***Who are Abel and Cole?***
Abel and Cole started off with one man selling potatoes in London during the late 80's. After learning about pesticides the operation went organic and after a while they branches out into other organic foodstuffs. Today they have been going for almost 25 years and work closely with farmers, butchers and bakers so that they can ensure they know what goes into the foods that they sell. This also means that you get the best products and the people making it are treated ethically and paid fairly. Almost all of Abel and Cole's produce is from within the UK but the odd bit of produce comes from warmer places (because our British weather doesn't give us much interesting fruit in winter!) and the company ensures that this is bought and transported as fairly and eco friendly as possible.
You can read all about Abel and Cole's story on their website (www.abelandcole.co.uk)
***What can I buy from them?***
The main thing Abel and Cole sell are their boxes. They sell fruit boxes, veg boxes, fruit and veg boxes, salad boxes and even boxes for juicing! These come in different types and sizes, I get the medium sized fruit and veg box which is meant to last a week for 2-3 people. This costs me £18.75 and includes 3 types of fruit and 7 types of vegetables (one of these is always potatoes and there are almost always onions too) each week. I find that the amount in the box is just right for the amount of people that they suggest. If you don't like a certain food you can mark this online on your preference list as a dislike and they will substitute that food whenever it is due to come in one of your boxes. You can also request that items are substituted for just one delivery but allowed on future ones.
On top of your box you can order whatever other fruit or veg that you fancy and some of it is rather fancy! Abel and Cole tend to stock things that I can't find anywhere else and things that you may not have heard of before, such as purple carrots, butternut squash and black salsify. The prices are a little above what you would pay in the shops or on the market but the quality and freshness are excellent and so I'm happy to pay!There is also a whole range of other things that you can buy from Abel and Cole which include:
*Dairy and eggs
*meat and fish
*pies, pastries and delicatessen items
*desserts and snacks
*store cupboard items
*household cleaning products
I find that I can buy most things I would need from Abel and Cole, however although I would love to only give my hard earned cash to an ethical British company like this one, it would not be cost effective for me to purchase all of my shopping from them. I tend to buy my fruit and veg box, the odd extra item or treat and milk.
***Delivery and packaging***
There will be a delivery day for the particular area you are in, which means you can't choose which day your order will arrive. However, the day will stay the same week in, week out and so it's not too much to adjust to your delivery day. You are given a name of the delivery person for your area which is a nice personal touch.
Delivery times are not given and can vary, so Abel and Cole ask where is safe to leave your delivery. They are able to take a spare key for a shed or similar if you wish for your delivery to be kept extra safe. Our delivery usually arrives very early in the morning and so we just have it left on the doorstep and I bring it inside when I wake up.
Delivery costs just 99p regardless of how much or how little you order. You can't really complain at 99p, I think it's a pretty fair delivery charge!
If you don't want a delivery on a particular week then you can easily mark this down on the website as a holiday or give Abel and Cole a call and they will skip your delivery and you will not be charged.
Packaging is kept to a minimum and is recyclable where possible. Your main box will come in a cardboard box with the majority of things loose inside (the odd item may have a plastic bag or a small box that can usually be recycled). Extras may be packaged into another box, a paper bag or an insulated box (these are insulated with wool and packed with a few ice packs, I have found them very effective!) if you have items that need to be kept cool. Rather than throw away the boxes you are asked to leave them outside ready for your delivery person to take them away when your next delivery arrives. This means that boxes can be reused for as long as possible before they are to be recycled. This all seems far more favourable to a mountain of plastic bags being used and is in keeping with the companies ethics.
I find that the website has a welcoming feel and is easy to navigate. There are lots of lovely colourful pictures and a nice use of fonts without any pages seeming too "busy" and although there are many links to different parts of the site these are all clear and there is a search box right at the top of every page which I find helpful. I have never experienced broken links or any slowness to the website.
As well as organising your shopping and accessing and changing account details there are other nice features to the website such as a favourites list, recipes which can be searched by ingredient and the Abel and Cole blog.
***Freebies, gifts and guides***
Abel and Cole really make me feel like an appreciated customer with all the little extra touches to their service. I find that although the cost of their products can seem a little high, when you take into account the ethics of the company, the quality of what you get, the helpful tips and the odd freebie then I'm happy to continue giving the company my money.
Currently there is a fantastic offer for new and returning customers where your 4th box is free and you also get a free recipe book. The offer has been running for quite some time and I hope it will continue for a good while as it's a good deal offering great value for people new to Abel and Cole. The recipe book Abel & Cole Veg Box Companion is a nice thick A4 size book with an RRP of £12.99. The cover features a pan and lots of colourful veg and the inside is packed with ideas and recipes to help you use up fruit and veg in interesting and tasty ways ordered seasonally with a nice clear contents list and index. The book alone would be a nice freebie, with the free box to go with it I really do think that this offer is wonderful!
