My quest for effortless, automated nutrition: a veg box delivery review

As a busy, slightly broke student, I’m guilty of forgetting to eat enough fruit and veg. During my first summer at Oxford when I didn’t go home for the vac, I managed to accidentally malnourish myself by trying to subsist on porridge oats and gluten free pancakes. My GP kindly prescribed ‘Salmon and dark green vegetables’ and I’ve been allocating part of my student loan to maintaining that diet ever since.   

During term time I start to slip up again, with my go-to options for a busy day consisting of meal deals or coffee. This is made worse by allergies that make veg-filled ready meals a non-option. Ambitious bags of spinach wilt in my tiny shared fridge as my evenings get filled with society meetings and essay writing. By 5th week I seem to lose all enthusiasm for grocery shopping. 

When I have been in the mood to cook, I feel annoyed walking through the veg aisle at Tesco seeing how everything is tucked away into crinkly plastic bags. Back home in Canada I’m used to stacks of loose fruit and veg that not only look more appealing but can be picked in quantities that suit you, thus reducing food waste and plastic consumption. In England, eating healthy has become a drag. My food intake is usually the three P’s: pesto, pasta, and protein. At best, I’ll add an avocado every other day.

Then the expected happened: my skin looked as tired as I felt and I knew it was time for some #SelfCare but not in the form of a face mask or scented candles. I had heard about vegetable delivery boxes around Oxfordshire but figured those were for bougie Summertown types. So I took the plunge and ordered my first box from Riverford Farms. I got the ‘Quick organic veg box’ for £12.95 which felt like a small price to pay for automating my nutrition. By having a weekly delivery of random vegetables sent to my door, I’d never forget or neglect to have healthy food on hand. 

By having a weekly delivery of random vegetables sent to my door, I’d never forget or neglect to have healthy food on hand. 

Something about getting my first delivery satisfied a craving for online shopping. A bouquet of bok choy, carrots, red peppers, and mystery veg arrived in a cardboard box at my door. I washed the farm-fresh dirt off my bundle of carrots, laying them out to dry where my housemates could admire my efforts to eat healthy. I felt rustic and down to Earth like a woman straight out of a Pinterest board. 

Equipped with a can of coconut milk and green curry paste, I picked one vegetable per day and made ‘curry in a hurry’ dinners. Not a single scrap went off for fear of wasting my pricey food. My plan was working and my second order was on its way. I left the previous cardboard box at my front door to be collected for reuse when the new delivery came. Zero waste and super convenient–I wondered if Greta Thunberg would approve. 

Every box from Riverford comes with 3-4 onions and by week three I had more onions than I knew what to do with. I was supplementing my small box with items from Tesco to make my meals bigger, wondering if I should upgrade to the medium box made for 3-4 people for only £3 more a week. On the plus side, I was eating more veg than ever. On the downside, I was spending more money that I needed to and the one shelf of the fridge I am allocated couldn’t fit all everything.

In the end, I decided that this wasn’t the best option on a student budget and the planning of my week needed to include a carefully mapped out grocery excursion and more trips to the bin for the extra food packaging that would return to my house. 

Maybe when I’m a debt-free adult living in the real world, I’ll have a veg box again.