Foodbox meal for one? Not yet ………

Have you tried a food-box yet? You know – a box containing recipes and all the ingredients you need to make one or more meals for two or more people? If you haven’t, well I’m going to tell you what you are missing. Or what you will have to miss if you only want a meal for ONE.

There are now a few companies offering a food in a box service to busy people who need the stress taken out of food ideas, shopping for and preparation of the evening meal, particularly during the working week. Time and energy are in short supply and other commitments get in the way. This applies equally to couples, families and, funnily enough, people who live alone.

People who sign up online or via an app can order as many meals for as many people they like (as long as it’s at least two) each week, choose recipes they fancy from a weekly selection, and receive all the ingredients in a box that is delivered to the door at a time and on an agreed date. Recipes include vegetarian options and take account of food intolerances. Inside the box, food is kept fresh and safe from breakages, with ice packs and state of the art packaging made from recyclable materials.

Now, I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but, just in case you aren’t in the know, I’m single and live on my own. What you might not know is that I’m also a good cook, always trying out new recipes, and I live next door to a supermarket. So, when I was approached at an event to try a box on a trial/special discount basis, my response was that I didn’t need one – but thank you very much for the offer. After a bit more promo chat and reasons for me to be cheerful about the offer, I tentatively asked if I could get a box for one person, and just one meal at a time.

It appeared not. But, I was asked, what was wrong with meals for two? I could adapt or improvise: cook both and have the second meal reheated in the microwave the next night; or freeze one or half of the fresh meat/fish/poultry ingredients and defrost a few nights later to make a second meal from scratch. If I had a Classic box with three meals for two during a week, then I would have six meals for one that I could alternate over six nights – or longer. Six delicious meals for only £19.99 – a bargain at only about £3.60 per meal! This was what persuaded me, plus the fact that I could invite a few friends over to share a meal for two, on a couple or three nights if I pleased. Friends who might perhaps find their own reasons to take advantage of the same one week trial offer? I signed up. I was impressed by my box and its contents right down to the single clove of garlic.

I shared two of the dishes with a friend – pomegranate pork steak and Italian sausage tomato risotto – and ate one and froze one of the Hawaiian chicken breasts, cooked a few nights apart. The dishes were easy to prepare and cook and were delicious. I had never cooked the specific recipes before and, as a bonus, I still have the recipe cards and instructions for future use. But I didn’t need two people servings, for all the reasons stated earlier.
It was an interesting experiment, but I would have preferred to have had the option of a meal-for-one box, with the choice of a delivery on a specific day a few times a month. This flexibility with deliveries would allow me to plan a treat night in for myself maybe once a week or at a weekend. Neither of these options was available so I cancelled any further deliveries.

About a week later one of the company’s Customer Service team contacted me to ask why I had cancelled my membership. I explained that it was an experiment for me and that I would have preferred to have signed up for a box for ONE. It turns out I am not alone. Feedback, she told me, was that loads of people would get on board for a meal-for-one package, plus more flexibility regarding delivery schedules. And, being a live-alone-single herself, my Customer Service caller agreed with me! So what is stopping this particular company from bringing out a meal-for-one offer? Cost of course. The additional packaging and potential delivery costs would be taken into account – and no doubt passed onto the customer. So, if it ever becomes available, yet again we solos would be effectively paying a single supplement!

But perhaps foodbox companies should seriously review their policy. The number of people living alone in the UK is increasing and a recent report shows that restaurant bookings for solo diners are on the rise. If there’s a trend for more solos to dine out in the evening, perhaps foodbox companies might give us better and more cost effective reasons to stay at home and cook?!

Christine Ingall 16 April 2019