Crossing Over with Tideford Organics


I’m often asked to review products on one of my blogs or give an opinion. I turn down most companies, mainly because I believe in clean, healthy food. It’s the kind of food we planted and harvested on the farm in West Virginia where I grew up, and the kind of food I prepare for my own family still. I could never be bothered to review products that don’t fit into that profile, and sadly, many do not. Enter Tideford Organics. A most unusual company. Unusual in all the best ways.

If you haven’t yet heard of Tideford Organics, they have been around since 1996 and were built on a commitment to organic food and the environment. They are now in a purpose built factory in Devon and designing food that tastes like you made it at home. If you haven’t already read it, here is my review of the products I was sent.

Back in October, one of my friends/readers saw that Tideford was looking for food bloggers to review their new line. Normally, I would pass the link on to another blogger, but I found Tideford intriguing. I’d seen their products while perusing the gluten-free tag on the Ocado website. I always look at the ingredients lists of products if they are available and was impressed by the fact that their soups and sauces seemed to be all prepared from fresh organic ingredients. So I agreed to review all the gluten-free vegetarian items that they’d like to send my way.

A few weeks after my review went live, you can imagine my surprise when I got another email from Tideford saying they were sending me a second batch of goodies that had been “tweaked in response to your comments on your blog.” What? I was stunned. Where was the normal “thank you for your review, we’ll take your comments into consideration” or the dreaded “like us on facebook you could win in a £250 voucher!”  I told you they were unusual! I was also amazed at how much they’d accomplished with just a few lines of suggestion. For that is what it was, only suggestion, I had no idea that after a 3rd batch tasting and discussions with the managing director that we’d be in negotiations for my consulting on next season’s line.

So there it is. I’ve now crossed over from independent reviewer to consultant. I thought you should know, and I’m hoping to be able to share as much of the experience as possible in the coming months. I’m headed down to Devon on Thursday next and cannot wait to meet up with the team. I’m so pleased at the prospect of working with a company that holds the same ideals about food that I do. Stay tuned for the next chapter!

UK Organic Box Delivery vs. Grocery Store Delivery

How many of you have tried an organic box delivery? What’s your perception? Here in the UK, they are marketed as a bit of a luxury and in the USA, people who use CSA vegetable share schemes are usually seen as hippies or tree-huggers. If you’ve never seen one before-they consist of a variety of vegetables, or fruit and vegetables, often from local farms utilising what is in season at the time. Each scheme is slightly different, but most will let you regulate or substitute items that you don’t like or will not eat. You can also add other things, bread, milk, eggs and more in the case of Abel and Cole and Riverford…much much more! I have always thought my weekly box delivery to be something of a luxury so  I have to say that I was quite surprised by the results of my research.  Here’s to debunking the myths! Please read on.

Last year we moved to Birmingham from London. We wanted a bit of a change of pace, and to get out from under London’s crippling rent and travel costs, not to mention the time we spent on public transport! One of the things I’d never thought about before the move was my organic box delivery that I’d been receiving for 2 years. I was with a company called Riverford…whom I LOVED. I’d had a couple of different driver/franchise owners whilst in London and both were brilliant. The North London one in particular. My veg was always perfectly put together and the medium box was an excellent value.

When I moved to Birmingham I was able to stay with Riverford, but the quantity and quality seemed vastly reduced. At this point I switched to Abel and Cole whom I’d had for several months when living on a Dutch barge in central London. The medium box didn’t seem to be as carefully prepared or have nearly the variety. But I’ve since switched to the large box I’ve been very happy indeed, with the exception of the driver coming at 6am and having to leave the box on my doorstep. That I don’t mind, it’s the neighbourhood cats that like to “claim” the veg as their own! Eww. Anyway, I digress. Let’s get comparing!


My Recent Abel and Cole Large Box Contents

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Leeks
  • Milva New Potatoes
  • Portobello Mushrooms
  • Red Oak Leaf Lettuce this is ony my dislike list so they exchanged it for onions
  • Red Pepper
  • Savoy Cabbage this is on my dislike list so they exchanged it for Chicory
  • LargeTomatoes
  • Turnips

£18.50 + £1 delivery= £19.50


Sainsbury’s

  • turnips: 1
  • endive/chicory: 2.40
  • Carrots:  1.15
  • potatoes 1.75
  • portabello mushrooms 1.50
  • onions 1
  • red pepper .80
  • tenderstream broccoli 2
  • squash 1.80
  • leeks: 2
  • tomatoes  1.80
  • cucumber: 1.25

18.45 + 5.95 delivery= £24.35/ (£40 min required for delivery) 6 items not organic