I am occasionally sent a little envelope of 4 cards entitling friends I pass them onto to a free veg box. It is necessary to fill out a few details on the cards before they are passed out and then they're good to go. These cards can only be used by people who are new to Abel and Cole. My sister used one of these cards and was still able to claim the offer I explained above with the free 4th box and recipe book. It is necessary to make an account and sign up for weekly boxes in order to use a card if you are given one but you can cancel after receiving the free box if you wish. This is a really nice way to introduce new people to shopping with Abel and Cole.
In many of my veg box's I find cards or leaflets telling me about my fruit or veg, how to use it, the farm it came from, or I'll find things which tell me what is currently in season, or sometimes recipes. A few months ago I was given a little ring binder in one of my box's and some of the leaflets are hole punched so I can build up a nice little collection of recipes and information which is lovely. Some of the most useful leaflets I had were with my first box as these gave me lots of information about Abel and Cole, how they stared and the farms that they work with as well as some really handy tips on storing fruit and veg to help them stay fresher for longer.
Sometimes I receive emails with money off voucher codes. These quite frequently give you £4-£5 off when you spend around £10 in a specific section of the website (usually with a choice of 3 different ones so that you can always find something you want to buy!). This is a nice amount to save and I enjoy treating myself to some nice little extras when I get these voucher codes.
As if the above things weren't enough to keep customers happy, the lovely people at Abel and Cole also give you the occasional freebie! Most recently I had a tiny free sample mince pie in with one of my December orders (it was perfectly made and delicious!). In the past I have received a bottle of juice, a large pot of yoghurt, a pot of soup and a small bottle of olive oil! Sometimes you will know in advance that there will be a freebie and even choose from a small selection of things, other times I have been surprised. This is a really lovely way to encourage customers to try new products and also for Abel and Cole to show that they appreciate their customers.
There are various ways to contact Abel and Cole should you need to, email, a web chat service and a phone line. This means that it's easy to choose a form of contact that is convenient for you and you can choose to contact them at a time which suits you. Emails and phone calls are responded to between 8.30am and 7.30pm Mon-Thurs, 8.30am-6pm Friday and 9am-5pm Saturday which means that most people would easily find a time to suit them.
I have not had any problems with Abel and Cole myself, but I have received the odd courtesy call (you would usually get one around joining or leaving) to see how happy I am with service and the people I have spoken to have been perfectly lovely and polite.
My sister did have a problem where some money was taken for a box that should have been free. This was quickly and easily sorted out and again, she tells me that they were helpful and polite.
I have also received personal feedback in the form of an email after filling out a survey for Abel and Cole. This made me feel like my opinion was valued and listened to, something very lacking in many companies these days!
***My personal opinion***
You have probably guessed by now that I rather like Abel and Cole! My kids also enjoy our fruit and veg from them, which is fantastic! because the kids are excited to see what is in each box and can see the pictures and information about the different farms and people who work on them they are encouraged to try new foods, enjoy their veg and learn about where food comes from. However, in our very first box we had a caterpillar hiding in the corner of our box and my 3 year old son is now incredibly disappointed that they haven't sent us any more of them!
I find that the quality of the food we receive in our box each week is brilliant and things last much longer generally than they would have if I'd bought from the supermarket. I tend to find that organic fruit and veg taste and smell a little better than their GM cousins. With some things I find a huge difference in taste, such as tomatoes and carrots. It's nice to know that I'm not feeding my family lots of pesticides and that my food hasn't travelled loads of air miles to reach my plate. The benefits of eating organic are debatable, but I certainly prefer to use organic when and where I can afford to. I don't eat meat, but it's nice to know that if I buy it for other people in the household that it isn't full of fillers and things and that the animal it came from was well treated.
I have been nothing but delighted with both the service and products I have received over more than a year of using Abel and Cole, this is a company who seems to genuinely care about what they do and keeping the customer happy.
***Overall experience and would I recommend Abel and Cole?***
I can't rate this company and their products highly enough! Although shopping with Abel and Cole is more expensive than using the supermarkets it is certainly worth it! I give them a whole 5 stars and wholeheartedly recommend them.
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!
I am a relative newcomer to organic deliveries (few months), but can recommend Abel and Cole.
I made the decision to 'go organic' a few months ago to try to improve mine and my family's diet. After consulting a few of my friends who have deliveries I decided to try Abel and Cole and have been very pleased with their service and fruit.
Their deliveries are on time (even in the bad weather) and the produce arrives in recyclable boxes which you leave out the next week for the driver to collect. We have a basic fruit box and the fruit has been of a consistently high quality. There is lots of it and we have only received one piece which has been overripe. The fruit itself is so tasty - much better than non organic produce. My family is now keen to eat fruit and 5 a day is easy!
It's also fun to see what is in the box and work out what to do with it. I had never had Sharon fruit before and we love it now.
If there is something that you don't like, you can choose to exclude it from your deliveries which is useful.
We also get very tasty organic bread from them and organic milk. The milk is like the stuff you used to get when you were younger because it isn't homogenised. I have never known milk disappear into tummies faster! Because it isn't homogenised, it is also more easily digested.
Going to go and grab another tasty apple right now.... :)
I've been getting an Abel & Cole box for nearly 2 years now.
