Thursday, 16 August 2012

Gusto for Gousto?

Basil mint pesto fusilli with pancetta and mushrooms
You may remember that a few weeks ago, I mentioned in a Meal Planning Monday post that I was trying Gousto out for some of my meals. I was going to mention in the following week how it went but felt it deserved its own post. So here we are.

The idea of Gousto is that you choose 2 to 4 meals from their list to cook and they deliver all the ingredients to you, along with a recipe card with full instructions how to cook each dish. All ingredients are delivered on a Wednesday night between 6pm and 10pm if you are in London but they have also just launched nationwide, delivering between 9am and 5pm.

The week I chose the recipes, I found it quite difficult to choose as there weren't too many that appealed to my personal taste. Husband had to help me choose although we ended up choosing two chicken dishes. To be fair, I just looked at the current selection and the range is more appealing so I was probably unlucky that week. You can place the subscription on hold at any time so I guess you could dip out if a particular week didn't appeal to you. When choosing the recipes, you are given the calories, the level of difficulty, how long it takes to make and any extra equipment (like a blender) that you need so that you can use to suit your circumstances.

Obviously, we are not in London so the delivery was due to be on a Thursday between 9am and 5pm. We were around the time they started doing nationwide deliveries so I'm expecting there may have been some teething problems. I wasn't all that comfortable with it being a day long delivery slot - it's just not possible to stay in ALL day, especially when I am doing the school run. We were out between 10 and 11, which was taking a risk on my part, but there was no card through the door when I returned. But I waited... and I waited ... and I waited. Good job I was (mostly) watching the Olympics. The inescapable fact was that the food didn't arrive. When husband got home, I had to go to the chippy - not that the children complained, but it was annoying.

Gousto promised to sort this out for me - the following week. Had I been a paying customer, I would not have been happy about that. I was just trying to plan what to eat, when the door went. Our food was finally delivered on Friday at 12 noon. The delivery agent seemed to know nothing about it being late for delivery so I really don't know what happened. Obviously, having ordered chicken, I was a tad nervous about this. However the contents seemed fairly cool when I got them. Plus, we ate it and no-one got ill. Still, it was not a great start.

This is the box we received. It's wool insulated and the meat were kept in a foil bag with ice packs. But when they say every ingredient, they mean everything, with the exception perhaps of oil for cooking. Because we were catering for 4, not 2 people, we had two of everything. This made it quite hefty on the packaging and I can't help wondering if they couldn't look at reducing by combining - there were two packs of everything, many of them half full. I also found it odd that hardly anything was labelled - if you weren't familiar with certain ingredients, it could prove a problem.

Onto cooking the dishes. The recipe cards were clear and laid out well with lots of photos. However, some of the recipes were in a strange order - I added one ingredient way too early as it told me to wash it and another ingredient but only added one in the next step and I managed to speed read it. Oops. Also, in another recipe, it told me to make up stock, then keep back 200ml for later before using the rest. I couldn't, however, find where I was to use the stock I'd kept back. I even got husband to confirm I wasn't going mad and he couldn't find it either, so this extra stock went unused.

Portion sizes were generous. More than generous in fact. I tend to make dishes for 4 people even though the kids don't eat a full adult portion as the leftovers are taken to work by husband  for his lunch. So I know how big a 4 person dish looks like - and these were HUGE portions. Well, the carbohydrates in the dish were - we had bulgar with one of the dishes and the leftovers filled my Mason Cash mixing bowl and got used over the course of a weekend. I reckon it could have fed 8 people! Wise to this, when I went to make the next dish, containing parsnips, I held back some of them and it was still way too much. However, when I made the pasta dish, there wasn't leftovers as the children love pasta but it was still a substantial portion.

The quality of the ingredients was good - especially the meat, which was organic. However, I did find that one of my packs of basil went slimy after only a couple of days - and coincidentally, someone else had sent me another pack of basil in the post at the same time which was fine and I had to use that instead, along with the other pack. I wasn't overly impressed with the quality of the parsnips we had either - I had to cut out quite a lot of black bits.

My biggest problem with Gousto is the cost. I looked up how much the subscription cost was for what we had - 3 meals for 4 people. £72! (£66 for the full vegetarian option). That is a hefty week of supermarket shopping in our house, including breakfast, snacks and lunches, and all 7 main meals.

But then, this service is not really aimed at someone like me. I have a pretty decent store cupboard because I cook such a wide range of dishes for the family. Out of all the non-perishable ingredients I was sent, there were only two I had never used before and everything else I had in my cupboards. Of the perishable items, they are all things I buy fairly regularly. I have time to plan our meals and my shopping list - in fact, I'd say it saves me time over the course of a week. I'd want to plan all my meals in one go on here or nothing. And I definitely could NOT afford a whole week's worth! This service is for the cash rich time poor person who wants to make nice food without having to think too hard about it - although you still have to choose your meals well in advance so the ingredients can be prepared and sent out to you.

If I were that type of person, I'd want assurances that the delivery was better service than I received. You can arrange delivery to your workplace, but what would you do if it didn't arrive? Go home without food.

Gousto is a nice idea. In my experience, it didn't live up to all its promises but if I was paying for a subscription, I'd expect it to. Because of that, Gousto fails the value for money test for me and therefore, I do not really have gusto for Gousto.

(Gousto kindly sent me 3 meals chosen by us for the purposes of a review. I have not received any other compensation for this post and all opinions are my own.)
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