Ocado

  • turnips: 1.15
  • chicory: 3.00
  • carrots: 1.69
  • potatoes: 2.99
  • portabello mushroom: 2.19
  • squash: 1.99
  • red pepper: 2
  • onions:  1
  • tenderstem broccoli:  1.99
  • leeks: 2.35
  • tomatoes: 1.80
  • cucumber: 1.38

£23.53 / +  6.99 delivery /total: £30.52/ £40 min delivery  (2 items not organic)
This is the time to mention that Ocado do their own organic box which I’ve purchased a few times. You get a LOT of produce. But for me the flavour just isn’t there. It’s the reason why I rarely buy produce and fruit from Ocado. It looks nice, but there’s something lacking.


Waitrose

  • turnips: 1.99
  • chicory: 1.50
  • carrots: 1.69
  • potatoes: 1.69
  • portabello mushroom: 1.59
  • squash: 1.99
  • red pepper: 1.5
  • onions:  1.07
  • tenderstem broccoli:  1.99
  • leeks: 4.99
  • tomatoes: 2.29
  • cucumber: 1.38

21.98 +(free delivery over £50) = £21.98/ (£50 min required for delivery) (4 items not organic)


Tescos and Asda do not carry enough organic produce in order to do a comparison but I feel quite sure that  they’d not be cheaper.

As for other box schemes that I’ve tried, there’s also Farm Fresh Organics. Whilst I loved the produce…I found the website rather difficult to use (in MAJOR need of a redesign) and almost no communication once I had ordered. I have a feeling if the website were sorted and there was more of an online presence and communication about them that they could get a lot more business here in the West Midlands. I’d love to see that happen and would be the first in line to order on a regular basis!
So there you go! Sainsbury’s came in under cost for the actual produce but went over with the delivery charge and a whopping 6 items were not organic. Again I was genuinely surprised by my findings! I always thought that my organic box was something that I splurged for each week because tasty organic fruits and veggies were something on which I wasn’t willing to compromise. Well, here’s to not compromising and getting the best for less! Please support local farms, and companies that make box deliveries like this possible!

I’d love to hear from all of you. Do you have an experience with organic box deliveries? What do you think of them? What made you consider an organic box delivery?

Many thanks to Sarah Braun for the lovely photo at the top of this posting. It is licensed though creative commons. Please click on the photo for more from her on her flickr page!

 

 

Too Many Careers? (Diversifying Your Talents and Energy)

I’ve always been creative. I can’t remember a time in my life when I’ve been satisfied just doing a task. I was the kid who liked to mow the lawn in circular patterns (much to the dismay of my parents) and fold and stack the towels in different ways as to make patterns. I have certainly come to love order in my life more and more as I’ve gotten older, but one fact remains, everything I do has a creative edge to it.

Growing up my Mum was incredibly creative. We had little money but she was always fixing, fabricating, painting, and we KNEW that she could do/fix anything. She had many careers over the course of my time at home from circuit board solderer, landscaper, horse trainer, maid, seamstress, vet tech and the list goes on and on. Now she and my father buy houses and redo them. (they’ve also set up an animal shelter/hospital) They can take a house with walls that are bulging out from water damage and transform it into a show-piece in a matter of a month. The living spaces they create are astounding.

I suppose I never thought having just one career was an option. I was interested in so many things and I was poor. Necessity will lead one in all kinds of directions. I needed to be able to do whatever interesting job that came my way and that’s just what I did. I started as a waitress, and then worked in a food packing plant, a old fashioned meat market, a grocery store, a catering business, a hot deli, preparing food for cancer drug studies, line cook, head of a restaurant, private chef, food consultant (all the while gigging weekly with music, writing songs and studying nutrition at university) Then I hit a bit of an impasse. I’d always had trouble with maths in school even though I was in honours English, and I found that as the maths and chem at university got harder, I just couldn’t hack it. By this time I had tired of the long exhausting hours of food service and was working at a jewellery store. My boss talked to me about studying gemmology (the study of diamonds and gemstones) and so I started studying at the Gemological Institute of America. I then also decided that it’d be a good idea to study to become a jeweller, so became an apprentice. It never occurred to me that it was a weird thing to do having just failed to complete my bachelor’s degree in nutrition, I just went with it. I was interested, it was a job, and it was creative.

Now years later, I’m still a professional musician, still a jeweller, and still a chef. I do none of these jobs full-time but I’m able to do one or the other based on where my life is at the moment. For example, for the last three years I’ve been raising a little dude, and as he gets older I’m taking on more and more work. I’m working on a children’s album and an accompanying children’s book, my jewellery designs as well as fine vintage items, various food production/consultant projects and a clean-eating allergy friendly cookbook. I’m so thankful at this point that I do all that I do and none of the time I spent in my lifetime learning these things seems wasted. I may have seemed like a bit of a career philanderer in the past, but now it all makes sense. Now I ask you, how many careers is too many?

