Tesco VS Abel and Cole

Ever since we moved to Cardiff both Josh and I have felt guilty for shopping at Tesco but because we don’t have any small local food shops near us we have ended up shopping there every week.  I haven’t done much research on Tesco but I can probably safely say it’s not very ethical. It’s huge, they’re taking over the world, they’re putting small shops out of business, they sell things at artificially low prices, they don’t sell much local or fair-trade, they still sell unlabelled GM products, they support charities that we don’t...I could go on.
This week instead of going to Tesco I decided to try an organic veg-box which was advertised by Abel and Cole. I’m always a bit wary of veg boxes because they seem hugely expensive for what you get (we used to get one in Aber sometimes and we just ended up wasting stuff -there is only so much Kale you can eat!) but I think that is partly because supermarkets give you a false expectation of cost. Farmers simply can’t produce food for pennies, and if you’re buying something cheap from a supermarket it’s probably because someone is being exploited somewhere along the line.

Our first box arrived today and I was hugely excited about it, and after unpacking it and reading the information they included I am very enthusiastic about both the quality of the product and the company as a whole.

Here are some of my thoughts of veg boxes VS Tesco…
Cons of veg-boxes
- It’s expensive. In this time of necessary penny pinching paying extra for food is sometimes hard to swallow. I compared buying the same things from Tesco (using the brands I would have bought normally) and it came to about £10 more doing it through Abel and Cole.
HOWEVER, you have to remember that all of things I bought were organic (and often fair trade), and that wouldn’t have been a factor if we’d been at Tesco. Abel and Cole obviously care a lot about their staff, producers, the environment and supplying good quality food without any chemical nasties. That all comes at a cost, and one that I’m willing to pay.
I also get tempted to buy unhealthy snacks and random things at Tesco and so I probably saved money by doing it online because I couldn’t chuck in a packet of Doritos (or six) when Josh wasn’t looking.
- You have to be in for delivery. This is actually more of a problem for us because we don’t have a safe outside space where our delivery can be left. Abel and Cole are actually really good about this and they offer loads of solutions (such as leaving a shed key for them to use) and they package all your food to keep it cool. Our delivery this morning was left on our door step at about 6.45am and because I was awake and paranoid about someone stealing it I went down and got it straight away although I’m sure it would have been fine until a saner hour. Once term starts Josh will be up at that time anyway so it shouldn’t be a problem.

- You can’t buy in bulk. This is the only thing that I have thought is a true negative about Abel and Cole. I normally like to buy things in bulk as it’s cheaper and means less packaging. However, things seem to only be available in smaller sizes, which I guess is because of transportation issues.
Pros of veg-boxes
- The one thing in particular that attracted me to Abel and Cole is the fact that you can see what is in your box before you order it (and can change your veg choices if you want to) and you can order lots of other food online to be delivered with it. It’s basically just like doing your weekly shop online, and you can plan it around the ingredients in your box. They even give you recipe ideas and it’s all very easy.
They included a helpful catalogue of all their products in their first delivery which will make it MUCH easier to do my shop next week. I’m already planning what to buy!
- They deliver for a very reasonable cost (99p for us). That saves us time and money not having to drive to the supermarket, and it means that Josh doesn’t have to come with me to be a bag carrier which I’m sure brings him much joy!

- It’s organic. Everything we ordered – from our sugar to our cleaning products – was organic (and often fair trade). Even though the monetary cost is sometimes higher (although sometimes it was actually less) the environmental cost is much lower, and it’s better for us too.
Most of their packaging can also be returned or recycled so there is less unnecessary rubbish going into landfill.
- They’re generous with their freebies. I got a free recipe book with my first box (worth £12.99), they offer the fourth box you buy free and I’ve just had an email saying they’re offering me a free carton of orange juice in my next delivery. I also REALLY like the wool they package up their boxes with – it will make great string for wrapping presents!

