Monthly Archives: July 2015

Review: Riverford Organic Veg Box

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Review: Riverford Organic Veg Box

Time for another review.

Although my small person is pretty fussy with food, it hasn’t stopped us trying to ensure he gets a good variety of healthy, home made meals. Our diet is in no way perfect- neither of us eat enough fruit and veg most days and we both enjoy a drink. We don’t really believe in faddy eating- detoxes, diets, sugar free, “paleo” or “carb free” eating. However we do believe in home made good hearty food. We drink full fat milk, and enjoy cheese and real butter. We eat carbohydrates with most meals and balance that with protein, vegetables and grains. We don’t eat much “processed” food- from jars or packets, and as a consequence happily add sugar and salt to recipes where required. We probably eat “too much” meat, and definitely too much processed meat, though if I were more confident in my cooking I’d cook more fish and more vegetarian dishes.

When we moved in together we decided we needed to at least try some kind of organic veg box. Initially it didn’t work out for us in our last property due to our lifestyle amongst other things but we started back up with Riverford 5 years ago and have been enjoying seasonal treats and cooking challenges ever since.

From Riverford’s website:

The Riverford box scheme began when Guy Watson started delivering vegetables locally to 30 friends in Devon. We now deliver around 47,000 boxes a week to homes around the UK from our regional farms.

Things I like about this kind of vegetable box scheme:

  • It supports small scale local businesses not just the huge supermarket chains
  • Attention is paid to all kinds of ethics across the company from freighting options to packaging to staff and animal welfare
  • Prices are comparable with larger businesses
  • Personal touch of notes from Guy and new recipes every week
  • The challenge of a new vegetable

Riverford offer a huge range of different size and style of vegetable boxes, plus they do fruit boxes, meat, dairy produce, recipe boxes and much more. This means that you can just supplement your usual weekly shop with a box delivered to your door, or if you choose can get the majority of your grocery and some store cupboard essentials all directly from Riverford. Most boxes contain onions, potatoes and carrots (or another root vegetable) but you can also get their “less root veg” box which doesn’t contain the above if you prefer. They also do fruit boxes for workplaces, veg & meat combination boxes or you can just make up your own order. The system remembers you order and places the order each week/fortnight depending on the regularity you’ve selected and takes the payment directly from your account.

We used to get a “Seasons vegbox” but a couple of years ago Riverford changed around their offerings. We now get a “Large Fruit and Veg box” plus 1litre of milk and 6 eggs every fortnight at a cost of £21.95 (£10.96 per week). This is quite comparable to the box we used to get, as most of what you receive from Riverford is seaonal anyway. Most of it is grown on UK farms any anything from abroad is grown in fair trade co-operatives and never air freighted.

Riverford describe our large fruit and veg box as follows:

Eating a healthy, wholesome diet is easy with our large organic fruit and veg box. Packed with 7 different varieties of veg and 3 varieties of fruit, all of our produce is freshly picked and full of seasonal flavour. We only give you what’s ripe and ready for eating in our fields so box contents change throughout the year, giving you enough variety to keep everyone in the family happy. From crisp sugar snap peas to tart, tangy rhubarb, this fruit and vegbox is a winning combination of seasonal fruit and veg at its best.

We don’t use Riverford for all our fruit&veg needs, but for our family of three it builds the basis of our meal planning for about 3/4 of the fortnight before the next box arrives. This means that we’re guided by the items in there but not limited to them, the best of both worlds I say! Either when the box arrives, or before it arrives if I’ve got to do a shop, I take a look online to see what we are getting then purchase what else we need around that.

Our last veg box arrived 8 days ago, and we’ve eaten about 3/4 plus of what’s in the box.

In our veg box last week was:

  • bunched carrots
  • corgettes
  • broad beans
  • potatoes
  • globe artichokes
  • some kind of cabbage
  • complimentary basil leaves
  • mixed lettuce leaves
  • cherry tomatoes
  • bananas
  • nectarines
  • blackcurrants

I thought I’d show you what I’ve done with some of it!

I’ve made a few salads, drizzled in balsamic glaze or with goats cheese and sundried tomatoes.

I’ve drunk tea when working at home or at the weekends and had a cheeky post-workout banana

A make-it-up-as-you-go-along saussage and vegetable stew with potato and carrot mash which was approved of by all the family, including the fussy eater

There have been breakfasts- eggs on top of marmite on toast before a workout or porridge with fruit for long days at work

There was a slow cooker curry into which lots of green things were thrown

And I conquered my nemesis- broad beans by making a bean-puree, which was mixed with a kind of home made pesto using the basil that came in the box too, served with chicken legs on a bed of mixed grains.

And finally I’ve been nibbling these lovely cherry tomatoes like little sweets.

Not bad at all for 8 days of nutrition.

There’s still the globe artichokes to eat- I’ve learnt my lesson with them in terms of which bits you can and can’t eat, and have a wonderful lemon and artichoke pilaf recipe I hope to use again this week. Apart from that there’s a few potatoes and some carrots left, plus a a handful of  blackcurrants which were so wonderfully tangy I could only eat them in small amounts.

