, when I first started cooking ‘properly’ it was a nightmare. I’d go to make an Honestly Healthy recipe (per exemple) and it would cost £35 in ingredients for a salad, which definitely puts you off. If you don’t cook often, this type of service would be amazing…but if you cook regularly it obviously won’t be good value as you’ll have the ‘more unusual’ ingredients in your cupboards anyway and you’ll be used to meal planning to reduce waste.
So all in all, I think it’s a well executed delivery service and a great way for people to build their confidence in the kitchen. The recipes are so easy to follow and the fact that the ingredients are all measured out definitely removes the faff factor. There’s even a helpline if you get stuck and want to speak to someone about the recipe!
It’s probably not something I would use again because I love going to Sainsbury’s every day (yes, my husband does think I’m mental), but I know PLENTY of people who would love this type of service.
A huge thank you to Marley Spoon for letting me try the service!
You can see see next week’s recipes and order your box here.