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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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Playing with slings

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Playing with slings

And there’s another on it’s way! Lets hope small stuff lets me wrap him.. I don’t want to always have to wait until he’s asleep!!

Been having fun in preparation for the new sling library if we get it up and running! First sling meet next week so I need to brush up!

With my 3 I can do:
-Poppins Hip Carry
-Robbins Hip Carry
-Kangaroo TUB (Tied under bum)
-Ruck
-Half Jordans with leg pass (kind of)
-no sew ring sling

With my 7 I can do the above plus
-FWCC
-BWCC

And at some point I’ve managed both a saltwater finish and a candycane chestbelt but need to work on both!

So many more kinds of carry to learn!

ION I’ve lost my sling rings. They were on the sofa, then they weren’t!! I have a witness that they just DISAPPEARED! Help!

Wrapping

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Nope, not a post about christmas!

I thought it was time for another post about “babywearing”. My wrap count is now up to 4! There were two other carriers in the past two- one which I now know isn’t very ergonomic and wasn’t very comfy with his weight anyway and one which I upgraded to something a bit more supportive for a heavier toddler.

So the first kind of carrier I had was something a bit like this:
mothercare carrier
The kind of highstreet carrier you’ll find lots of mums and dads buying. It was given to us and was a great entry into the world of slings and wraps, but wasn’t used for very long.

I was also kindly lent a ringsling by a friend. I’ve heard lots of brilliant things about ringslings- in particular they are good for “quick up and downs” especially with toddlers who want to walk but then get tired.
ringsling
Sadly this one isn’t brilliant and I’ve struggled with it. At first it was fine, with small light baby and I could get it nice and tight. Now the extra weight is uncomfortable on long (more than half a mile) walks and the fabric is hard to adjust as the rings are a bit small for the thickness of the fabric.

Third sling was the first that I bought, having tried a mei tai at a local sling meet. Second hand, this BabyHawke Mei Tai served me really well up until about 10 months old, when he seemed to get a bit too heavy for it, and no matter which kind of carry I tried, his weight pulled at my shoulders.I only worked out how to get him onto my back with help from someone else but it was great when it happened as he could fall asleep whilst I did housework or went for a walk.
mei tai
I promise he’s comfier than he looks! The Mei Tai is a soft structured carrier- a rectangle of fabric with a waist strap that you tie up and two shoulder straps that you can tie in numerous ways to support the baby and be comfortable for you.

I also bought a cheap wrap- it’s a Calin Bleu size “L” which equates to about a “size 6 wrap”. I wanted something lightweight for summer and easy to wrap with as the different fiber blends give the wraps different properties. This was perfect for what I needed, and taught me how woven wraps can spread the weight of your baby as you carry them and support them better.
wrap
This was my first successful attempt at getting baby onto my back by myself with the wrap. It wasn’t perfect but it was safe and we were both comfy!

So I decided I wanted a mei tai with “wrap straps”. These are wider than the normal straps, and are used a bit more like a woven wrap, to spread out the weight better. I looked for a second hand one within budget and struggled to find one, despite being on all the second hand sling forums on facebook! However, someone kindly pointed me towards a company called Bebe Sachi who are a Malaysian Social Enterprise, producing wraps in fairtrade conditions in Bangladesh. Though I found their website impossible to navigate and at one point had paypalled a nice lady on facebook with no idea of whether anything would materialise- they are a wonderfully ethical company and I got great service from them. Even better- if you look after them, their resale value is high. In fact most slings keep a decent resale value, and when I bought my Bebe Sachi wrap strap mei tai and sold the old mei tai, I got back the cost of buying it second hand originally.
Bebe sachi
Another back carry, getting from one part of a wedding to the other. It spreads his weight (now 10.5kg) around my waist and over my shoulders in a way the standard straps can’t. It’s my go-to for easy front carries- and now I’ve figured it out-easy back carries too.

So really my collection (Stash as it’s called in the babywearing business) was done (bar replacing the ring sling if I ever decided to)- except I probably spent too long on the facebook forums and learnt about the Legacy Wrap. A legacy wrap is one that is bought because of a special link to it, and is kept as part of your “permastash” and maybe passed on to your child eventually for them to use. Most people start to look by DOB, then if no special wraps or wraps they like were released on that date, they look at other special dates, colours or word associations to find a really special wrap to them. I used the woven wrap database but this hasn’t been updated since March 2014 or so. I found three wraps that were released on baby D’s birthday.