Are there negatives?

I think it depends on how adventurous you are. I love to cook and love cooking for my family, and thoroughly enjoy the challenge of looking at the veg box and working out a)what everything actually is (you can check online for anything you’re not sure about) and b)what on earth I’m going to do with it.

Something that’s helped with this enormously is the white board we have up in the dining room where we try to plan and write onto it our meals for most days of the week (alongside working days, childminder pickups, shoppings lists and social activities). Riverford also produce useful recipe cards with every box, they have a great recipe book which I own and they also have a whole page on their website dedicated to recipes.

If you are not adventurous or are very limited in terms of what fruit and veg you like, this might not be for you, however I’d recommend trying it as you might be surprised. There are very few vegetables that we don’t eat and I’ve managed to tackle a few of them- including broad beans (recipes like this Broad Bean Dip) and make something I like. I’ve learnt so much about different seasonal fruit and vegetables- I make a mean celeriac and blue cheese soup, I can make great coleslaw and I know how to tackle the different kinds of green cabbage type things from pak choi to spring greens and spinach.

Some people think this kind of thing is expensive, although Riverford have a great Price Comparison Page showing how their organic fruit and veg measures against most the large UK supermarkets and they tell you their method for working it out too. Having said that one reason we don’t order meat and so on is because (although it is lovely as we shared a large order with a friend before) that does work out quite expensive as far as I can tell.

There are other Veg Boxes avaialable including Abel and Cole and also some more local companies in some areas. Other people have looked at more than one company- Jorg&Olif have a comparison review on their site and good old Mumsnet have a discussion thread (though the first comment already had me remembering why I left such a catty, silly forum). All I can say is that we did have Abel and Cole in our old house and there must be a reason that we switched but I can’t think what it was now!

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22 months

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So we are but a summer away from turning two over here. And what’s going on?

Well there are actual (almost) sentences going on. He knows who he is, and some of his friends’ names (or just one name on repeat). He can demand to go to the P.A.R.K (People’s Democratic Republic of Korea as we call it) or to see MAMNALS (Pets at Home on a lazy day, a local farm on a weekend) and is growing ever more sure of himself. We’ve even had a wee in a potty today (though three poo’s on the floor in the last 10 days….). I’d add we’re not potty training per se- but maybe potty encouraging (the concept of training a toddler or baby makes me feel uneasy!).

We are still going to Buggyfit (woo!) once a week, he attends Tumble Tweenies with the childminder and sometimes we make it to Sling Swing on a Friday. I’d like to do one proper class a week (preferably swimming) but the only suitable location (walkable) only has one lesson on a day we can make and it signs up too fast which is a shame.

He’s still going “up” in a wrap when tired which is really useful to help get him to sleep but also means we can get things done (today it was a 4 mile walk, but it y’know, could be housework!).

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Pride

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Pride

On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending London Pride. This might seem tangential from the general parenting theme of this blog, but I assure you it’s all linked.

My reason for specifically attending this year was that I was invited by Fujitsu. It’s a bit complicated, but essentially they decided this year to attend Pride, where the theme was “Pride Heroes”. Fujitsu’s reasonably new LGBT group (18 months old) decided to use Alan Turing as their Pride Hero, which made perfect sense with Fujitsus former company’s links to the Bombe machine that Turing created. Alan Turing happens to have been my Great Uncle which is a slightly tenuous connection and is really just genetics rather than anything special that I (or my family) have really done. However it’s a really wonderful family link. Alan’s work (as all work at Bletchly Park) during the war was guarded by the official secrets act, and as a consequence people didn’t really know who he was or what he did. Even in 2009 after John Graham Cummings petitioned the government to pardon Alan for his prosecution for being homosexual, it was reported that there were no living relatives. Actually quite a few of us, but that’s another story. It’s been a strange old few years- to go from a situation where it was thought that he had no living relatives, to the film premiere in 2014 which I believe 26 family members attended, to being invited to Gay Pride.

Whilst I appreciate that some members of the family have their own memories of Alan, and that he was mostly a private man who might have found the fanfare of being labelled a hero and having his face paraded through London, to many people he was a hero- both for his amazing work in mathematics, computing and in biology too but also for being famously gay in the 1940s when it was highly illegal. So I was proud to be asked by Fujitsu to attend the march with them, and did so alongside my second cousin Tom. Alan’s legacy has brought bits of the family closer together- Tom lives in the West Country and is a good few years younger than me, so it was a great opportunity to catch up  as we don’t get to see each other very often.

I arrived about 11:30 at Fujitsu on Baker Street and was welcomed with colour tshirts, friendly faces and wonderful doughnuts- which was a good thing as I had missed lunch and it was a long, hot day! We had some speeches, took some photographs and then headed off to our position in section E. It was a long way back- though we were next to the Android float which was very noisy and lots of fun- it kept us going for the 3 hours we stood in position before we set off.

