10 of the best family meal boxes UK 2023
Subscription recipe meal boxes are a great way to save time and sometimes even money. Take a look at our selection of family meal boxes including vegetarian and vegan kits
Trying to come up with delicious and exciting dinners that the whole family will enjoy can be a struggle. Sometimes it just gets too difficult to think of something, and even when you do it's unlikely you'll have all the ingredients at hand. Finding time to plan, research and shop for a week's worth of meals can be hard when your family is so busy. That's where family meal boxes come in. You simply look through a selection of recipes online and choose which ones you like. Then, depending on the box, either the ingredients or a set of ready meals will be delivered straight to your door along with instructions on how to prepare the meal.
Not only do meal boxes save you time when it comes to meal planning and shopping, they can also save money and seriously reduce food waste. You get given the exact measurements for the portions you choose, therefore there is no food wasted, and you don't end up with dozens of barely-used spices, grains or sauces in your cupboard.
With the subscription boxes market growing, meal box subscriptions services are becoming more and more popular, and there are lots of different options on the market to choose from. They may all look very similar, but there are differences when you look closely, and there will be a meal box that's better suited to your family and your lifestyle. To help you decide whether a meal box is for you, and if so which one, we have researched all the different family meal boxes and asked parents what they think about them and which ones they recommend.
Best subscription recipe meal boxes UK at a glance
- Best meal box for easy to follow recipes: HelloFresh, from £26.99 for 3 meals for 2 people
- Best meal box for recipe variety: Gousto, from £24.99 for 2 meals for 2 people
- Best meal box for sustainability: Mindful Chef, from £22 for 2 meals for 2 people
- Best meal box for vegan ready meals: Planty, from £40.20 for 6 ready meals
- Best meal box for teaching kids to cook: Little Cooks Co, from £9.13 per box
- Best meal box for Michelin star ready meals: Tastily, from £6.60 per meal
- Best meal box for families with babies: Pickle & Squash, from £45 for 3 meals for 3 people
- Best meal box for vegetarians: Abel & Cole, from £12 for 1 meal for 2 people
- Best meal box for ready meals: Cook, from £7.95 a meal for 2 people
- Best meal box for spices: Simply Cook, from £9.99 for 4 meal kits
What to consider when choosing a family meal box
How many people are in your family – When choosing a meal box, make sure that it serves enough people. If you're a family of 3 and it only offer 2 or 4 servings, you could always get the 4 servings box and have leftovers. Alternatively, if the 3rd is a young child it might be worth purchasing the box for 2 and sharing as the portions tend to be fairly big.
How many meals per week – Different meal boxes offer a different amount of meals each week, you can usually change these each week. However, some companies offer more meals, so if you want to use the meal box most days then go for one that allows you the most meals.
Variety of meals – As with companies offering a different amount of meals in a box, they also give a different number of recipes/meals to choose from each week. If your family is very fussy it might be a good idea to go for a box that has the largest amount of options to choose from.
Dietary requirements – Not all meal boxes cater for every dietary requirement, therefore, make sure you check this before ordering.
Suitability for children – A lot of these boxes offer a wide range of different flavours and tastes in their weekly selections, and not all of them are designed with kids in mind specifically. If you have younger children or those with less adventurous palates, we advise you go for one that offers a lot of variety, and you should also choose meals you make at home rather than ready meals, so you can control salt levels.
Offers and subscriptions – Meal boxes can be fairly expensive and many require you to sign up for a (flexible) subscription, so do read the small print before signing up so you know what you're committing to. Thankfully, a lot of the companies offer discounts, especially on your first few boxes. You will see the discount each company offer next to the link to buy for each listing below.
Current recipe meal box offersTake a look at all the current deals and offers that could help you save money on the meal boxes featured here:
- HelloFresh - Get 50% off your first box, then 35% off your next 3 boxes, plus 3 free gifts
- Gousto - Get 60% off your first box, plus 30% off all other boxes in your first month.
