Veg box sales rocketed by 111% in just six weeks at the beginning of the first lockdown, with Covid-19 driving demand for fresh, healthy food that could be home delivered. Some of the usual veg box companies even struggled to cope; many had to put waiting lists in place and turn away new orders.
Luckily, it wasn’t long before local businesses stepped up to fill the gaps, and existing veg box schemes found ways to adapt and expand. As a result there is now plenty of choice when it comes to finding a scheme that works for you.
And the best news? New research suggests that for every £1 spent by customers on veg box schemes or farmers’ markets, a further £3.70 is generated in social, economic and environmental value.
How to Choose a Veg Box Scheme
There are lots of variables to consider when choosing a veg box scheme – from convenience, to cost, to your confidence in the kitchen. I use my veg box subscription for staples like potatoes and carrots, but also to get more creative in the kitchen; it helps me to break away from bog-standard peas and broccoli, and cook with varieties of veg that I normally wouldn’t pick up.
It’s also been a really easy way for me to get more organic produce into my diet. ‘Organic’ is a farming system and method of food production built on the principles of ecology, fairness, health and care. It’s a method of farming that considers the entire food system, from soils and farm animals to the health of people, nature and the planet. Many of us want to make better food choices to support people, animals and our environment, and eating more organic produce is a simple way to do this – this blog post has more detail on the benefits of ‘organic’.
To find a veg box scheme that works for you, think about what’s important to you. Is it cost? Convenience? Sustainability? Think about how much fruit and veg you already eat, as well as the varieties of veg you’d like to cook with. This handy blog post details how to cook with a veg box in a way that will limit food waste and help you get the most from what you’ve bought.
These are the veg box schemes currently available in Cardiff (I have previously received #gifted items from some of these brands, but I was not obliged to blog about them):
Blaencamel is a 50-acre farm based in the Aeron Valley, Ceredigion with a truly local ethos – in fact it doesn’t sell any of its vegetables further afield than South Wales. Instead, their organic produce is distributed through a veg box delivery scheme, and at farmers markets (see below).
For £12 you can get a small/medium organic veg box delivered to your front door. The boxes are truly sustainable; made up on the day of harvest, meaning yields and demand can fluctuate. There are typically 6 items in the small/medium box, but in unusual times, there may be repetition and multiples of some items.
To find out more, sign up to their newsletter by contacting email@example.com, or watch this short film about the farm’s sustainable ethos.
Kemi’s Cafe launched their own veg box delivery scheme during the first lockdown, and thanks to healthy demand, it has since become a regular thing; their (non organic) veg boxes are delivered locally on a Thursday. Kemi’s ‘locally sourced’ veg boxes cost £15 and can be delivered to Cardiff / Barry / Penarth / Taffs Well.
To find out more, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Welsh Food Box Company
The Welsh Food Box Company delivers to Cardiff, Newport, Bridgend & Vale of Glamorgan. Their boxes always contain staples such as potatoes and carrots, and you can let them know if there’s anything you don’t want in your box.
The Welsh Food Box Co selects organic produce from ‘local growers’, but they also supplement their boxes with produce from further afield in order to offer an interesting variety throughout the year (though it’s never air-freighted). Organic boxes range from £13 – £25.
Find out more at: www.welshfoodboxcompany.com/collections/organic-boxes.
Sullivans Fruit & Veg
This greengrocers, based inside Cardiff Central Market (opposite Ashton’s Fishmongers) also have an online shop which offers a range of fruit & veg boxes for local home delivery. All of the boxes are non-organic, from a variety of sources, and cost between £16 – £33 each.
To find out more, visit: https://cardiffgreengrocer.ecwid.com.
Penylan Pantry pride themselves on offering produce and products which meet at least three of the following principles; low food miles; organic and/or Fairtrade; quality; unique; and /or from a cooperative, social enterprise or sustainable business. Though they don’t offer home deliveries, they run their organic veg box scheme as a local ‘click & collect’ service. Boxes cost between £15 – £30.
For more information you can DM them on Instagram.
Paul’s Organic Veg
Farmer farmer Pawel grows organic vegetables and fruits on a 16-acre plot in Monmouthshire; he also supplies restaurants in and around Cardiff (like my local, Nook). You can find out more about the relationship between small growers and local, independent restaurants in this post.
Pawel currently has space for a few new customers in the Cardiff and Abergavenny areas. For more info, email email@example.com.
Riverside Farmer’s Market
Riverside Market is the original Cardiff Farmers’ Market and can be found weekly opposite Principality Stadium. The market is widely recognised as one of the key food attractions in the Welsh capital, for local residents and visitors alike.