The first was the Artipoppe Tyger Copper- which is a beautiful design and colour but Artipoppe are very high end wraps and quite hard to get hold of in the UK I believe.
Artipoppe

The second was Natibaby Orchid in the Morea colourway. This one was nice but didn’t shout out to me at all.
Natibaby

The final one had me going “oooh” and made me unable to forget about it! It was the Oscha Okinami in Noir (which is the blend and colourway). It’s a wool, cotton and silk blend, so is very thick and chunky. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I also knew that a)it was expensive and b)it was going to be hard to get hold of but I kept my eyes peeled instead.
Oki

A few months later my wonderful husband asked if I might like one for christmas. I can only imagine the hints I dropped were a little too heavy…..
So I managed to source a size three second hand via the facebook Oscha group and on Christmas day I opened it (having tried a quick wrap with it a few weeks before once it arrived to check all was ok).
Oki me

I’ve never used a size three wrap before, so spent much of the weeks leading up to christmas googling which carries I could do. It turns out that because the wrap is also very thick, it’s quite hard to tie off at the end, making some of the different carries a bit harder! I found this website http://www.wrapyourbaby.com/wovenwraplength.html pretty helpful, and youtube has some great videos too.

Now we are back to normal every day life, I’ve been trying to use the new sling a bit more and get to grips with it. Two mornings going to the childminder and two different wraps tried. Turns out I think I did both of them wrong but they were supportive and safe enough for a 15 minute walk.

Must practice more!

Carpal Tunnel

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So onto the next fun pregnancy symptom!

I’ve been waking up with pins and needles in my fingers every morning for the past few weeks. Over the last week or so, I’ve been finding my knuckle joints really stiff and painful when I first get up in the morning. It takes ages for me to be able to use my hands in the morning.

Apparently in Pregnancy, carpal tunnel in quite normal due to the increased blood flow and swelling in the hands. Of all the things I expected, this was not one of them!

My hands are so swollen in the heat, especially when I exercise. I can’t easily keep my hands raised when I walk or cycle so they tend to throb and swell. My rings already came off, my replacement (larger) ring also came off (which I’m gutted about as I hate not being able to wear my wedding rings) and my feet are following suit (but luckily I don’t wear any rings on my toes!)

hands
During exercise

feet
Fatty feet

Manx Bump

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The bump has been away!

This year (you may have noticed) is pretty full of weddings. And Hen Parties. And Christenings etc etc. Which is excellent and lovely, but doesn’t leave much space for a proper pre-baby holiday. So we had a trip to see family on the Isle of Man at the weekend for our gorgeous niece’s christening. It’s hard to make the most of time away whilst not doing “too much”. It also doesn’t help that it’s very hard to gauge what “too much” is until it’s over!

Friday our flight was delayed, and I found out how tiring it is to travel whilst pregnant. Even an easy journey like the one we take to the Island. Friday night was very relaxing with early bed, then Saturday the husband and I drove up to the Point of Ayre at the northern most point of the island to my favourite beach on the island. Luckily the weather was good (by Manx standards) and we saw some sunshine and a lot of wind.


Bump on the beach

We did a little shopping in Ramsey (including going into a lovely baby clothes shop where we restrained ourselves!) and then headed to Peel to watch some Viking boat races. They were actually time trials, which were done by over 80 teams getting ever drunker as they waited for their turn. Not much for spectators but we had an ice-cream (most of which was dropped down the bump) and then headed off to spend time with our niece before popping back to base camp for a shower and then out for dinner! Aunty S kindly lent me some maternity clothes, so I wore one lovely dress on our date! (Never mind dropping food all down it- thank you to the gods of Vanish spray as I’ve managed to get all the stains out!!)

(Here wearing a scarf so you couldn’t see the stains and looking absolutely nothing like me).

Sunday was the Christening, so we met my parents for a cuppa at their hotel and then headed to the church. Ceremony was relatively short and sweet, and we found out how easy it is to become godparents! The weather stayed nice and we sat outside all afternoon enjoying a nice buffet and chatting in the sun.

Niece was beautifully behaved all day and seemed to really enjoy all the fuss and cuddles!
Christening day

Now back home and back to work!