- Mindful Chef - Use code NEW25X4 to receive 25% off your first 4 boxes.
- Planty - Use code AUTUMN25 to receive 25% off your first box
- Little Cooks Co - Up to 50% off in the Summer Sale.
- Pickle & Squash - Sign up to their email list to get 30% off your first recipe box.
- Abel & Cole - Use code VEGBOX4 for 50% off your first and fourth Fruit and Veg Box.
- Cook - Sign up to their newsletter to get 10% off your first order.
- Simply Cook - Try for free, just pay £1 postage.
Best subscription recipe meal boxes for delicious and healthy family dinners
1. HelloFresh, from £26.99 for 3 meals for 2 people
– Best for easy to follow recipes
Number of people: 2, 3 or 4| Meals per week: 3, 4 or 5 | Meals to choose from each week: 37 | Vegetarian options: Yes | Vegan options: Yes | Gluten free options: No | Dairy free options: No
Hell0Fresh is a very well known meal box service. Each week (or however often you would like) you can choose your meals from an ever-changing variety. Once you've chosen which meals you'd like all the ingredients to make the meals will be delivered straight to your door with easy to follow recipe cards. You can choose quick and easy meals or slightly more complex street food feasts, and there are low calorie options too. They also have vegetarian and vegan options, but unfortunately they cannot guarantee gluten free or dairy free preferences due to the small risk of cross-contamination. You can choose whether you want 3, 4 or 5 meals in your box and whether you want it to serve 2, 3 or 4 people.
Parent tester Julie has used HelloFresh for around a year with their family of 5, including 4 adults and one 6 month old and said, "It's good quality and well packaged, you get ample food and I would recommend them. I think they're good value too and I love that everything you need is there and portioned out". Parent tester Kirsty who uses HelloFresh with their family, including a 2 year old, likes that the recipes are easy to cook and it gives them a variety of dinners and good sized portions.
More like this
Pros: All the ingredients included and moderate selection of meals to choose from each week
Cons: No gluten free or dairy free option and can only have portions for 2-4 people
Available from: HelloFresh
2. Gousto, from 24.99 for 2 meals for 2 people
– Best for recipe variety
Number of people: 2 (or 1 adult and 1-2 children) or 4 (or 2 adults and 2-3 children) | Meals per week: 2, 3 or 4 | Meals to choose from each week: 63 | Vegetarian options: Yes | Vegan options: Yes | Gluten free options: Yes | Dairy free options: Yes
Gousto is another one of the most well-known meal boxes and is very similar to HelloFresh in the sense that there are a variety of meals to choose from each week or whenever you want a box, with all the ingredients and recipe cards sent straight to your door. However, the meal options are more varied at Gousto, and they cater for most dietary requirements too, offering both gluten free and dairy free options. You can choose how many meals you would like to receive in your box, 2, 3 or 4 and how many portions you would like, 2 or 4.
Parent tester Sinéad has just started using Gousto with their family of 3, including their 3 year old and said, "I'm really impressed! We're doing a 2 person box but there's plenty for 2 plus a 3 year old. There's lots of choice and the recipes are easy to follow". Parent tester Olivia also uses Gousto with their family of 3, including a 2 year old and said, "We have used Gousto for the last few months, every week. It has been game changing for us as a family as we eat better, have more time to spend together and it's actually saved us money too! We get the 2 person meal box and there's enough to share with our 2 year old".
Pros: Large variety of meals to choose from, cater for all dietary requirements and all ingredients are included in the box
Cons: Can only have portions for 2 or 4 people
Available from: Gousto
3. Mindful Chef, from £22 for 2 meals for 2 people or £5 for a frozen ready meal
– Best for sustainability
Number of people: 1, 2 or family (4 adults or 2 adults and 2-3 children) | Meals per week: 2, 3, 4 or 5 | Meals to choose from each week: 20 | Vegetarian options: Yes | Vegan options: Yes | Gluten free options: Yes | Dairy free options: Yes
Mindful Chef is again similar to Gousto and HelloFresh in the sense that you pick your recipes and all the ingredients, along with the instructions to make the meals are delivered to your door. However, one of the key differences is that all of Mindful Chef's meals are completely gluten and dairy free as well as being between 400-600 calories. Mindful Chef is a certified B corporation that really cares about sustainability, sourcing ingredients ethically, and reducing food waste.
