The best places to buy food online

Updated on 16 February 2011 | 0 Comments

It's great being able to pick out fresh produce for yourself, but what are you missing out on by dismissing home deliveries?

There’s nothing more pleasing than rocking up at a farmer’s market on a bright and crisp Sunday morning, finding yourself surrounding by gorgeous fresh produce that was grown in the farm down the road by the very farmer who’s manning the stall.

Unfortunately, for most of us who live in the real world, popping down to the farmer’s market every Sunday isn’t practical, it involves getting up early (a crime on a Sunday) and you have to fight past the hoardes of middle-class folk just like you who are desperately trying to get their hands on the latest must-have vegetable.

Instead, you opt for the reassuring familiarity of the supermarket on your doorstep. Ah yes, the reassuring familiarity of 20-person deep queues, screaming children, fed up parents, bored shop assistants and produce that probably was past its peak 3 days ago.

When neither of these shopping prospects is particularly appealing, what can you do instead? It goes without saying that online grocery shopping has boomed in the past few years, with all the big players operating their own delivery scheme.

The perils of online supermarket shopping

While it’s undeniably convenient to have Tesco drop the goods off at your door, you can’t actually touch, feel or see any of the fresh produce that you’re going to end up with, which can be risky.

For every time I’ve ended up with a perfectly fine order, I’ve also received squashed bananas, bruised apples and green potatoes. I’ve been so fed up with it in the past that I’ve wondered if they use online shoppers as a convenient way to get rid of the less than desirable produce that is lurking at the bottom of the vegetable trays (or maybe I’m just being paranoid).

What’s the alternative?

There is another way. Organic fruit and veg boxes are a trendy way for food lovers to get their hands on good quality, fairly priced, specialist produce that hasn’t come from a faceless corporation but rather someone who actually seems to care.

Helped along by a growing interest in the source of our food, not to mention worry over airmiles and unsustainable packaging, having your fruit, veg, fish and meat has never seemed so attractive. Even the humble milkman is experiencing a renaissance as customers start to cotton on to the benefits of knowing the name of the person delivering your goods.

One place you can find out your milkman’s moniker is at Milk & More. All you need to do is enter your postcode and the website will tell you not only your milkman’s name, but also which days they can deliver on.

Not only that, but you will also be able to order specialist milks (such as organic, flavoured, soya and lactose free) that you might not be able to find quite so easily in your local shop.

Fruit and veg boxes can be ordered from several different companies, from local farm shops to nationwide chains like Riverfood Farm,  which was featured in the brand new guide last month. It’s worth finding out if there is a local supplier near you, but Abel and Cole is another company which delivers pretty much anywhere.

Many companies will pick the veg for you, and you end up with a lucky dip selection which may include veg you’re not keen on. What I like about Abel and Cole is that you can edit the boxes to make sure you never receive anything you don’t like. The boxes are also available in a variety of sizes, so if you’re in a couple you don’t have to receive enough potatoes to feed a family of 4 – phew.

Hidden gems

For the carnivores out there, Westin Gourmet delivers fresh meat (including specialist meats and charcuterie) to your doorstep, and not only is their meat “100% naturally reared and matured”, but it also promises to be the cheapest, per kg, in the UK as you buy in bulk. By buying 10 steaks, instead of 2, you can save yourself a bundle and chuck the rest in the freezer for another time.

Alternatively, if like me, you'd struggle to accomodate one steak in your freezer, let alone ten, you could try a company like the East London Steak Co. Not only are the steaks high quality and dry-aged for a minimum of 28 days, but they can be hand-wrapped, boxed and delivered within 24 hours.

And it doesn’t end there, you can even get fresh scallops delivered to your door from Next Day Scallops. Typically, by the time you buy scallops from a shop or market they are at the very least 5 days old, but Next Day Scallops promises to get them to you by day 3 – and that’s just something you can’t get at the supermarket.  

Get in touch 

Have you found any online retailers that offer quality produce at a great price? Share your hints and tips in the comments box below! 

Also worth your attention:

Suppliers: Cowdry Farm Shop


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