Tag Archives: decisions

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!

December update!

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I have a feeling this is going to be a bitty one!

As of tomorrow I have a 15 month old (which seems ridiculous really). He’s running around like crazy, shouting and pointing, articulating a few words but understanding so much more. Even “Can you put the toy in your other hand so mummy can do your other sleeve?”. He likes to crash his toy cars saying “craaash”.

Baby (toddler?!) has been through a bit of a stressful clingy phase (which sounds actually quite normal when speaking to friends with similar age children) but he’s seemingly coming out of the other side, punctuated by a three day refusal to go to bed in the evening, regardless of daytime naps or any other factors! 11pm bed time (at least two hours later than MY preferred bed tim) three nights running with the first night involving very little sleep at all for the three of us, and all nights involving co-sleeping from the start. Teamed with a kitten scratching at the door from 5am, we weren’t our very cheery selves on Saturday. He’s feeding a huge amount at night still, which makes the potential to not be here in the evening (for whatever reason) rather impossible.

The weather has taken a turn towards proper winter from happily plus 10 celcius to minus three on Saturday morning and I’m still struggling to get baby’s layers right. I can’t get gloves with individual fingers on him, but mittens annoy him because he can’t pick things up or play with them. Think I should buy some nice warm tights to go under his clothes though as I worry about chilly legs when he’s walking or in the sling!

Been trying to think what Christmas pressies to buy for him and other small people we know, and I’ve been using the Let Toys Be Toys recommended retailers list.

Let Toys Be Toys is a parent led campaign to try to reduce the tired old gender stereotypes that are proliferated by some retailers, toy companies and publishers.

It’s something I’ve always felt very strongly about as a “tomboy” child, from a young age a feminist, and especially now as a parent. I find myself relieved that I didn’t have a girl because far apart from not being a “pink” person myself, I think girls in particular are marketed to in a really negative way. For example-selling separate sticker books for “Clever Boys” and “Beautiful Girls” further reinforces the sad stereotyping of women being only good for looking pretty. Selling medical fancy dress outfits that contain “Doctor kits for Boys” and “Nurse kits for Girls” sends out a powerful message about the expectations of girl’s future and career prospects. “Boys” toys turned pink and marketed towards girls, gives a strong impression that girls aren’t really welcome to play with trains/ toolkits/cars, and that they need some special kind of treatment. Even Lego- one of the toys I enjoyed playing with most as a child for hours on end with both my sister and my two half-brothers are now marketing pink “Girls” lego bricks. I certainly never had any issues with playing with boring old red/yellow/green/blue Lego (or should that be “Boys Lego”?)

I now volunteer for Let Toys Be Toys and it has opened my eyes even further to the whole issue- through the way the toy makers and publishers/ authors create a huge imaginary gender divide to suggest that girls and boys not only NEED separate things, but then the active promotion of this divide to ensure it’s upheld. I have spoken to some friends and family who don’t really understand why it matters, but if I want the world to be a better place, I feel it’s really important that my son grows up understanding that whilst yes, there are inevitably some differences between men and women, that children and adults can choose their own path. That even children are able to make some decisions for themselves- even if it’s just what kind of toy they want to play with. This is the 21st century. I don’t want my son to believe that women are good for nothing other than looking pretty and doing the housework, I need him to know that women can be whoever or whatever they want. As part of that I don’t want him to think that there’s any inherent weakness in being emotional, liking playing with dolls, wearing pink or anything that is sadly still considered “sissy” or “girly”. And If I can bring him up to be a well rounded individual who respects both men and women equally, and at the same time can help spread the message and get people to think, even if it’s just briefly, about the stereotypes in their mind that they project onto children, then I think it is important. Of course I should add the caveat that if your son loves football, dinosaurs and robots, whilst your daughter loves One Direction, sparkles, kittens and fairies- this is of course fine. However, the key factor is that these decisions are made by the individuals, through experiencing lots of different things. The current tag line being used by LTBT is “Tell them what it is, not who it’s for” which I think says it all.
LTBT logo

And a great blog post here about “What do Toys have to do with inequality”?

Not sure what else there is to say that’s baby related to I’ll leave it there for now! Hopefully some food for thought?

Gender stereotyping

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Someone linked me to this http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/cbeebies-sid-to-present-let-toys-be-toys-toymark/. This is something I feel very strongly about-gender stereotyping from a young age. We had so interest in finding out if baby D was to be a boy or girl because we were just so excited about having a baby. The gender made no major difference to us-we had no plans to prepare specifically for either gender.

The only difference we had in mind was to be the name of the baby.

I was surprised how many friends offered us second hand clothes-but only when they knew whether our baby was to be a boy or a girl. I was also surprised by gender specific cards, wrapping paper and presents. This is not to suggest we were ungrateful for any  presents or hand me downs!

Our baby may be a boy. He is to grow up in a household where his mother likely works part time and does much of the childcare and his father works full time and is the main bread winner. This is just how it is in our house hold and I’m not proud of it. If they’re was a financially viable way of this not being the case then we would seriously consider it.

However, he will not grow up wearing only Blue clothes with cars and trucks on. He will not grow up being given only cars and guns and ‘boys’ toys to play with. He will not be encouraged to only get involved with ‘boys’ activities like football.  If he wants to do ballet  and play with dolls, so be it!

We hope he may share some interests with us-cycling, walking. We hope he might be artistic or sporty but we will not limit him to gender specific expectations.