Mindful Chef offers family boxes, which cater for up to 2 adults and 2-3 children or 4 adults. Therefore, if you have a slightly bigger family, this might be a good option. Due to Mindful Chef making all of its recipes gluten and dairy free they cater for most dietary requirements, and also offer vegan and vegetarian options. You can choose 2, 3, 4 or 5 meals from a selection of 20 each week, or whenever you want a box.
If that's not enough, every meal bought donates 1 more to a child in poverty. They also offer frozen ready meal options too if you're really short on time.
Pros: Sustainably packaged, caters for most dietary requirements, offers meals for up to 5 (if children included).
Cons: Not as large of a meal selection as HelloFresh and Gousto
Available from: Mindful Chef
4. Planty, from £40.20 for 6 ready meals
– Best for vegan ready meals
Number of people: Any | Meals per week: 6+, 9+ or 12+ | Meals to choose from each week: Approx. 22 | Vegetarian options: Yes | Vegan options: Yes | Gluten free options: No| Dairy free options: Yes
Just because you're vegan doesn't mean you have to spend hours cooking, with Planty you can get vegan ready meals sent to you. They offer 100% plant-based meals cooked by chefs. You can choose 6-12 meals plus 12 extras and as the meals are fresh-frozen all you have to do is wait for them to arrive then put them in the oven or microwave and enjoy. The more meals you add the better price per meal you're offered.
Being a plant-based company they cater for vegetarians, vegans and dairy-free. However, they do not offer guaranteed gluten free options unfortunately.
Pros: Quick and easy plant-based ready meals and a good selection to choose from
Cons: Frozen ready meals so don't get to cook if that's what you like and no gluten free options
Available from: Planty
5. Little Cooks Co, from £9.13 per box
– Best for teaching kids to cook
Number of people: N/A | Meals per week: 1 per month | Meals to choose from each week: Selected for you | Vegetarian: Yes | Vegan: Yes | Gluten free: No| Dairy free: Yes
This is quite different to the other meal boxes in this list. A meal box designed for kids, it allows kids to cook food for their family. There are 4 different plans: monthly, 3 months, 6 months or 12 months, each month your child will be sent 1 box containing a record book and stickers, recipes created by a nutritionist and all the dry organic ingredients measured out.
Although this box won't stop you needing to make dinner for the family, it's a lovely way to encourage and teach your child to cook and provides the family with some delicious food each month. If your child prefers baking to cooking, they also offer baking boxes too.
It's important to note, the boxes only provide the dry ingredients, any wet ingredients will need to be provided by you.
Pros: Encourages your child to cook, organic ingredients, fairly cheap
Cons: Only comes once a month, only includes dry ingredients, does not replace meals
Available from: Little Cooks Co
6. Tastily, from £6.60 per meal
– Best for Michelin star ready meals
Number of people: 1 meal per person| Meals per week: 4-14| Meals to choose from each week: 25 | Vegetarian options: Yes | Vegan options: No| Gluten free options: Yes | Dairy free options: Yes
Tastily is similar to Cook and Planty, you can pick from a selection of ready meals each week, fortnight or month to be delivered to your door. The ready meals are made by Michelin-trained chefs who prepare your food from scratch each week, your meals will remain fresh for 7 days. They can be frozen to last longer but they do not recommend this in order to get the best flavour possible. The meals are easy to heat, just put in the microwave for a few minutes.
