Until recently I have never subscribed to any kind of food delivery service, being too downright picky to let anyone choose my food for me. I actually like food shopping, though traipsing round supermarkets is a different story.
My shift on the delivery-box front began after finding great wines at bargain prices online. I progressed on to meat when my then-local butcher shut up shop. And though I still prefer to choose my own fresh, seasonal foods, I am currently enjoying a small number of niche products delivered to my doorstep.
I am finally getting the ‘saving of time’ neatly ‘outweighing the cost’ theory and will admit it is quite thrilling wondering what will come next, a buzz I don’t ever recall having in a supermarket.
If you are lucky enough to have a great deli where you live or work then count your blessings, as they are not so easy to come by. (I currently have a 20-mile drive to find one.)
This is why I was particularly attracted to The Good Fork, a Mediterranean-inspired deli-box scheme which comes chock full of seriously interesting, authentic and ethically sourced ingredients.
The box comes neatly and securely packaged with the reassurance that the plasticky-looking protective filler is fully biodegradable and the boxes and leaflets made from 75 per cent recycled materials. Inside there’s a leaflet describing all the products in great detail, giving suggestions on how to use them, a couple of recipes and directions to even more online.
My box contained seven items including chargrilled artichokes from Puglia, a red pepper pâté from Macedonia, Greek anchovies and a jar of Cipolline Borettane (posh pickled onions). Biscuits came from Italy (a box of Baci di Dama) and Spain (Pico Artesanos).
And while you may think pasta is just pasta, the one I received was produced with pure durum wheat and spring water. I can’t imagine easily finding these products in any but the best delis.
I have yet to eat the pasta and the Baci. But with the addition of Spanish hams, a couple of slabs of artisan cheese and a few bottles of good red, we had a delicious mezze supper with friends.
Also, since all the products are non-perishable, you don’t have to gulp everything down immediately – so within a short time you could have a really cool store cupboard.
This classy service comes in at £28.50 (inc p&p) which, given the unusual products and outstanding quality, is a good deal. A nine-item box is £35, and both can be bought on a regular monthly or one-off basis. For a special treat, there’s a limited-edition box containing more unusual goods (as the name suggests these are limited, so when they’re gone, they’re gone). And if you want to get a deal, check out the special high50 offer.
So will you be grazing while you surf? I confess I am a grazer: I can happily nibble my way through snacks all day long. The problem is that those snacks can often be less than healthy so was I glad to be introduced to Graze, which delivers healthy snack boxes by post.
You select from 100 different snacks (not as daunting as it sounds; I did it in ten minutes online). Choose where you want it delivered (home, office, wherever), decide how often, set up payment and that’s it. Healthy snacks come whizzing your way.
I have subscribed for some time and have yet to receive a snack I didn’t like. Each (recyclable) package contains four smaller boxes of snacks. Some sit on my desk and some in the car – which thankfully has saved me from fainting hunger on a couple of occasions.
The price is an amazing £3.79 inc p & p, and you get these neat little vouchers to give to friends so they can try for free (and if they do, you get £1 back or choose to donate it to their charity).
Over a cup of char, perhaps? A great way to discover more about my favourite beverage comes from Tea Horse. With over 1,500 producers in 40 countries across the world, tea is a complex and somewhat daunting subject.
However, for £11.95 a month you can take delivery of a carefully curated selection of four different loose-leaf teas and a pack of very clever hassle-free filters in which to brew them. The delivery comes with information on the teas, the best way to brew and taste, plus the best time to drink and with what.
This month I received Second Flush Assam, rich, full flavoured and black; Keemun Mao Feng, delicate green; and White Peony, fresh, grassy flavoured and white. But my favourite was fragrant Monkey Picked Oolong, which is delicious with a slice of cake or a biscuit. And rest assured, the monkeys no longer do the picking.
Talking of the animal kingdom, a meat boxes is a great alternative if you don’t have a local butcher and want specialist cuts or wild game etc. I have used several, but my current favourite is Chris Wildman at Paganum.
Chris and his family are currently featured on The Dales, the charming documentary series on ITV, and you know that any meat coming from the gorgeous landscape he calls home has to be good. There’s a vast range of quality meat, and you can have anything you want, including his renowned Yorkshire Chorizo. Well worth a try.
Finally, if butchers are something of a rarity these days, then try finding a good fishmonger. But don’t despair! Check out The Cornish Fishmonger. They know about freshness, and even delivered directly to your door, their fish and seafood will always be fresher than the flaccid, grey corpses seen on some supermarket fish counters.
Not that you’ll need to go to them any more…