I get a small mixed fruit & veg box which arrives every Monday morning. You can't pick your delivery day as depends on the drivers route but you don't have to be in - you can nominate a safe place for the box to be left.
I've had one box stolen in all that time and Abel&Cole refunded me immediately.
My box includes 3 types of fruit, 3 types of veg and potatoes. You can check online for details of your delivery and you can select to stop certain foods that you don't like. I'm not picky and so haven't permanently excluded anything but occasionally after getting lots of oranges or something in a row I'll exclude something for a week. You get something else instead and so you don't lose out by doing this.
I can change things up until Saturday which is close to delivery date.
I like the range of the food delivered. It is all organic produce and primarily UK although in times like February when hardly anything is being produced the food is sourced from elsewhere although it is never flown.
There is information on the website about the producers and plenty of recipe information as well - so if you are stuck on what to do with your beetroot or parsnips just look online.
They also produce a newsletter with the box which has news, information and recipes.
Sometimes I can find that I get a lot of one thing - particularly annoying when you keep getting lots of carrots or onions which are cheap veg to buy!
However I really appreciate the taste of some things (carrots and tomatoes are faves - you can really taste the difference) and I also like the fact that they deal fairly and honestly with farmers so that no one is being exploited to produce food for my kitchen. I also enjoy eating seasonally (so excited when first broad beans and strawberries arrive) and it is good to get a wide variety of fruit and veg which tests my cooking skills and has opened up a wider range of meals and dishes.
They have a wide range of products including dairy, meat, fish, pies, store-cupboard essentials, wine etc and occasionally I've bought some of these and they've been very good.
I've had to report problems once or twice but found their customer service to be excellent.
I think my main criticisms would be maybe some things don't last a long time (not everything though) and sometimes the boxes are a bit repetitive.
Taken from Abel & Coles's Facebook page - "Delivering good food the right way since 1988, Abel & Cole is one of the pioneers of organic food retailing in the UK. We provide an ethical alternative to the supermarket as we have remained passionately dedicated to our customers, farmers, animal welfare and the environment in everything we do."
Recently, I saw an offer where if you were a new customer with Abel & Cole, if you placed an order worth £15 or over, for 4 consecutive weeks, then you'd receive £50 credit to spend. Well I thought this was a fabulous offer so thought I'd give it a go!
I am currently on my third week and I have mixed thoughts. Part of the conditions of the offer were that you had to include a fruit/veg box in your offer. I chose the 'small mixed organic box' which is apparantly perfect for 1 person. This costs £10.95. Although the fruit and veg was going to be for me and my boyfriend, I thought I'd rather start with less and not waste any. I'm glad I got the small box because you get a lot of fruit and veg in it!
It is easy to order online at www.abelandcole.co.uk, and their customer service is fantastic. It has won awards! I rang up to check that I had done it right, and they answered immediately, and were very helpful. The FAQs section is very thorough, and answers a lot of questions you might have.
There is a large and varied amount of products available to buy such as fruit and veg, meat, fish, dairy products, bakery, storecupboard items, drinks, household, dietary alternatives, and vegetarian. There is also a Christmas range just launched, so you can buy your turkey and a Christmas veg box!
You simply add the products to your basket, then select what date you would like them delivered. Some areas cannot be delivered to which is an obvious problem if you live out in the sticks, but they are expanding their delivery areas all the time and there is the option to check if they deliver to your area on the website.
The delivery charge is 99p which is very reasonable! My delivery comes every Wednesday, you can't change this day as it's a driver doing the rounds! They don't give a time, but you can state where to leave the box if you are not in. Mine usually comes at about 8am, which is great for me as I can put the box inside as I'm leaving the house. Your food comes in cardboard boxes, which you can leave out for your driver the following week. Cold products are placed in bags with ice packs and gel packs to keep them cool. These are also given back to the driver which I think is good as everything is reused!
*Fruit and Veg*
You can look on the website to see what products your box will contain which is handy, as it means you know what to expect. A feature that is brilliant is being able to say which fruit and veg you don't want - either just once, or never. This means I will never get celery or fennel! They always replace the fruit/veg you don't want with something else; either more of something already in your box, or something else. Last time I got pomegranates instead of apples so that was good!
The quantities have always been great, more than enough. However, sometimes the quality can be a bit hit and miss. Vegetable seem to go soft very quickly, but this could just be because I'm not storing them correctly. I keep them in the box on the floor, maybe I should put them in the fridge?! But they taste good when I use them, although not that much different to what I usually buy!
*Meat and Fish*
So far I have had bacon, lamb burgers and salmon burgers. The bacon was lovely, and cost me £3.19 for 250g of thick-cut, smoked, back bacon. I thought this was reasonable because it tasted really good! It came in a white papery packet which made me feel very sophisticated! The salmon burgers were also great. They cost £4.25 for 2 huge burgers (225g each). They were gorgeous and very filling.
However, I did have a problem with the lamb burgers. When it came to using them I noticed they had an odd smell and looked grey. They were also very hard. I cooked them anyway and thought they tasted odd so I emailed Abel & Cole who were brilliant, apologised profusely and refunded me.