This week he wore a dress and tights!

And quite a few second hand and present Halloween outfits!

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A more serious topic

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(copied from my personal journal)

Apart from the kitchen, the other thing I’m feeling stressed about is the discussion about new vs secondhand mattresses for baby stuff. I’ve never really thought too hard about these things- as I’m generally happy with second hand things for… everything really. If things are clean and smell nice and are in good condition, I’m happy about them.

I’ve noticed other mums-to-be being very obsessed with new things on the whole, so I’ve usually ignored it as they’re clearly just different people to me, but the discussion about new mattresses for cots and moses baskets is confusing me. Someone linked me to this study on BMJ about increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome with previously used matresses. Part of the problem is that this study shows increased risk of SIDS with a second hand mattress, but no cause and effect. This appears to be due to other factors i.e socio-economic. I guess that it’s likely that those more likely to be using second hand mattresses are from more deprived areas and will be more likely to be affected by a number of other factors (poor health/information/smoking etc) which are hard to seperate out in real life studies like this.

We’ve got a second hand cot and moses basket, with second hand mattresses. We’ve cleaned everything we can, but I don’t know what to do. I know the home they’ve come from. They’re clean and in great condition and I’m loathe to throw them away and buy new ones, seems so pointless. The worst thing about being a parent (or parent to be) is other people’s neurosis and fear and pressure that gets put onto you and with conflicting information that changes every 5 seconds, it’s hard to make your way through the information to make informed, sensible choices. Hard work 😦

Opinions

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It’s an interesting and well observed phenomena that pregnancy and raising children is something of a free-for-all in terms of commenting on other people’s choices and opinions.

It would be ill advised and unexpected for me to walk up to a stranger in the street and berate them for their decisions about giving their 2 year old a big mac and sugary drink, whilst it’s entirely expected and “normal” for people to make comments openly to pregnant women about their every day decisions.

When you are pregnant there are lots of things you are advised not to do- in particular the list of food on the NHS website to avoid during pregnancy. Most of it is relatively easy, but the list changes frequently and it is hard to keep up. I spent about 3 months avoiding smoked salmon when I really fancied it just because I thought it was off the list! I know people who have smoked, drunk and drowned themselves in blue cheese during their pregnancies and I also know women who have been terrified of anything and everything (including many who have got rid of pets and denied themselves a daily cup of tea).

I’d like to think I’m safely in the middle for this one- whilst I am trying to keep abreast of The List and where I can in every day life avoid those things I should avoid, I haven’t been devoid of all fun! I’m allowing myself the odd glass of wine now and then, but avoid unpasturised and blue cheese 99% of the time. I’m also trying not to eat soft boiled eggs, pate and uncooked meat. I do drink tea, but not excessively and happy to drink decaf tea instead. I went to a fantastic steak restaurant at the weekend with the girls and had my meat much better cooked than I would have wanted to, but a risk worth avoiding.

This risk factor is all about Listeria (bar caffeine and alcohol), although interestingly one of the highest risk food items for listeria is from cold or reheated rice, which doesn’t feature anywhere on the NHS list. The other major risk stated during

Life is full of risk- in the home, outside the home…. and life is all about managing risk. I plan to still ride my bike (although I’m not able to complete the same mileage I once was) as long as I am comfortable and able to, and I will enjoy a glass of champagne at the weddings I am attending this year. I will no doubt be judged for this, but I am comfortable with my decisions.

It’s amazing what people find to comment on though, from choices whether or not to have a drink or a slice of unpasturised cheese, to how many children we plan to have, our decision to find out the babie’s gender (we’re not!), whether we use a dummy or breast feed…..

In other news we’ve had two wonderful surprise gifts from strangers!
A friend of my mothers- from her wood carving class has sent us over a gorgeous little Beatrix Potter Jeremy Fisher toy, and then today our lovely neighbour Iris brought around a beautiful hand knitted blanket for the baby, which was made by her 88 year old sister in law who lives in Cumbria! Thank you Sue and thank you Olive!


Niece Sophie enjoying a chew on Jeremy Fisher


New blanket.

Catchup

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This was my first full week back at work and boy has it been hard. Apart from work and sleep I’m not sure I’ve achieved anything. Actually, having said that we’ve just about chosen a new kitchen and I spent 3 1/2 hours shaking a tin outside tescos for Marie Curie this morning… So not a total loss!

I can feel my belly starting to expand (pizza or baby?)  And am starting to feel more confident with 12wks looming now.

It’s amazing how many annoying little side effects come with pregnancy, most too base and indecent to mention on here and all (so far) utterly unpleasant!

Luckily I’m not naive enough to pin all my hopes on the second trimester including things like blooming or looking radiant, having glossy hair and beautiful skin…. having bundles of energy and all that. If it happens, Bring It On… But I’d give all that to not feel sick. To be able to have enough energy to attend aquanatal and pregnancy yoga on top of a full week of work and to maybe not crawl into bed at every given opportunity!

I’m also desperate to find the creativity and energy to start a proper pregnancy photography project (PPPP we can call it!). I love photography and do a lot of self portrait work (when I go public with The News I will no doubt display some here!) but have struggled to research and experiment with bump (or bump to be) pictures with my lack of energy and focus.

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Have a picture of some bits of kitchens……

I’ve made a puny start, but plan to try much harder as the weeks go on and I grow ever rounder!