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Abel & Cole Organic veg boxes
Abel & Cole Organics
Member Name: shangfastic
Abel & Cole Organics
Advantages: Excellent quality, easy to use, choice, reasonable prices, organic, sustainable, ethical, fun!
Disadvantages: No choice of delivery day (though I didn't find this a problem some might)
There are hundreds of veg box schemes across the UK to choose from, but Abel & Cole is one of the biggest. This has it's advantages and disadvantages as you'll see. The point of a veg box scheme is that each week you get fresh fruit and vegetables which have been sourced as locally as possible, possibly even straight from the producer. Large schemes like Riverford and Abel & Cole can never compete with smaller schemes in terms of freshness (or price) and in terms of carbon footprints, the smaller schemes are always going to be more environmentally friendly. However, for me Abel & Cole more than makes up for that in the choice that they offer and the quality that I have experienced.
It's easy to sign up to the website, and the site is easy to use, well designed, and nice to look at. The FAQ is really useful and there are plenty of contact details - they're not a massive company where it's hard to get hold of anyone. The website is integral to what Abel & Cole do, and makes getting a veg box incredibly easy as well as giving people the choices that they want. The website has plenty of recipes (and you often get recipes in the veg boxes too) as well as an interesting blog.
There are various different boxes to choose from. Everything in the boxes is organic, or occasionally they'll include something from an 'in conversion' farm, which means that the farmers are in the process of converting to organic. If you're not happy to receive in conversion produce you can opt out, but I think it's great that we can choose to support farmers who are making a positive change.
Medium: 9 different types of veg (2-3 people) £12.50
Large: 12 different types of veg (3-5 people) £17.75
Small: 7 different types of veg (1-2 people) £8.50
Salad: 7 types of crunchy things for making salads (1-2 people) £10.50
Small gourmet box: 8 types of veg, with more adventurous things included for example more things like portabello mushrooms, peppers, sweetcorn, vine tomatoes, sugar snap peas. These are the types of things that may be included in a normal veg box, but not as often as they're more pricey. (2 people) £14.50
Medium gourmet box: 9 types of veg, same as above (2-3 people) £17.25
Fruit and Vegetable boxes:
Boxes that include fruit as well as vegetables, in small, medium or large. I won't list all the prices again, but for comparison a medium fruit and veg box for 2-3 people is £16.75 and has 8 vegetables and 3 fruits. There's also a Baby & toddler box which includes fruit and vegetables that will be easy to puree. I think this is great, as it's important for children especially to be fed plenty of fresh organic fruit and veg without all those nasty chemicals.
There are small, medium and large fruit boxes available as well as a 'deluxe' fruit box which includes more exotic varieties such as pineapples. You can get fruit boxes delivered to your workplace as well as to your home.
There are hundreds of other groceries available on the Abel & Cole website. They're much more than just a veg box scheme. You could do all your food shopping on their website, though it might get a little expensive. Most of the food they sell is organic. You can also order extra fruit and vegetables on top of your veg box. You don't have to order a veg box to buy from their website but you have to spend a minimum of £10 which is reasonable. Abel & Cole have an excellent selection of Organic meat and poultry, and sustainable fish. I think this is great, as it's sometimes really hard to find these on the average high street or supermarket. They also sell organic alcohol. If you have allergies, or are vegetarian or vegan they also sell groceries for you.
Choice is something that is sometimes an issue with veg boxes. Britain doesn't yield particularly interesting vegetables at certain times of year, and not everyone wants an excess of swedes or potatoes in their box every week. This is why Abel & Cole are great. They have a great variety of fruit and vegetables and the boxes differ a little every week. It is based on what's in season, for example, you won't get asparagus in the middle of Autumn. Abel & Cole use local or British producers whenever possible, but things that aren't grown in this country, such as bananas and other exotic fruit and vegetables are imported.
What I loved most about Abel & Cole when I used them was the fact that you can tell them which fruit and vegetables you dislike. You do this on their website, which means it's saved so you never have to receive anything that you're not going to use. If something you have 'disliked' on the site is supposed to be in the veg box one week, they will replace it with something else that you do like. You can also 'favourite' foods, and they try to include your favourites whenever possible, though that only happens if they're available/in abundance.
I've received veg boxes, fruit and veg boxes, fruit boxes, deluxe fruit boxes and gourmet boxes from Abel & Cole, so I've experienced most of what they have to offer in terms of their fruit and veg. The quality has always been excellent so I was very lucky. It's the best veg box I've received in terms of the quality always being good, where as other boxes can be hit and miss. I have heard that the quality isn't as good when delivered to some other areas (from other reviews). What I recommend is that you try it and see for yourself. If you find that the quality is lower than you expected, you can ask for a refund - I have done this with other veg box companies and they are always happy to refund or replace produce as they take quality very seriously. If you're a customer with Abel & Cole and you have, for example very bruised and damaged bananas one week, they will send you extra next week or they'll credit your account, depending on what you prefer. I think this is very reasonable, and it's easy to complain to them - you just send them an e-mail or call them. Luckily, I've never had to. Everything always tasted great and fresh.
I've always found Abel & Cole delivery drivers to be very polite and friendly. You let them know on the website where you'd like the box to be left if you're out - in a recycling bin, under a hedge, or you can even give them a key for your garage or shed and they'll leave your box there each week. Unfortunately you can't pick your delivery day or time, but it will be around the same time each week, and always the same day. Some people find this annoying, but it's so that they can keep their fuel use down, which keeps the prices down. The delivery charge is 99p whatever you order. Anything that's meant to be refrigerated is always delivered cold, so I was happy with that.
Abel & Cole use their own delivery lorries, and they don't deliver everywhere in the UK, which is why I don't use them anymore - I live in Wales now. But I think this is sensible, as it means their produce is more likely to be fresh the shorter a distance it's been transported.
If you go on holiday, you can just update the dates of your time away on the website and a box won't be delivered but will go back to normal once you're back. Nice and easy.
The veg boxes are cardboard, and you can leave them outside your door each week when you're done with them so that the delivery man can take them away to be reused. The fruit and vegetables never come in extra packaging such as plastic unless it's really needed to keep them fresh or undamaged. This is much better than the excess of packaging we see at supermarkets. Mud is always something you're going to find in a veg box - some people like that and some don't - but Abel & Cole veg boxes never have much mud and I've never found any insects or slugs! They put potatoes in an extra bag (which is needed as they shouldn't be exposed to light) which keeps that mud off everything else.
Abel & Cole try to source produce as locally as possible but things that don't grow in this country are imported - but never air freighted which is an incredibly carbon intensive way of transporting goods. So you can rest assured that whether the goods have been sourced here or abroad, everything's as ethical and environmentally friendly as possible.
I found that getting a veg box with Abel & Cole was cheaper than buying organic produce at the supermarket, and as I do prefer my fruit and veg to be organic I was glad of this. The other products they sell aren't cheap, but they're no more expensive than anywhere else - it's just that you pay more for organic. More local veg boxes tend to be cheaper than Abel & Cole, but you're paying for choice and ease of use.
There are offers every week on the groceries Abel & Cole sell, so I quite often browsed those and chose a few treats that didn't break the bank!
If you're thinking of signing up, I recommend looking out for offers, for example at the moment if you set up a veg box delivery with them you'll get your 4th veg box free. When I signed up a while ago, after 4 veg boxes they put £50 credit on my account, which was absolutely amazing value!
Summary: There's no harm in trying it and I'm definitely glad that I did.
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