Since I started juicing, I’ve become interested in buying more organic produce. Apples, lettuce, cucumbers, and pretty much all the ingredients you’d use to make a green juice are on the dirty dozen, and I don’t really want to be drinking pesticides every day.
As of this post, I live in Thornton Heath, South London. There are no health food stores or organic food stores here at all. The grocery store closest to me is a Tesco, and their organic produce section is pretty lacking. To be honest, though, what finally prompted me to try an organic food delivery service was Tesco’s organic apples. I go through like half a crate of them a week because I use them in my green juice, and I was getting pretty annoyed with the Tesco ones. Despite the price, their organic apples are tiny and – I can’t stress this enough – they don’t taste like anything! I don’t know why they’re so flavorless, but they are. They were robbing me of green juice joy.
After looking around online, I glanced over a few different companies before I chose Abel & Cole. The main reason I chose them over some of the other organic box services is because they actually deliver to my postcode, and because I thought their prices were the best. Oh, and I’m not going to lie, their brand image is very warm and inviting.
To make things clear: this is a 100% honest review. I am not getting paid by anyone to write it, and I don’t get any free veg boxes from telling you about them (I don’t have any affiliate codes to share).
How it works
Ordering from Abel & Cole is not that different from ordering groceries online from a supermarket, except for the fact that virtually everything they sell is organic. The cornerstone of their delivery service is that they sell organic fruit and veggie “boxes” which come with a variety of seasonal fruit and/or vegetables. They choose what produce goes in the box for you each week, so its kind of a surprise what you’ll receive. If there’s a certain food you don’t like, however, there’s a place on the website where you can make note of what foods you don’t want to receive. You can opt to have a box delivered weekly, every other week, and so on.
Besides the fruit/veg boxes, you can order fruits, vegetables, supplements, baked goods, drinks, cereal, baking supplies, household goods, meat/dairy, dairy alternatives, and a ton of other stuff “a la carte” style in addition to your weekly box if you want. You can also opt to have individual items sent on a weekly basis, or a one off basis.
Choosing a box
Instead of going with a veg box or a mixed fruit/veg, I decided to go with a fruit box as my weekly box. This is mostly because I didn’t want to risk them giving me vegetables I wouldn’t know what to do with – I have a hard enough time figuring out what to make for dinner without throwing vegetables I’m unfamiliar with into it. I pretty much love all fruit though, so I knew regardless of what they gave me that I’d be able to eat it raw or juice it. Additionally, the Tesco closest to me sells a lot of organic vegetables, but barely any organic fruit, so I was more interested in being able to eat a wider variety of fruit.
One thing that originally prevented me from eating more organic produce was the cost. The boxes from A&C are very affordable. Their small boxes are actually quite cheap at £6 for the fruit one and £11-12 for the veg one. Because I like a lot of food, I actually sprung for the medium fruit box, which is still only £11.50. If you’re into juicing, they also sell a juicing box that’s £16.50.
If you’re picking and choosing individual produce (rather than ordering a box), some of their veg IS more expensive than it would be at a regular grocery store, depending on how much you want. I go through 2kg of organic carrots a week, and at least 6 cucumbers – those are both significantly cheaper at Tesco, so I’ve opted to get them from Tesco instead (I admit that the A&C veg is probably fresher, though – the last lot of carrots I got from Tesco were a bit chewy). For most of the other stuff, though, the prices are about the same as you’d spend anywhere else.
Ordering and Delivery
As someone without a car who lives 2 miles from the store, I almost always order my groceries online. So it’s worth noting that Abel & Cole’s delivery charge is only 99p – this is less than all the major grocery stores. Tesco’s cheapest delivery charge is £3 for a weekday delivery and goes up to £6 on the weekends, but don’t hold your breath on getting one of the cheapest slots. Furthermore, you have to be at home to receive the order from most grocery stores, where as A&C will drop off your box(es) in a location of your choosing if you’re not home. On the other hand, though, you don’t get to choose what day or time of day A&C deliver your boxes. This doesn’t bother me, and they deliver to CR7 on Fridays which I’m ok with.
Sometimes they run out of certain things, so if you order something specific and it isn’t in stock, they’ll send you an email letting you know that. They ran out of apples one week, for example, and I had to get my apples from Tesco that week instead.
They also often send free gifts, and you can let them know if you’re a vegan, so they won’t send you something you don’t want to eat. Thank god for that! The only options they have are vegan/vegetarian though – you can’t specify allergies or anything else. They sent me a loaf of bread one week and a free carton of soya milk the week before that. If I were coeliac or allergic to soy, I’m not sure what I’d have done with the gifts (as it were, I don’t normally eat gluten because it makes me sleepy – but I made an exception that week because, come on, free bread. I took a lot of naps that week).
They send you booklets with every box and I got a free “veg box guide” (above) with my first box that has some really good looking recipes in it, including vegan ones.
Lastly, they send most of the produce without plastic on it, which I’m happy about. So far the only things I’ve ordered that came in plastic were a punnet of spinach, herbs, chilies, and some cucumbers.