I met lots of wonderful people both in the parade and in the crowd. The atmosphere was so positive and engaging, and whilst we were marching a number of times we heard chants of “Alan! Alan!” when the crowd saw out placards. It really was quite skin-tingling and overhwelming at times. Afterwards Fujitsu took us to Champagne Charlies for a well earned drink and some nibbles before we had to set off home.

As a claim to fame on top of this, we made it onto BuzzfeedGay Star NewsChannel 4 NewsThe IndependentInternational Business TimesThe MirrorLondon Pride’s official Faecbook pageFujitsu NewsBBC Berkshire Interivew with Sarah WalkerOut in The City magazineCity AM and Days Out In London to name a few media moments!

So why is this relevant to a parenting blog?

I think it’s hugely relevant.It’s about how we see the world and what kind of world we live in. I guess I use the term “world” loosely as there are many places still in which homosexuality is illegal which in the UK just seems so backwards and barbaric. I want my child to grow up in a world in which his gender or sexual preference are not an issue. I’ve mentioned gender at length before when discussing my volunteer work Let Toys Be Toys and I think that a more tolerant society is a very important thing and should not be underestimated. So what if he wears pink or plays with dolls? What’s the “worst” that will happen? I want to encourage him to be a caring, kind and considerate person, regardless of anything else. And playing with dolls or wearing pink won’t make that happen, but I certainly won’t be sending him the message that his choices for play, or clothing are limited based on his sex.

And we’re not just talking really about sexuality, we’re talking about the ability to be different from the perceived “norm” and for it to be ok. For it to be more than ok. I am one of a huge swathe of people that were bullied at school for not being the same as everyone else. And as an adult, I’m proud of the choices that I’ve made and the ability to be myself, but it’s taken a long time to get to this point. Your sexuality isn’t something that you choose, but it is something that you, and others choose to accept, and the more tolerant and understanding we can be of different lifestyles to our own really is key to to where we live being a better and safer place to live.

#nopoo one month on

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It’s been a month since my last post about going #nopoo.

The facebook NoPoo group is brilliant with lots of really helpful group files which explain and link to all the different methods of #nopoo (and #lopoo), trouble shooting, advice and photos.

I decided that the bicarb washes weren’t really working for me, mostly it seems because we are in a hard water area. It was increasing the waxiness in the texture (although it looked ok, it felt yucky) and was drying out the ends even with the vinegar rinse. So after a bit of research and two (homemade) apple sauce masks to reduce the waxiness I tried an egg wash. Oh my word, this was quite something. It didn’t help that our shower hose was on it’s last legs and I knew I had to rinse with cold water. However with the hose falling apart it would only do ice cold water, which gave me brain freeze for about 2 hours after. Despite this, it was amazing. I just mixed two eggs (could have done one) with a little water and applied it to dry hair. I rubbed it into the scalp and massaged it to the ends and left it for about 5 minutes. It was a very messy process! Then I just rinsed it carefully with cold water. I didn’t follow it with a rinse and my hair was beautifully soft for a few days after.

Egg washes aren’t to be used too often as the protein can affect your hair texture, so I’ve not done another since. However, I’d heard the virtues of rye flour being discussed and as it turns out to be readily available in the baking aisle, I thought I’d try it as a wash. It’s best to at least sieve it first as it’s a very “bitty” flour, and even then you need to carefully brush out your hair afterwards as it ends up with lots of flakes in. I might try steeping the flour in a tea strainer or muslin in the future  and just use the “milk” from it as I often wash and then go straight out so it’s hard to sit there and brush the bits out. However it’s a lovely “wash”- leaving my hair feeling very nice. I tend to follow it with a cide vinegar rinse to moisurise. I’m trying to wash with rye flour once a week and then just use a rinse inbetween. This seems to be working as 2 months in my hair is starting to feel wonderful. It still looks a bit greasy on inbetween days, but it’s definitely much better.

I also had a go at “plopping” (ridiculous name) which involves wrapping your hair in a tshirtafter a wash and it helps your natural curl by reducing frizz and lifting at the roots. I’m not sure it worked for me, though if I did it again I’d use some kind of coconut oil or aloe vera to help my hair hold the curl!

All a bit of a fun experiment. It’s interesting how much of life is mind over matter (I’ve noticed this in a few areas recently). Because I’m trialling #nopoo, I don’t mind if my hair looks totally crap. I’ll try to make it look nice but if it doesn’t I’m resigned to it. However, pre #nopoo I would get quite stressed if my hair looked awful! I guess I know I’m doing something nice for my hair, taking away them chemicals and reducing the number of times a week/month I wash it and agitate it, meaning that I’m giving it lots of lovely natural products and giving it a bit of a break.

I guess in the long run, this will ideally be a way of cutting down time spent washing my hair. I’ve got a fun toddler to be hanging around with and I want to enjoy more of his company!