There are over 25 meals to choose from and you can get 4 to 14 meals, 1 meal is 1 portion but you can pay a little extra to get a large portion if you have a big appetite. They have vegetarian options and you can filter through the menu for meals that include no gluten and lactose but unfortunately, they don't offer vegan options. The subscription service is also vey flexible, it's easy to pause and skip your deliveries.
Pros: Michelin-star ready meals, offer gluten free and dairy free options and easy and convenient
Cons: Do not offer vegan options and one meal is only one serving
Available from: Tastily
7. Pickle & Squash, from £45 for 3 meals for 3 people
– Best for families with babies
Number of people: 3 adult servings (2 adult and 2 toddlers or 2 adult and 4 baby portions)| Meals per week: 3| Meals to choose from each week: Selected for you | Vegetarian options: Yes | Vegan options: No | Gluten free options: No | Dairy free options: No | Awards: Gold – Subscription/gift box and service, MadeForMums Awards 2022
If you have a baby and want a meal box to help you with weaning, then Pickle & Squash is the one for you. Like many other boxes on this list, you'll be sent all the ingredients and instructions you need to make the meals right to your door. The difference with Pickle & Squash is that they cater for babies from 7 months too. There are weaning instructions provided for each recipe for different stages of the process, and special ingredients that can be added to the grown-up's meal. The boxes are delivered fortnightly and as of now, the meals are pre-selected for you.
Being a small business, Pickle & Squash cannot cater for all dietary requirements due to contamination risks, they simply just offer a meat option or a vegetarian option.
Parent tester Isidora tested this with their family, including their 1 year old and said, "All the recipes tasted good and were enjoyed by all of us. The recipe card is amazingly designed and I love the baby weaning table at the back of the recipe card advising how to serve your baby based on their age, detailing quantities and sizes. It saves you time and effort to think what you will cook as well as saves you times from going to the supermarket to buy the ingredients. The price comes to £15 for a family meal which is cheaper than a take away and definitely better quality.
Pros: Suitable for babies from 7 months and helps with weaning, all ingredients are provided
Cons: Only offered fortnightly, cannot select your own choice of meals, only serves up to 3 adults, does not cater to dietary requirements
Available from: Pickle & Squash
8. Abel & Cole, from £12 for 1 meal for 2 people
– Best for vegetarians
Number of people: 2 or 4| Meals per week: 1-3| Meals to choose from each week: 12 | Vegetarian options: Yes | Vegan options: Yes | Gluten free options: Yes | Dairy free options: Yes
Abel & Cole's meal boxes offer meat-free meal kits using all organic produce. Much like the others, simply choose 1 to 3 meals from a weekly menu of 12 veggie or vegan meal kits and all the ingredients and recipe cards will be delivered to you. You can get portions for 2 or 4 people. They will also collect your box the following week to make sure its recycled or reused.
Due to being meat-free, they are an excellent option for vegetarians.
They cater for vegans, vegetarians and also offer gluten free and dairy free options too.
Pros: Meat-free recipes, all organic produce used, eco-conscious brand, includes all ingredients needed, caters to all dietary requirements.
Cons: Small selection of meals to choose from and only does portions for 2 or 4 people
Available from: Abel & Cole
9. Cook, from £7.95 a meal for 2 people
– Best for ready meals
Number of people: 1, 2, 4 or 8| Meals per week: N/A| Meals to choose from each week: 100+ | Vegetarian options: Yes | Vegan options: Yes | Gluten free options: Yes | Dairy free options: Yes
If you're not a great cook or want quick options for busier nights, then Cook may be a great meal box for your family. Cook offer a selection of over 100 frozen meals for you to choose from. You can simply select the meals you want and get them delivered to your door. All you have to do is heat them up and enjoy.
There are plenty of ways to customise your selection, with specific meal boxes for new parents (when life can be very chaotic), kids and families, including a full roast dinner!
They also offer ready meals to suit most dietary requirements.