The only dairy product I have had so far is some Yeo Valley double cream. It was in date but smelled off, so I didn't use it. I didn't email Abel & Cole this time though because I didn't want to look like someone who thinks everything smells off!
When this offer has finished I won't be carrying on with the veg boxes as I think that for £10.95 I could go and get loads of veg as and when I need it, rather than all at once and it going off. I plan to get a lot of meat and fish with my £50 credit, and depending on the quality of that, I might get meat delivered in the future.
I think Abel & Cole is well worth a try if you come across an offer to try first.
A few years ago, I tried a local organic vegetable box scheme for a while but, despite all my best intentions, I couldn't make myself stick with it. Why not? Well, for a start it was a bit of a pain not knowing what I was going to receive from one week to the next - not to mention getting lumbered with huge numbers of cabbages or turnips because they happened to be in season at the time. I kept ending up with too many of the same thing and, much to my shame, had to throw a lot of fruit and veg away because it was going off before I got round to using it. I do value my health and try to eat well, plus I'd much rather use produce from local growers where possible, but to be honest it all became a bit of a hassle and I ended up cancelling the arrangement.
Some time later, we started to get fliers through our door from a company called Abel & Cole. Now, you may well have heard of this firm, in fact you probably have a vague idea of what they're all about, but I thought I'd give you a bit more of an insight and the benefit of my experience in dealing with them over the past couple of years.
===So, who ARE Abel & Cole?===
Abel and Cole are not a new company - they've actually been in the food delivery business for over 20 years (since 1988, to be precise). Keith Abel, who was living in a basement in South London at the time, decided to turn his back on the law and, rather than becoming a barrister, so start selling potatoes instead! Together with his mum, Paul Cole and their mutual friend Jules, he would be at New Covent Garden market in the early hours of the morning - the middle of the night really - to pick up the best spuds which they would pack up and deliver to their customers all over South London.
Soon they started buying direct from farmers, one of whom (Bernard Gauvier - who is still one of Abel & Cole's suppliers) offered them some organic potatoes....
The rest, as they say, is history. Abel & Cole have become a much bigger operation over the years, adding many, many product lines to their original offerings of spuds or...spuds..., but they appear to have been exceptionally successful in maintaining their original business values, such as building long-term mutually beneficial relationships with their suppliers - and their customers, for that matter.
Abel & Cole offer a wide range of organic produce, dealing direct with suppliers to make sure they (the suppliers! And presumably Abel & Cole themselves), get the best deal and plenty of support. They source food locally wherever possible, and never airfreight ANYTHING, which for me is a big plus.
===What do you get in a box from Abel & Cole?===
At the time of writing, Abel & Cole offer no less than FOURTEEN different boxes, so there really is something for everyone! Their cheapest box is the 'small basic organic fruit box' at £5.99 (they also do a veg equivalent at £7.99), although we usually go for the combined version of this, which is the 'small mixed organic box' and costs £10.95.
The contents of the boxes change from week to week, but just to give you an idea, last week our small box contained potatoes, carrots, parsnips, spring greens, courgettes, apples, bananas and pears.
Abel & Cole also do medium fruit (£9.99) and/or veg (£11.95) boxes (£15.95 for the mixed one), as well as a 'family organic box' which, at £23.50, is their most expensive. I'm not sure how many kids you'd need to have to justify this particular box, mind you, as we find the small mixed box is ample for two adults and a toddler - having said that we do still buy the odd bit of fruit and/or veg from the local greengrocer or the supermarket as well.
And that's not all! There's also the 'organic baby & toddler box' (10.95), full of delicious things that are easy to mash up for babies - e.g. bananas, parsnips and carrots. There's a 'seasonal salad box' (£9.95), a 'deluxe organic veg box' (£16.50) and a 'deluxe organic fruit box' (14.99). The latter two contain more exotic fare such as mango, pomegranates, pineapple, chard and Portobello mushrooms.
Mind you, the more exotic bits do find their way into the 'ordinary' boxes too, from time to time!
===What if there's something I don't like?===
This, for me, is the main thing that makes Abel & Cole stand out head and shoulders above all the other fruit and veg box suppliers out there. When you log into your account, you're able to add up to 20 items to your 'dislikes' list and then, if any of these are supposed to be in your box on a given week, Abel & Cole will replace it with an alternative. This is great, as it really cuts down on waste if you're only receiving things you like! For the fussy among us, 20 types of fruit and vegetables may not sound a lot, but bear in mind you can choose to exclude an entire group (such as 'citrus', or 'onions' - which will exclude all varieties of onion including spring onions). Obviously you can also be very specific and only exclude, for example, mandarins or 'Hasta la pasta squash' (but I know, with a name like that who'd want to, right?). You can specify 'likes' as well, but I don't think this actually makes it any more likely that you'll receive these items. A really handy thing is that it's very easy to click on 'remove this week' for a particular item, even if you normally like it, so that if, for example, you've been getting loads of courgettes and are getting a little bored of them (and yes, I DO speak from experience!), you can choose to give them a miss for a week or two without actually adding them to your 'dislikes'.
