Variety = NO
The medium box is billed as for 2-3 people and although there was lots of quantity there was less in the name of variety which would mean you might get bored before the week was out or you could end up wasting stuff or you’d still need to go and buy more stuff e.g. there was lettuce and spring onions but no other salad stuff. You can of course substitute things or add extras.
Accuracy = INDIFFERENT
Sorry call me pernickety I but expect 100% accuracy when the contents are only listed on the site 2 weeks in advance of delivery. I was so looking forward to little gem lettuce but that’s not what I got. Irritating. With Ocado (and others) you can at least decline the substitution.
Seasonal/Local = NO
I have to give it this because you should not be able to suggest the box is seasonal when it contains APPLES. They are not in season in the UK so must have been shipped half way round the world. Now of course in winter this could lead to a box full of turnip week in week out but considering this was late June there must have been something more local and seasonal than apples from the Southern hemisphere. I don’t think that something that is so good in the UK when its in season should be put in the box out of season. Things we can’t grow here might be a different matter but things we can and in fact we are good at should be optional extras for those who want them not standard items. Imagine what I’d have to say if they sent me asparagus in February…..
Labelling = NO
There is no indication on the produce or the receipt where the items have come from (except I’m hoping the Jersey Royals came from Jersey). In the supermarket it either states the country or in the case of much UK produce the county and even the farmer it’s from. The farm shop can and does do the same. Come on A&C this isn’t good enough. On the website it supposed to show what is local (for which I read UK generally rather than local to me specifically as I understand much of the stuff is from the South West) but it should also be clear on the receipt, and be more specific.
Quality = INDIFFERENT
The apples were woolly and tasteless, as you’d expect for something shipped from somewhere random in the Southern hemisphere at the end of their season. The beetroot were mixed – some giant and woody, some good. The broad beans were very fresh but big and rather floury. The chard was giant but tasty and fresh. The green cabbage was huge but good, sweet and fresh. The lettuce was fine but wilted quickly and was therefore too large, lots got wasted. The Jersey Royals were fine but quite large so end of very first crop and average taste wise. Melon, ripe and smelled lovely but taste was bit watery. Nectarines were rock hard on arrival then suddenly ripened and started to go off; tasted good at their peak. Spring onions were fine. I got the impression the standard box is the place for A&C to use up gluts that are near end of shelf life. There is no option to rummage like you might in a shop (and I include supermarkets here) or market for the best items or the cheapest or whatever floats your boat and budget.
Price = INDIFFERENT
I compared the prices on Ocado for the closet choice I could get to the box contents. I thought I’d give them a chance and I also imagined that competition wise Ocado might be a closer match than Lidl. The standard box at standard price was cheaper than Ocado (I’m ignoring delivery here just looking at produce) by several pounds, which is good but at least what I would have expected. But if you start to substitute in the box – or if you’d built it yourself then Ocado would be a few pence cheaper. Not so good.
Value = INDIFFERENT
Its clearly better produce than some options but the lack of choice for the standard offering (or the prices if you pick freely) mean that overall its probably marginally worse than something like Ocado and definitely less value than the farm shop or some of the supermarkets.
At the end of the day it depends on a balance of convenience and price. If you don’t have easy access to transport then a delivery service is great and is certainly a way to buy non-food basics even if you can get to local shops easily. But as soon as you have a choice of local shops, good farm shops or even a decent supermarket and you can get to them easily then the convenience starts to lose out over the ability to pick the items you want, see what you are getting, and at what price, and not suddenly wonder what to do with a giant lettuce that’s fading fast.
So for me my initial reluctance to sign up myself has mainly been born out – I just want to see what I’m getting before I buy my fruit and veg. But that’s me and so I can’t quite see where A&C might fit in to how I shop for food. But remember readers this is just my opinion it might work for you.
For the record I normally shop at the following places (in no particular order):
Ocado for boring basics such as cat food and kitchen roll and a few other regular things that are sufficiently uniform it doesn’t matter like butter or yoghurt or pasta. But if they substitute it almost always goes back.
Waitrose (two branches in London) for slightly less basics plus veg and meat when I can’t get to the farm shops I like. Plus wine and beer.
Several farm shops in Essex and Suffolk where I stock up on my favourite produce when I’m nearby for meat, deli products and veg.
And the occasional foray to specialist shops and markets such as Borough and Neals Yard.
Here’s some other reviews:
Food Urchin – veg box
Purely Food – veg box
Freestyle Cookery – veg box
Kavey Eats – veg/chicken, lamb/beef