Those of you who have read my blog for a long time will know that I have an interest in trying to live more ethically and more simply. In fact, this blog first came about because I was exploring ways to change our lifestyle and the online community was the only place I could find people who could give me advice and encouragement.
Nowadays I don’t really mention it on the blog as we have settled down in our habits and we’re not really trying anything new.  To be honest, we’re probably not living that ethically, or healthily any more. 
I hope that these veg boxes will start me thinking again because many of our everyday habits have huge effects on our environment and even other people living all round the world…I need to re-read some of my books of the subject and start blogging about it more too.
I’m so glad I tried the veg-box and we’ll definitely be ordering them for the foreseeable future. Why not pop over to the Abel and Cole website and see if they do a box which would suit you?
(I don’t want to make this any more of an essay that it already is, but if you’re interested in more about ethical living I’ve written posts such as this and this, or just search under the ‘ethical living’ category on the sidebar) 


  1. Sounds very ethical! My parents do the shopping but they do try and buy fairtrade etc. I hope when I live on my own, I will be thinking of the ethical/fairtrade food items too. Very thought provoking stuff!

  2. At first I was going to say I've never heard of Tesco and Able and Cole but then I realized you're in the UK, and laughed. I'm sure your Tesco is similar to our Costco here. Its a big warehouse filled with bulk items.

    There are a lot of co-ops here where they'll deliver farm fresh produce to our doors and I know a lot of people who do that and its actually cheaper, generally, than the stores. But I can't find one in my area.

    But I hope you're able to enjoy all the veggies they give you. :)
    Emily at Amazing Grapes

  3. Yeah, never heard of Tesco, so they must not have taken over the world... yet :)

  4. We used to use Abel and Cole now we shop at Tesco or Morrisons - you know where we live - send your hate mail on a postcard :)

  5. This sounds really good. I do a lot of my shopping online anyway, so I may give it a go!

  6. Oh my goodness that box looks so much fun! Very cool! Here in the United States I've thought about doing joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). You pay a one time fee to buy a share or a half share of the crop and then you get to pick up an assortment of vegetables, fruit, herbs, flowers, eggs, meat, and other goodies either every week or every other week. I'm not sure if it would be worth it where I live because it's wintry six months of the year, but I think they have seasonal CSA's. Anywho, enough of me rambling. That is one really neat veg box!

  7. We use Abel and Cole and Tesco - I am generally happy with what I get from Abel and Cole but I couldn't afford to feed a family of 4 on A&C produce, so we supplement with Tesco. There are times where Tesco comes across as more ethical, eg. 3 kgs of fussili pasta around 2.90 if I remember correctly, that's a pretty good deal and only one piece of packaging for around 2 months' worth of pasta. What I particularly like about Abel and Cole is that their vegetable come in a box you can leave out for them to pick up next time and there is minimal packaging apart from that. Also, they have helped me introduce my children to more 'exotic' vegetables (in the sense of not bog-standard supermarket stuff) like purple carrots!

  8. I have been using A&C for about six weeks now drawn in by the desire to eat a wider variety of produce - which pre-fixed veg/fruit boxes help you to explore. Also lured by the free cookbook (which is great) and the free 4th box (i think the offer just ended). I hadn't really known if i would continue with it due to the expense BUT I also shop at ASDA and 'price check' every week. I have found by excluding fruit and veg from my ASDA shop they have become less competitive and I often get between £3-5 voucher - which goes towards paying for the yummy organic stuff. I also love the occasional freebie (good marketing A&C) and tend to waste less as I value the produce more?!! (maybe because of the biopics of farmers - maybe because of the cost?) I have been experimenting with what best suits my family and altering our order from week to week (which is easy online) and will probably continue to use them as I also like the organic meat and fish offers they make.

  9. Thank you for this insightful post on Abel & Cole. I shop at Tesco's mainly out of pure convenience but it is a hateful experience - the one near us is so vast that I sometimes get lost in aisle 36 and lose the will to live, let alone shop! After reading your Pros and Cons, I am tempted to give A&C a go...

  10. I will definitely consider A&C.