===Do they sell anything else?===
Abel & Cole sell all sorts of things, not just fruit and vegetables, and they seem to be expanding the list of available produce at an exponential rate! You can choose from organic meat, fish, dairy products, bread, drinks (alcoholic and otherwise), pies, ready meals, pasta sauces, soups, desserts, biscuits, chocolate, tinned good and other basic grocery items, cleaning products and festive goodies - oh, you get the idea....
Basically they sell just about every type of organic food or household product you can think of. They don't do toiletries, at the time of writing this at least, but I really wouldn't be surprised if they did introduce them before too long.
Having said all that, I've only ever ordered my mixed box plus the occasional fruit or vegetable extra, as many of the other items are a little expensive for my pocket and we tend to do most of our shopping at the supermarket still, but it is good to see Abel & Cole's product range growing and I am seriously considering trying some of their delicious-looking vegetarian pies such as Mushroom Stroganoff Pie - mmmm! Maybe I'll pop back and update this once I've sampled some....
Interesting, the extra fruit and vegetable items vary in price quite dramatically over the course of the year, depending on when they're in season and, indeed, there will be some times when certain things just AREN'T available because it's the wrong time of year - which is only right and proper, in my opinion!
===How does it all work?===
To get started, on the home page there's a box to enter your postcode so the website can tell you what day they have a driver delivering in your area (we get our box on a Wednesday, this isn't negotiable but to be honest it's never been a problem for us). Registering is really easy - first you select your address from a drop-down menu and add any specific delivery instructions, such as 'please leave next to back door'. They are even happy (as long as you are) for the driver to take a key to your shed or garage and leave the delivery locked inside - yet another little detail which helps to make this company so different from others! Next you have to fill in all the usual stuff such as your name, email address, password and phone number, and you're all done! Of course, you'll also need to give payment details before ordering anything.
It's really easy to set your orders up on a recurring basis, although you can place 'one-off' orders as well if you so wish. You can stipulate how often you wish to receive each item on your order list, from one delivery only; through every week or once a fortnight; to every four or even eight weeks (this would be good if you were ordering tinned produce, or toilet paper!). To give you an idea, we have a small mixed organic box every week, cherry tomatoes once a fortnight and 'normal' tomatoes once a fortnight - but here's the clever bit - it's staggered so the two types of tomatoes come on alternative weeks.
One point about 'extras': if these were supposed to be in your box on a particular week, Abel & Cole will put an alternative in the box to avoid duplication. This works very well in our case, as it means we don't end up with too many tomatoes, but I imagine it could be a problem if you actually DO want a double quantity of something! Having said that, I'm sure if you gave Abel & Cole a ring or dropped them an email in this situation they'd be able to sort that out for you.
===What do I like about www.abel-cole.co.uk?===
As stated above, I LOVE the fact that you can tell them what you DON'T like, and they'll never send it to you! This, combined with the fact that at any time you can look on the website and it'll tell you what to expect in each type of box for the next couple of weeks, makes menu planning a lot easier - and if you REALLY don't know what to do with that black chard or kohlrabi they've sent you there's a database of recipes for each fruit or vegetable on the site as well. In case I've just scared anyone off, mostly they send ordinary things like potatoes and carrots, with just the occasional oddity thrown in for added interest (unless, I suppose, you've ordered one of the 'deluxe' boxes...).
You'll receive an invoice with every order, which is disguised as a very informative newsletter. In this you'll find farmers' stories, recipes, and hints and tips on how to cook that peculiar thing you've been sent in your box this week....
It's very easy to tell Abel & Cole when you're going to be away, so you don't get any deliveries during that time, and in fact I have on occasion used the holiday facility just because I had a backlog of fruit and vegetables that needed using up before I bought any more!
Packaging (or lack of it) is another area where Abel & Cole are very strong - basically they don't use much! The 'boxes' are just that - cardboard boxes, which they collect and reuse where possibly. You'll occasionally find something in a plastic punnet, but most items are either loose or in paper/cardboard packaging.
===Are there any bad points?===
Some people might find it inconvenient to be unable to choose their delivery day although, as I mentioned, we've never found this to be a problem. Equally, some may find the cost prohibitive, but even in the supermarket you would pay a little extra for organic produce, and at least with Abel & Cole you know (a) it's seasonal; (b) the quality is good; and (c) the suppliers aren't getting ripped off.
If you're struggling to eat enough fruit and veg because of the lack of choice in your local supermarket, Abel and Cole could be the answer. A really easy to use site, and good quality produce delivered direct to your door.
I decided to take advantage of a money off offer for £10 off a £20 spend and use this service. Reviews I had read were mixed so I was not sure what to expect. I needn't have worried. I ordered 3 boxes - 2 veg ones and a salad one. My boxes arrived today in the morning. The boxes where great - full of varied content and not too squished in. Everything looked very fresh and appetising and has some soil on. I like that! The customer service team were very helpful when I had emailed them afew days ago with a query. Also I found the website very efficient and user friendly. You can opt out of receiving certain veg if you want to.
Overall I was very impressed with everything in connection with this first order and will use again and recommend to others. Well done Abel and Cole!
