Toby Young Toby Young

Meal kits are a recipe for mayhem

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Caroline was pretty heroic during the first lockdown. She’s used to having no children to deal with between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., into which she crams her part-time job, food shopping, exercise classes, tennis lessons, dog walks and a hundred other things. But during our children’s three-month break from school they would appear in the kitchen at 1 p.m. and ask what was for lunch and, in spite of her other commitments, Caroline would always do her best to rustle something up. ‘I’m like Nigella Lawson on steroids,’ she said at the time.

But she has drawn the line at repeating this Stakhanovite labour during the third lockdown. ‘I can handle everything, but not the cooking,’ she said on the day that Boris announced it, with an air of finality. So the kids have been instructed to fend for themselves at lunchtime, with packets of bagels, ham, salami, lettuce and cheese left on the kitchen table, and we’re all mucking in when it comes to supper.

The instructions are supposed to be idiot-proof, but the company didn’t envisage anyone as incompetent as me

Not that we’re actually cooking anything from scratch. Rather, my three sons and I have become customers of Gousto, a company that delivers the raw ingredients for several meals in a box, complete with detailed instructions. It’s like a halfway house between a recipe book and a ready meal. You still have to cook everything, but there’s no weighing of ingredients and the fiddly bits for each meal are bundled together in a brown paper bag. It costs about £50 for four meals, which is pretty reasonable given that they can stretch to six people.

The instructions are supposed to be idiot-proof, but the company clearly didn’t envisage that anyone could be quite as incompetent as me.

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