Parent tester Elizabeth uses Cook with their family of 5, including 3 adults and 2 children aged 11 and almost 3 who both have autism and restricted diets and said, "Cook meals have become our quick and simple answer as we have a super hectic life and before we found we were ordering a lot of takeaways. We order about once a month and stock up our freezer with a range. It's basically like having a restaurant quality takeaway. They use top quality ingredients. Although it's quite expensive for frozen meals, we feel it's worth the money for the convenience".
Pros: Caters for all dietary requirements, easy and quick to heat up, lots of meals to choose from and can cater for up to 8
Cons: Frozen meals
Available from: Cook
10. Simply Cook, from £9.99 for 4 meal kits
– Best spice meal kit
Number of people: 2 or 4| Meals per week: 4 per box | Meals to choose from each week: 100+ | Vegetarian options: Yes | Vegan options: Yes | Gluten free options: Yes | Dairy free options: Yes
Simply Cook is a slightly cheaper option, costing just £9.99 a box, however, you do have to provide some of the ingredients yourself as this is all about seasonings and spices, rather than fresh ingredients. Simply Cook sends you a letterbox sized box containing 4 recipe kits and step-by-step recipe cards. Following the recipes with 4-6 of your own ingredients can create delicious meals in just 20 minutes.
There are over 100 dishes to choose from each week and the blends and flavours are created by expert chefs. They also have recipes to suit most dietary requirements.
Parent tester Taylor, uses Simply Cook with their family of 3, including her 13 month old and said, "We pay £9.99 every 2 weeks and we get sent all the spices/marinades to make meals with recipe cards. All you need to do is supply a few things like pasta, meat etc. I find this works better for us compared to other boxes where they send all the produce as it can go off, which isn't practical for my family".
Pros: Cheaper alternative than others, can last a long time as no fresh produce and lots of options to choose from
Cons: Still have to provide ingredients yourself and only has portions for up to 4 people
Available from: Simply Cook
How did we choose our 10 of the Best?
When testing and selecting the family meal boxes, we considered dietary requirements, dietary preferences such as vegan and vegetarain, number of servings and meals in a box. We also looked at the selection of meals to choose from.
Our 10 of the Best lists are compiled by qualified and experienced parenting journalists. They rely on a number of sources, including our independent reviews, testing undertaken during the MadeForMums Awards, and feedback from our home testing panel and Top Testers Club. Each year thousands of products are put through their paces by hundreds of parents across the country on behalf of MadeForMums, to ensure we’re bringing you honest and true reviews and recommendations.
Our list is not an ordered ranking from 1-10, instead it is a carefully selected group of tried-and-tested products, each of which we believe is best for a different situation or requirement. We don't just tell you what is best, we help you discover what is best for your family.
Comparison of the different meal boxes
Take a look at this handy table to see the differences between the meal boxes to help you choose one that's best suited for you and your family.
|Meal box company||Price per box||Number of meals||Number of people|
|HelloFresh||from £26.99||3,4 or 5||2, 3 or 5|
|Gousto||from £24.99||2,3 or 4||2 or 4|
|Mindful Chef||from £22||2, 3, 4 or 5||1, 2 or 4|
|Little Cooks Co||£9.13||Snack||Any|
|Tastily||from £6.60||4-14||1 portion a meal|
|Pickle & Squash||£45||3||3|
|Abel & Cole||from £12||1, 2 or 3||2 or 4|
|Cook||from £7.95||Any||1, 2, 4 or 8|
|Simply Cook||£9.99||4||2 or 4|
About the author
Chloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for Immediate Media's Parenting team. She researches and writes articles, recommending the best products for parents, ranging from best sleep aids to best playpens. She has a First-Class Honours Psychology degree where she developed a strong interest in child development.
Chloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for Immediate Media's Parenting team, specialising in household and trying to help parents save money. She researches and writes articles, recommending the best products, ranging from best cordless vacuums to best playpens. She has a First-Class Honours Psychology degree where she developed a strong interest in child development. During her teenage years she worked as a play worker and Brownie volunteer to support children's play.
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