I was looking forward to my firs delivery & what a disappointment it was!I ordered 3 boxes extras. Every box claimed to satisfy 2-3 people. We are two.However, the amount of products in each box was utterly ridiculous. ONE pepper?? are they being serious?? & Don't get me started on the quality; Everything was over ripped or not ready to eat. Tomatoes were very soft , Very rotten onions & green bananas. &, I know it's organic, but we didn't really all the mud.We didn't order again but at A&C they didn't think it's up to us to decided. The next week, I got another box. I was furious .Opening the unwanted box, I was hoping to discover that what's happened last week was a coincidence. Nevertheless, ONE pepper & rotten spring onions were looking at me from the brown box.Do not be tempted!
I have been using Abel and Cole for my weekly fruit and veg for around 18 months now, and I think they are fantastic. I get the mixed organic fruit and veg box which is enough to feed 2-3 people, and find it is definitely enough to feed me and my husband. You can select from a variety of different boxes, including family sized boxes, fruit only boxes, and luxury boxes, and have them delivered weekly, every two weeks, monthly, or as a one off. You can also order extra fruit, vegetables, oils, breads, cheeses, meats, and fish. The produce is all organic, and tastes excellent. On two occasions I have had a pice of fruit arrive in a bad condition, and as soon as they have received my e.mail I have had the price of the item refunded to my account. Things like lettuce and cabbage need a really good wash, and you have to beware that there may be creepy crawlies on the leaves, but for the knowledge that your food hasn't been sprayed with pesticides and chlorine as in the supermarkets, it's definitely worth it. In the winter the lack of variety can be a little off-putting, but that is because the crops are sourced as locally as possible, and obviously here in the UK e don't have the climate for growing things other than root veg in the winter! I have tried a whole variety of things that I would never have tried otherwise, such as romanesco cauliflower, chard, and salsify. The website is extremely easy to navigate and shopping to add extras is all too easy as well! If you go away you can just add your holiday dates to your account, and no delivery will be made between those dates.
Ergh! What's gone wrong with Abel & Cole! It's so frustrating because I so want them to do well! It started off a good idea and it went well for about 4 months but now, come summer, all the food is just not up to standard!
Abel & Cole are market leaders in delivering weekly vegetable and/or fruit boxes right to your door. It boasts a wide selection of farms which help it plump up the contents of its boxes with luscious organic fresh produce. For a box to cover 2 people for the week, it costs £15.95 plus delivery charge.
I'm still fuming about this. Until last month the delivery had been included in the price of the box but for some stupid reason as "we need to now charge for delivery" they've gone and slapped on a 99p delivery charge. OK, fine, it's less than a pound and up until then A&C were saving me about £20 in Tesco shopping every week so I kept it up for a further 4 weeks. However, since then it's gone down hill - read on:
You cannot choose what you like to have in the box, only what you don't like (up to 20 classes of vegetables and fruit). Whilst we like to experiment with our food we found the winter months quite repetitive with the carrots, parsnips and potatoes - there were only so many roasts dinners I could endure before I snapped and craved broccoli! In the winter months, maybe it's because of the root vegetables, the quality was good. Produce would last up right up to the day we were due delivery the following week and our little money saving scheme worked well. However, it is now summer. For the previous 3 boxes, we've had pears going bad within 2 days and tasting bitter(?!), lettuce going mouldy in the fridge and our portions have been significantly reduced (I counted 4 potatoes in the last box!). Terrible AND worse, to rub salt in our wounds, last week (approx the third week of their delivery charge), our box was a whole 16 hours late!! On that day we actually had to wait until the guy deliver our box before my husband could cook!
Today is the last day I'm giving them. If I go home and find that the produce again is not up to scratch, that is it - i'm trying someone else. Also, from just a quick sweep of the market, it looks like that someone else could also be cheaper. Abel & Cole, you're going down the drain!
I am very price sensitive, however aim to feed myself and family the very best q*ality and range of food. I have been receiving deliveries from Able and Cole on a very ad hoc basis as I do try to shop aro*nd. Since shopping with them I have had a n*mber of discont vo*chers sent via the post or on the internet, anything from a free orgainic box worth approx £15.99, to the latest a £25.00 credit following 2 min £15.00 deliveries. Brilliant!
I have tried a range of items from them, generally all that is on special.
I find the mixed organic boxes very good generally, however not really enogh of a range of prodct to feed the family for a week. I think its only for 2-3 days. Items are very fresh, bt really don;t last very long, always ready to eat. Nothing to ripen at home, and nothing terribly exciting in the range of fr*it and veg. The range of meat and fish is fantastic, great val*e and great range. The chicken for instance comes as vario*s c*ts and selections. Free range and free range organic is available. I get the free range large for £10.99, which I think works o*t cheaper than Tesco.
the fish is of excellent q*ality and range, the web also offers recipies and ideas to make the most of the items.
One has the same delivery driver every week, mine is called Peter, I have to say. this makes a massive differnce. All the veg boxes are cardboard, with compartments that seperate things well, and the fresh food, meat and dairy come in wonderfl poly boxes that have ice packs inside. As i have the same driver each week, he knows exactly where to leave the items if we are o*t.
