In December I stopped taking my monthly beauty boxes. I gave them a good run, and I enjoyed them, but even now I haven’t tried or used half of what I was sent… or done a write up of them. Short version- get the Birchbox. Longer version- Glossybox is also very nice and occasionally better. Full version-… weeeeell that’s pending. Maybe.
This year, I really want to eat better. I’m not currently dieting, and I haven’t any great plans to start. For me they tend to become poisonous to my fragile self esteem far too fast to really be healthy, despite the weight loss. Instead, I want to really get back in the kitchen, and fill that kitchen with delicious fruit and veg filled goodies. Add that to an occasional spin on my exercise bike, and I’m hoping for fitter, if not thinner.
With all this in mind, and recommendations from several friends, I decided to try out a delivered Veg Box. Getting something delivered is a great way to avoid procrastination on healthy eating plans if you, like me, are a lazy slattern. They turn up at your door and you’re stuck with them- no having to face actual people in the shops, no getting scared off things you haven’t tried and no option to just give up and grab a pizza instead. Also, I don’t about you, but getting anything delivered is novel, particularly a ‘surprise’. For me it was a huge draw on the beauty boxes. Getting a weekly goody box of delicious fresh veg is, perhaps somewhat sadly, as exciting to me as getting a box of potions and lotions. Not that I’m off the potions and lotions, mind you. Far from it. I am a neon goddess.
Almost unanimously, I was recommended Abel & Cole as my supplier. Their website is friendly and easy to navigate, and for every item listed on the site, there is traceability of country of origin, and in many cases the farm/producer who supplied it. Most of their food is Organic, which I’m somewhat ambivalent about, much to my shame, but much/most of their food is British, which I thoroughly support. I loved the fact I could meet their farmers via videos on the site, and learn about their individual farming practises and the specialities. The boxes are also seasonal, which is hugely attractive for me. Too often I hear people talking about eating seasonally, which sounds like a fantastic idea, and would help us all support our local suppliers. However, in today’s convenience culture, when you go to the supermarket, or even the greengrocer, it can be difficult to get to grips with what to eat when. Having a box of seasonal produce delivered takes the query out of the whole affair, and over time could help us spoilt brats of the modern age better understand the sensibility of seasonality. Hey, it worked for our ancestors, right?
Abel & Cole offer a rather expansive service. Looking for veg? There’s a box for that. Organic meat? There’s one for that too. Short on fruit? Yep, a box for that too. Want to mix and match? There’s boxes that do that, and you can pick and mix individual items from their vast store, whether you need extra fresh produce, eggs and meat through to dairy, store cupboard staples, wines and spirits, even cleaning supplies! Everything they offer has a focus on environmentally friendly sources and supporting farmers. No bad tastes left if your mouth if you shop here, it seems.
Boxes come in a variety of sizes and specialisations. There are Salad boxes, Baby and Toddler focused boxes, boxes for juicers, ‘Gourmet’ boxes for the more adventurous… and it is remarkably easy switch and change between one and the other, and up or downsize your order week by week. For me, as I’m a singleton (plus some hungry rodents), a small veg box seemed like the best start. Coming in at £10.50 for 6-7 portions of organic, seasonal and mostly British vegetables, the price is fair, and includes tips and tricks recipes provided with the box. Shipping from Abel & Cole costs a flat rate of £0.99 on orders over £12.50. The latter is a bit of a blow to those, like me, who are only feeding the one person, but as afore mentioned it is easy to find something to add to top up your order. For my first week it was a couple of pats of butter, as I was clean out (and they were extremely reasonable), the next week some additional leeks for a planned recipe. Alternatively, I could have swapped up for £2.75 to a small fruit & veg box (5 veg and 3 fruit), for example.
One problem I thought I would have is that whilst I am a far less fussy eater than I used to be, there are some things that I simply don’t like (cauliflower, for one) and some things I simply can’t eat (garlic, for two). I feared that I might have some useless veg sent to me that I’d have to give away or bin, which is, essentially, a waste of money. Abel & Cole have thought of this, with their Likes and Dislikes app. You can add dislikes by searching for the offending product, or view the box you are ordering from a drop down list. This will load up the contents of the box with the option to ‘love’, ‘like’, ‘dislike’, or ‘skip’. So lets say my small veg box is going to contain potatoes, carrots, onions, red cabbage, leeks and broccoli. I enjoy eating most of these things, except red cabbage, so I can make that as a dislike. Abel & Cole will provide a different veg instead (for example, Kale), and so long as I have filled out my Dislikes list, I will get something I like instead. Now, let’s say I’ve just bought some leeks, so I don’t need any more this week. Not a problem- by choosing ‘skip’ I can alert Abel & Cole that I don’t want any leeks this week, and they’ll pick something else for me, just as with a dislike. With a skip, however, the veg will be offered again as usual on my next order- it’s like a temporary dislike option, and it’s really handy. Certainly this whole system takes the surprise out of everything, but so long as you sit down for a few minutes and fill in your dislikes thoroughly, and so long as you don’t mind getting something you might already have, you can still have a surprise box with no nasty, er, surprises.
For that £0.99 delivery fee, their own driver delivers your groceries to your door on a set day (in Portsmouth that is thursdays, and the friendly driver is the charming Darren), and will leave your items in a pre-designated place should you not be up/around to receive them yourself. The downside- you can only take delivery on that specific day. The upside- the delivery is darn cheap and reliable. The packaging is recyclable to Abel & Cole (the driver will collect the flat packed box and cool bag the following week) and through your local recycling services (for mushroom punnets, paper bags etc). Their reused cool bags, which contain a frozen gel pack to keeps things chilly, are lined with sealed in british wool, making them sterile and sustainable, and providing a use for a local product. The fact they insist that you pre designate a ‘safe place’ is very reassuring- it screams of a company in touch with their consumers, and is much more friendly than most delivery services, who will leave things unguarded on your doorstep, or rope in your neighbours to do their work.
As you can probably tell, I was pretty sold from the moment of ordering. The fact they offered me a free cookbook (RRP £12.99) and my fourth box free just sweeten the already tasty deal. The giving doesn’t stop there. I’ve so far received free blood oranges, milk, tinned tomatoes, a chilli pepper, yoghurt, plus several bottles of lovely olive oil to thank me for recommending friends, all in less than 3 months worth of deliveries, plus vouchers to give those friends free boxes, and get money off my orders. Their customer services teams are also spot on, whether by phone or email. For example, my first box had a rotten onion in it. I pinged an email with a picture of to customer services, requesting a free onion in my next box to cover said dud. Instead I got 2.75 off my next box- much more than the cost of reordering onions- to compensate me for my inconvenience. The response was swift (within 12 hours- more impressive since I sent in my complaint in the evening!), and gracious.
What is it?… Does it have fish in it?… Can we have it?… We’re gonna have it…
Downside wise… Organic food doesn’t last as long? But that has nothing to do with the company or concept. Most produce provided will last the week, if not longer, and in my house there are a bunch of greedy pets who enjoy left overs and slightly wilted cabbage and what not. The price is right, the service is spot on, and the produce is stonking. I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true- the veg they send is bright and fresh and beautiful.
I have no plans to cancel my box at this point- it’s really doing the job, and if you have’t guessed, I love it. Some fat little rodents staring lovingly at me from their cages by the computer obviously do too. If you’re pondering eating better, or a veg box, I can’t recommend A&C highly enough.
Go forth and eat green stuff,