A few weeks ago I posted something on Instagram about conducting an honest, unpaid, unsponsored and fully self-funded veg box review.
The need for finding a veg box supplier came out of wanting something reliable and convenient while supporting a small local business. I kicked off my research by asking Joburg friends on Facebook who received veg boxes for recommendations and received some great feedback, which helped me make the decision on who to select for this review.
A few people got back to me about where they buy their veg, but I wanted to find a service that delivered straight to our front door. So while I appreciate the advice on where to get the best veg in Joburg, that feedback didn’t quite fit the requirement of Veg Box Delivery.
A history of ordering veg boxes
I first started ordering veg boxes while living in Shanghai, where I did about 80% of my grocery shopping online via a website created especially for ex-pats called Kate & Kimi. The Veggie Box for 2-3 people was a weekly staple, and I absolutely loved receiving them. There was always a bit of everything and it also forced me to become creative with vegetables that I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen off the shelf at a supermarket.
It was scary at first because I had concerns about the state in which things would arrive. Would there be bruised vegetables? Would the person packing these boxes have an equally discerning eye when it came to quality? At some point, I had to stop being a total control-freak and let it be. There were a couple of times I received a questionable cauliflower that had a few squishy spots, but if I let them know straight away I’d always receive a refund for the item.
When the customer service is good, issues are easy to sort.
After leaving Shanghai and moving to London, I found a new solution for weekly veg boxes and began using Riverford, and each and every single box of seasonal fruit and veg I received from them was absolutely beautiful. Having direct access to that kind of produce blew my mind, and the fact that they educated their customers about what to do with items through weekly recipes ideas and seasonal recipe books made the whole experience even better.
Also, less waste because I was empowered with info on WTF the do with what I received in my box – which is something more of our local businesses need to start offering.
Local is Lekker
Taking all of the above into account and how long I’ve been ordering veg boxes for, I definitely do consider myself experienced enough to judge what works and what doesn’t work, but this is also entirely personal. You might be looking for something different, so please keep that in mind when reading this honest review.
You’ll also see that I only include three options below. Considering how many veg box services have popped up over the last 12 months I needed to keep things brief and didn’t want this exercise to take months, because we definitely wouldn’t be ordering more than one box a week!
The criteria we used to review the local veg boxes includes the following:
- User Experience (ease of ordering, making payment and confirming order)
- Overuse of packaging
- Quality of produce (how it arrived, how long it lasted)
- Value for money (price vs. contents of the box)
- Customer service (after-sales service, communication)
- Veg Box Ordered: Classic Veges – Fresh Easy Box for 2 + 2 x Mangoes
- Price: R349.99
- Delivery Fee: R49 to anywhere in Gauteng
- Website: https://greenbutler.co.za/
Green Butler’s website is relatively easy to navigate and complete purchases. They also have a WhatsApp and SMS service which they use to confirm your order and communicate info like delivery tracking links, which is great, but it also felt a little too automated for me when it told me it was my personal butler and I could call it anything I liked. I want to deal with humans, not bots.
Anyway, that’s me being weird about tech sometimes trying to be too smart. If that kind of thing works for you, you’ll love it.
The order arrived as promised and our first impression: WAY TOO MUCH PACKAGING. The box came wrapped with an inner lining and every single item was wrapped in something. Not ideal for peeps like us that recycle and do our absolute best to cut down on single-use packaging.
The quality of the produce when it arrived was excellent (barring a patty-pan which had a few worms living in it, but whatevs). However, the avocados were black when cut open only two days after our delivery and a couple of the items got a bit “floppy” a few days later but we did not let these go to waste.
What we got
- Baby Leeks
- Baby Gems
- Patty Pans
- Butter Lettuce
- Sweet corn
- Veg Box Ordered: Veggie Farmbox
- Price: R350
- Delivery Fee: R35 (prices go up to R65 and based on deliveries within a 50km radius from Randburg)
- Website: https://www.facebook.com/Farmbdirect
Farmbox Direct doesn’t have a website so I ordered via WhatsApp after they asked for me details and sent me their product list. Once I confirmed what box I wanted to order, an invoice was emailed to me which I paid via EFT. It was a bit of a run around to start but once I set it up that was that. I was also interacting with a human, which as you’d probably gathered by now is a personal preference.
First impressions included some concerns about the packaging, but given some of the smaller items in the box, this was unavoidable. They did supply the onions and potatoes in reusable mesh bags, which is the next best option as opposed to sending them as loose items (which we also received).
The biggest shock was how much we received because it was a lot! The variety of produce was insane and I didn’t expect to receive any fruit or berries, which was a lovely surprise. The only issue with the box was the big bag of kale, which goes to waste in this house, but other than that everything else was great and lasted forever (the basil kept in the fridge for well over a week, which is a first).
They followed up with me via WhatsApp to see if I had any feedback and I mentioned the kale, and they replied saying that the reason it was included was because the spinach wasn’t great and they needed a substitute (totally understandable), and that if I didn’t want kale in the future I’d just need to mention when ordering again and they’d make sure to leave it out.
What we got
- Green Pepper
- Green Beans
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Red Cabbage
- Green Cabbage
- Baby Gem Squash
Straight from the Ground
- Veg Box Ordered: Half Veg Box
- Price: R200
- Delivery Fee: R50
- Website: http://www.straightfromtheground.org/
The ordering system for SFTG is a bit unconventional and happens via an online form which you fill in and then an email is sent confirming your order with banking details. This definitely made communicating a little difficult to start, as I wanted to place an order for the following week (we still had vegetables to use from my previous box), but I couldn’t see the notes section on my phone. Anyway this caused a bit of confusion but it was sorted relatively quickly.
Our box arrived on the new delivery date set and despite it being a lot smaller than the previous two (it was half a box at R200, after all, but in hindsight, I should’ve ordered the full box to compare potatoes with potatoes ), it was a lovely box of fresh produce without ANY packaging! Hoorah!
The quality of the produce was alright but I needed to remind myself that it came from a community of small-scale farmers. I’m definitely not naive about the fact the veggies aren’t grown in the sterile environment of a Woolies fridge or that they come out of bags, but I don’t have time to stand washing and trimming leeks. The eggs were beautiful and we made use of almost everything we received.
What we got
- Green Pepper
Each of the three veg box delivery services we tried cater specifically for various customers and deserve their place in the veg box world. Based on the value for money, ease of which to order (plus the weekly WhatsApp reminders), quality of ingredients and the fact that not everything comes wrapped in single-use packaging – we have decided to continue using Farmbox Direct for the foreseeable future.
That’s not to say we won’t try other box options, because it’s good to see what else is out there and mix it up from time to time, but for now Farmbox Direct ticks the most boxes.1