The lovely painting at the top of this blog posting is from flickr and created by Paulo Colachino. It is licensed    under creative commons. Please click the painting to see more of Paulo’s work! 

5 Tips For Transitioning Into a Gluten/Wheat-Free Home Environment

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What happens once you are diagnosed with a wheat of gluten allergy or intolerance? Although it gets easier as awareness and need grows for gluten and wheat-free food, there are many concerns that one needs to address whilst adapting to a new lifestyle. Especially if you are living in an environment where other members of the household will continue to eat wheat and gluten containing products. There are a few steps that you can take in order to protect yourself from having a reaction through cross contamination.

1. You’ll need a separate toaster that has not been used with wheat and gluten containing breads. Setting up your own station for preparing gluten free bread products is a must. Clearly label your toaster GLUTEN FREE ONLY so that guests know not to use it for normal bread. Also make sure that normal bread products are being kept away from your food preparation area and that family members/ house mates know to clean up their crumbs!

2. Do no use/share condiments/butter  Unless it’s a squeezable bottle or something that a knife can not be inserted into. Condiments and butter are one of the biggest causes of cross contamination at home and in restaurants as people do not realise that these items are full of gluten and wheat. You’ve done it hundreds of times….you’re making a sandwich and putting mustard on it….you scoop some out on your knife and it’s not quite enough so you dip the knife back in again for a little more. Now the mustard is unusable for someone who is avoiding wheat/gluten.

3. Chopping Boards Collanders and pots are items that you should not share with people in the household who are using them for wheat/gluten containing products like bread and pasta. As a whole it’s worth it to invest in a few kitchen items only used for what you prepare for yourself.

4. Learn to cook this may be a fairly obvious one. But I do realise that in some ways, even though there was virtually no awareness about food allergies or easily recognised safe products at the time when I was diagnosed…I was already a cook/chef at the time so learning to modify ingredients in my diet was a challenge I embraced. I did go through some trial and error, but the cooking bit was always easy for me.  If you don’t like to spend loads of time in the kitchen…all you need to do is start out with a few simple recipes that you can do in 5 minutes or less.  Omelettes, quesadillas, GF pasta and simple salads are a good start. There are loads of pre-packaged gluten-free options out there now…but they are pricey and often filled with ingredients that are often less than healthy. Learning to cook will save you loads of money and keep you healthier.

5. Educate others  Don’t expect other people to know how to keep you from having a reaction. You need to educate other family members and friends on how to keep you safe. They love you…they want to help. Not long ago, it seemed that people viewed food allergies and mental illness in the same way. So many times I’ve been told..”It’s all in your head!” Things have changed. Allergy UK states that around 45% of people in the UK suffer from some sort of food allergy/intolerance. Don’t be afraid to ask people for what you need. You will probably encounter some resistance along the way, but being clear about what you can eat and how it’s prepared is a lot easier than spending the night doubled over or a trip to the hospital. Get used to speaking up…you’ll need to do it a lot.

Obviously there is a lot more to say on this subject, especially about the foods you now can/can’t eat…but that is for another time and I find there’s a lot of good info already out there on the web. I will be posting soon on that subject…but if you need help for now here are some great places to start:

http://www.coeliac.org.uk/

http://www.foodallergy.org/

http://www.glutenfree-crawley.org.uk/index.php

all photos used in this blog are sourced from flickr and licensed through Creative Commons. To find out more info about the photographer and enjoy more of their photos, please click on the picture itself and you will be taken to their flickr page! Enjoy!

Touring with Food Allergies…Tips and Guides for Safe Eating

So I am again off on tour in the USA until July 4th. This trip has been a revelation so far…it’s amazing to see how many allergy friendly places have cropped up since last year and how much easier it is to find proper allergy friendly food at grocery stores. The labeling has also improved and you can pretty much count on the labeling listing allergens which is a vast improvement from past years. So over the next few months I shall be giving you the heads up on some of the places I’ve visited, tell you about some of the people I’ve talked to, and tell you how I tour with a severe wheat allergy. It’s not always easy, but things are getting better! I can’t wait to tell you about Mozzarelli’s in NYC. BEST PIZZA EVER and they are doing everything right. I got to have a nice conversation with manager Judith and she has officially restored my faith in allergy friendly Italian fare. Stay tuned friends!! xoLo.