Veg box home deliveries are available with market regulars Blaencamel Farm & Paul’s Organic Veg (mentioned above); to sign up for either of those schemes, contact the individual businesses directly. Alternatively, you could head to the market in person to pick up your veg, and grab some delicious breakfast pastries at the same time.
Find out more at: www.riversidemarket.org.uk/riversidemarket
Carter Fruit & Veg
Carter Fruit & Veg is a family run business based in Cardiff, offering a weekly delivery service with no delivery charge on orders over £10. Originally established in 1982, they have been serving customers a full range of fresh fruit and vegetables with minimal packaging for over 35 years.
Mixed boxes of fruit & veg start at £10. To find out more, visit: www.carterfruitandveg.co.uk.
Splo-Down is a local, not-for-profit, co-operative bringing affordable food to Splott, Adamsdown, and Tremorfa. They purchase and distribute good food affordably, and hold a weekly member-run market stall based in the Oasis Centre every Wednesday.
Locals can pre-order and collect a locally sourced mixed vegetable box for as little as £3.50. ‘Solidarity Veg Boxes’ are also available; based on an ethic of solidarity rather than charity, these free veg boxes are for anyone who might be struggling to afford food. If you feel able, you can pay for a solidarity veg box for someone in need by clicking here.
To find out more, visit: https://splo-down.org.
Wellocks was originally designed for chefs, but during Covid19, they launched ‘Wellocks at Home’. They now offer home deliveries of the same top-quality produce that they used to supply to Michelin-starred restaurants. This includes seasonal fruit and vegetables, but also artisan cheese and speciality eggs, and what they call ‘trade-secret pantry essentials’.
Veg boxes start at £15. To find out more, visit wellocksathome.co.uk.
Boxini curates fresh groceries from independent, local shops in South Wales, so that you can get them delivered straight to your doorstep. This is a convenient way to shop, but also a way to discover new, exciting and up & coming brands in the Cardiff area.
Boxini’s fresh fruit and veg selections come straight from Sullivan’s in Cardiff Central Market (mentioned above). To find out more, visit: boxini.co.uk/collections/green-grocer.
Having launched in London a couple of years ago, this veg box scheme has *just* expanded its reach to Cardiff. By going directly to farmers, asking what they’ve got too much of and what’s in season, Oddbox cuts out the supermarkets and reduces the amount of food chucked away (due to not meeting their strict / ridiculous standards). Better for the planet, and better for your plate. Their small box, priced at £12.99, includes a whopping seven varieties of veg and three types of fruit, and promises to “save 4 kgs of CO2e & 854 litres of water from being wasted“. Epic!
For £10 off your first Oddbox, use this link and enter my name (Jane Cook) in the referrals box at the check out.
Despite being deeply passionate about supporting local businesses, I wanted to include Riverford in this list because I have been a happy customer for about 2.5 years now, after signing up on a whim at the 2018 Abergavenny Food Festival.
It might seem odd for me to be getting my veg from a company who are not particularly ‘local’, but I just love the way that Riverford do business. The site is easy to navigate, the orders are easy to customise, I like the variety, and I can add organic extras like bread, milk and seasonal specials, as and when I need to.
But it’s about more than convenience for me; they are also a certified B-corp, meaning that they meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. They’re employee owned, do lots of work on investigating and reducing their reliance on single-use packaging, and even publish their own sustainable food magazine, Wicked Leeks.
Riverford’s produce comes from a group of growers, producers and small-scale organic family farms in the UK and Europe, though nothing is ever air-freighted.
You can check out the Riverford website to find out more about their ethos and approach.
So Which Veg Box Scheme is Right for You?
My best advice when choosing a box that works for you is to experiment with a few different options; most veg box suppliers will give you the option of ordering as a one-off.
I have found that a fortnightly ‘medium’ seasonal veg delivery from Riverford works best for me, with top-ups from Oddbox, and seasonal specials from locals like Riverside Farmer’s Market. I actually went all out on an ‘Autumn Pumpkins Box’ from Sullivan’s Fruit & Veg last year and ended up with a whole 10 kilos of locally-grown squashes to get through. You can see some of what I ended up making with them over on Instagram.
If you’re still in two minds about signing up to a veg box scheme, drop me a DM on social media – I’m always up for a bit of nerdy veg chat. And if I’ve unwittingly missed out a local scheme (available in Cardiff), please let me know and I’ll add them to the list.