This week I ordered a d*ck liver pate with lemon and ginger wine. I sat and ate the entire pot in one sitting. It was THE most amazing pate I have ever ever had!!!!
The only real negative I have is that they charge £1.00 for delivery, I think given that they only deliver to ones area 1 day a week, they really don't think they need do that.
As I mostly eat organic fruit and vegetables I have been receiving deliveries from Abel and Cole who are specialists in the market.
I first became aware of them last year when I was travelling on a UK airline, and was casually reading an article about organic farming in the free magazine which sits in the seat pocket.
Keith Abel and Paul Cole saw the beginnings of their thriving business in 1988, when they started a door to door potato delivery service in London. It was on one particular day when visiting one of their suppliers that they were left alone for a moment or two in the shed which housed the pesticides. Skulls and crossbones and black hazard warnings were all over the chemicals, and from this moment on they decided they had to move away from this, and concentrate on a more natural based delivery scheme. It had left them both wondering what on earth these chemical cocktails could do to people, if they were as deadly as the labels suggested.
Gradually over the years which followed the business grew from being local to nationwide, and they now deliver to most areas in the UK.
Getting started with them is easy. You just go to www.abelandcole.co.uk and here you will find their home page. The first task which lies ahead of you here is to determine whether or not they deliver in your area, and this is simply achieved by typing your post code into the box on the right of the page. If you are served by them you will have a set day allocated, and this cannot be altered as the driver for your area will cover approx 80 addresses in the day, and it keeps costs and food miles as low as possible if you have a set day.
You don't have to be in, however, as they will leave the box in an allocated place safe awaiting your return.
I have also found their customer service to be excellent, as they will call the day before to give you an update on the estimated time of the day the driver will call. This will depend on the weekly load of orders he has, and his sensible route to get round them all, but it can assist you in planning your day. This is more important if you have added other items to your order as they do a range of foods as well as fruit and vegetables now, so some food will arrive in polystyrene if it is destined for the fridge.
What Can You Order?
The choice is up to you. They sell the boxes which range from very small to suit one or 2 people for a week, up to a large family box for 4 to 5 people ranging from £7.70 to £23.50 respectively, and everything in between. Each Wednesday at 6pm the contents will change reflecting the seasons, so you can log on and see if you fancy what is in there, and you can elect to remove anything you dislike in which case this will mean other items will be increased to compensate.
There is no obligation to purchase a box as you can pick from the extras section and so build your own. This is excellent actually as I grow all my own salad leaves, rocket, herbs and lettuce, so from now to September don't need these crops.
You can log on and amend or cancel your order too. The cut off times for this is clearly shown in the help section and will depend on your delivery day.
They sell fantastic artisan bread; the spelt is particularly good, and a selection of dairy foods, cakes, pies and other whole foods. Wines are available and household products too. There is also a gift voucher to purchase which would make a lovely present for someone special.
There are several advantages and disadvantages in having them as opposed to buying the produce from a supermarket.
If you buy from them week after week, particularly if you set up a weekly delivery with them you are helping them to be able to guarantee a fair price and an order quota for the farmers, so that they know when they plant a crop that it will certainly have a market.
They try whenever possible to make sure that the food is not grown abroad and air freighted. Emphasis is put on seasonal produce and to make best use of them I suggest you think up meals which reflect fresh and seasonal produce, rather than for example choosing to make a squash risotto in March with the main ingredient flown in from Argentina and covered in a plastic wrapper. I say this because I did this myself recently, ordering an organic squash from Waitrose, and when I sat and thought how many miles this chap had flown I was really quite horrified, it was organic but it was not something I felt happy with, and would prefer to make this in the summer when our own squashes are plentiful. In the summer they can supply everything from the UK, but off season you will find some items such as oranges and so on coming in from abroad.
Abel and Cole are also passionate about the animals involved in the production of their milk and other organic items, and this is something which I feel strongly about too.
They are really hot about not over packaging anything and you will not find a cabbage wrapped in plastic in any box from them. You can pop all the boxes outside for the driver who will collect them when he next delivers to you.
For me there is only one and that it reflected in my title of this review. No they don't sell coal, but sometimes you might think they do, as the veg are delivered as they have been picked, soil and all, so be prepared for a washing session as these are not supermarket dressed up, they are the basic crop.
Some people who opt for the box will also find it contains unusual ingredients which if they are novices at cooking could present a problem. Last week I had a Kohlrabi in mine so it certainly presents a challenge!
Of course organic is always expensive and when I had a young family as much as my ethics made me want to buy it, I had to grow it all myself as the cost was too great for a family of 6 which I had. It is, however, only by supporting companies like this that the price should come down as the market expands, but it remains to be seen if it will reduce it enough to bring the cost down to enable families with several children to buy it weekly
My Opinion and Experience.
I have actually been extremely impressed with the quality and the delivery of these boxes and will certainly be using them into the future. Yes it can be a pain to have to thoroughly wash vegetables before cooking them, as they really are straight from the farm to the table, but when I really think about food miles and the plight of the British organic farmer I have to support this firm who are doing so much to change the lives of those involved in growing good healthy crops with no pesticides.