One of the other things that inspired me to order from them was the variety of stuff they offer. The produce offered by Abel & Cole changes with the seasons, and they have a lot of stuff you just can’t get at a Tesco or Sainsburys – organic or otherwise.
I was only really interested in the produce they sell – but if you care about pretty much any other organic products, Abel & Cole probably sell it. From a vegan point of view, you like veggie burgers, meat substitutes, soy yoghurt, and/or ready meals, they sell a bunch of vegan AND gluten free products in this section that I’d never seen even at a Holland and Barrett.
Additionally, they sell a bunch of vegan and organic alcoholic drinks, which I’ve definitely never seen anywhere else. I’m not that much of a drinker, but I ordered a bottle of wine for a stew I was making and it was so nice to not have to do research to figure out which brands at the supermarket are vegan and/or organic – all the information is laid out for you on the Abel & Cole website so you don’t even have to think about it.
The only thing I’m a little disappointed so see they don’t offer is a vegan milk other than soya milk. They don’t sell hemp milk, rice milk, or almond milk, for example. It’s possible there isn’t enough of a demand for it, or it might be because most of the organic brands of almond and hemp milk available in Britain are laughably expensive (when I lived in Bath, there was a health food store that sold organic hemp milk for £8 a carton – seriously). They only just started selling almond and hemp milk in Tesco here this year, so I think this will change in the near future.
Ok, so, this was the entire reason I ordered from them in the first place. I wanted better tasting apples. To be honest, I have always been skeptical about whether or not organic/locally grown/whatever food tastes better than conventionally grown, as people sometimes suggest.
Speaking of hard-to-find produce, maybe I’ve been living in “The Thornton Hizzle” too long, but Swiss chard is something I’ve never seen in an actual British grocery store (Sainsburys or Tesco). I’ve heard some Tescos sell it, whatever, I’ve never seen it. As a leafy green enthusiast, I’ve been wanting to try it for years. I ordered 2 bunches of it in addition to my fruit box. When it arrived, I used some of it in my green juice, and I also threw together this lentil soup with it.
I can’t stress how completely delicious this soup was, and I’m convinced the chard had a lot to do with that. I didn’t even use vegetable stock (I didn’t have any), and it still tasted incredible. The chard added an amazing amount of flavor and texture, I may post the recipe if you guys are interested in it.
A week or two after that, I got some Williams pears in my fruit box. The pears were not ripe yet when I got them, so I put them in a bag with some bananas for a few days. When they were ripe, I ate one with low expectations because I don’t normally like pears that much. Well, apparently I’ve been eating the wrong pears, because these ones tasted orgasmically good. Seriously. I can not possibly describe how good they were. I ate all 6 of them in one day, they were SO freaking good.
So what about the apples? For starters, the ones Abel & Cole sends me are bigger than the ones Tesco sells. They’re also a lot uglier. Luckily, I don’t care how ugly they are because I’m not interested in eating the most beautiful looking apples, I want the ones that are going to actually taste good. And the ones Abel & Cole sells are completely delicious. I can barely believe the difference they make in my green juice – I actually can enjoy drinking it again! Shocking, I know.
I could probably talk for days about some of the other incredible things I’ve eaten thanks to them. I never knew grapefruit could taste so good!! And don’t get me started on the mangoes.
I didn’t care about organic food before I ordered from Abel & Cole. I mean, sure, avoiding pesticides is good, but organic food is so much more expensive, I usually questioned whether or not it was worth it. After ordering from them, my mind is completely changed. They’ve pretty much re-ignited my passion for fruit and veggies. From now on, I’m not buying anymore conventionally grown produce – period (not even stuff on the “Clean Fifteen”).
If you have been thinking about ordering from them, you should just stop reading this now and go order from them.
If you’re still puttering around because of the cost of organic vs. conventionally grown like I was, I’m gonna be blunt here – it’s worth the price, so suck it up. Do you want to eat produce free of pesticides or not? Do you care enough about your own well being to maybe set aside some of your other pointless expenses in order to get food that tastes better and is better for you? Here’s a huge tip: stop going out to eat and start cooking! I’m probably (…definitely) poorer than you. Once you make a commitment to doing something for yourself instead of constantly using your lack of money as an excuse to stay stuck, you’ll often be surprised by the abundance that’ll come to you as a result. I know I have.
If you’ve been reading my twitter you’ll probably know that as of the first, I have to move back to the US, and not because I want to. I’m going to miss a lot of things about living here, but Abel & Cole’s deliveries will be what I miss the most. Their food, gifts, and friendliness have helped make my last few weeks here better than any of my previous years. I’ll cherish the book they gave me, and I’m so grateful that they helped change my mind about organic food. Someday, when the home office decides I’m allowed to live here again, the first thing I’ll do when I get back on UK soil is restart my deliveries – plus I’ll get a veg box too! I wish there was some other way I could express my gratitude to them, but this post will have to be it.
Love and light –