There is a fresh taste about these which is superior in flavour to many plastic wrapped organic items found in supermarkets. The other advantage is that I hope that by buying more British organic produce that in turn we are sure that it really is organic, as I often wonder if standards can be upheld when crops are grown thousands of miles away. By buying organic we are also reducing the number of toxic chemicals which eventually end up in the water and rivers of the UK.
In schools around London they have been running a very successful scheme called "The Farmer's Choice." This scheme has so far rasied over £90,000 for schools. It is a non profit venture by which schools have orders delivered to teachers and parents, and 25% of the profit goes to the schools, and the farmers of course benefit from regular orders too. This also promotes healthy eating and the boxes start from as little as £5.
I think they are the next best thing to an allotment! If you have them you need to think seasonally which is fun, and if you need inspiration Abel and Cole have some great books out which you can either buy or obtain from the library. These books are all about seasonal cookery and compliment their organic deliveries.
I have found them to be trustworthy and reliable and the produce of a high quality. You just have to accept the produce is natural and so it will have the odd blemish and mark, and it will not be scrubbed up for a date but will arrive casual and homely!
This review is also posted on Ciao by myself under the user name Violet1278
I first placed an order with Abel & Cole because they were doing an offer through quidco where you got £5 back for your first order of any amount!! Amd free delivery! Cant complain at that really. I ordered some beefburgers, which were fantastic as you could tell it was a high conten t of meat rather than grain or rubbish! some organic lemon squash, not overly keen but ok, some butter which was delicious..very creamy, and some organic milk, which although said semi skimmed was very creamy so more like full fat.
They were delivered on the day that it stated and left round the back as instructed..all went to plan! They also left a few ice packs surrounding the food in order to keep it cool which I thought was great as I have kept the ice gel packs and reused them in picnic bags! All in all I thought it was a very professional company with high quality produce although at normal prices a bit on the expensive side. Nice for a treat though!
We've been using Abel and Cole for about 18 months and they are generally excellent.
The fruit and vegetable boxes are lovely and often contain things I'd never before heard of, let alone come across in supermarkets - (Khol rabbi, black salsify) It's lovely to get carrots in bunches with the stalks and leaves on, and 'living salad' to put on my kitchen window sill. The presentation is lovely and the customer service excellent. The price of the boxes may seem expensive £23.50 for a mixed box that feeds 4 or 5 people (or 2 - 3 vegetarians) but it really is worth it, especially when you consider it's organic, seasonal, and mostly grown in the UK.
We occasionally buy other products from Abel and Cole although some items are fairly pricey.
One of the best features of Abel and Cole is the ability to banish certain things from your box. You can create a list of dislikes. Each weeks box content are listed on the website, so if one week you happen to be over run with potatoes and you see them on the list, you can click on dislike and you wont get them.
The only disadvantage I can think of is that each area has only one delivery day. This can be a little inconvenient.
I have been using Abel and Cole for about six weeks now and find them to be absolutely brilliant. I originally tried them out when I noticed a cashback offer on Quidco - £10 for a new registration and resulting order within 7 days for over £20. I thought - what do I have to lose? So I ordered the £15 mixed fruit and veg organic box.
How does it work?----------------------------------------------------------
The Abel and Cole website firstly checks if your postcode can be delivered to and lets you know what day their driver is in your area. Mine is a Tuesday which is unfortunately a day I will not be in the house -but this doesn't matter as they will leave the box on your doorstep or in another named safe place.
You select the box you want (or you can order single items instead or to go with such as meat, veg, fish etc) and the frequency you would like it delivered (I get mine every fortnight as you get more than enough). You can then log into the website anything up to a week in advance of your delivery and se whats in the box. You can decide to skip weeks for a certain item ( If often find I have a lot of onions so skip these most weeks) ro exclude it all together if you hate it (Bananas for me).
There is also a facility on your account to record your likes and dislikes in case you forget to check the weekly box -these stay with your account and you get a substitute item instead (a veg for a veg or a fruit for a fruit).
Is it any good?---------------------------------
I have to admit I was a sceptic, but when I got hom that first Tuesday - scrambled through the dodgy pampas grass int he garden to find where my box was hidden, and opened it up, it was like Christmas. You get LOADS and the quality is fantastic.
It's a sad state of affairs when I get excited because my potatoes have dirt on them and my carrots are purple but this is what I do. The taste is brilliant too -not on all items I have to admit, but on most of them you can really tell the organic difference. My favourite are the big floury baking potatoes whihc taste amazing or the tomatoes which have an actual tomato-ey taste and aren't just like fluffy water like supermarket ones.
I have recently downgraded to the small organic box as I find the fruit just goes off while I am out at work all week (we get free fruit at work so I don't need to buy it) - I'll update the review when I receive it and let you know what I think.
I am an Abel and Cole convert without a doubt, I'm eating more veg, I'm cooking more from scratch, I love the surprise element of not knowing what you will get, and I love the slightly new and odd things which crop up (green cauliflower for one).