Wednesday, 7 October 2009

DIY Graze box with Abel & Cole

A couple of months ago, I signed up to try Graze, a company who send out tasty fruit, nut and seed-based snacks, conveniently packaged into handy little packets that can be enjoyed throughout the day.


graze box

It's a nice idea and appeals to those looking for a healthier, more interesting alternative to that mid-morning or afternoon chocolate break or even a replacement for lunch. Their website allows you to select which of their many contents you're willing to try, would like to receive sometimes or would like to receive often as well as bin those you never want to be sent.


graze box contents

But graze has a couple of (pretty large) obstacles to overcome, the biggest of which is it's dependence on our utterly shambolic and unreliable postal system. The boxes, which are designed to fit through a regular letterbox, are sent out by regular mail, and I've only received one out of the several I've ordered thus far on the date requested. Even with the switch to postal-strike withstanding no-fresh-fruit selections, this is less than ideal.

And for those thinking of grazing five days a week, the £2.99 per box quickly adds up to just under £15 a week.

So I've been meaning to try out a DIY version for quite some time!


Abel & Cole dried fruits and nuts

Abel & Cole have come to my aid by sending me some of their quality, organic dried fruits and nuts with which to make my own little packets.

I can confirm that all of these taste great, especially the dates and the walnuts. This is no mean feat given the very many occasions I've been disappointed by the taste, texture and condition of dried fruits and nuts.

As you may just be able to make out from the photos of my graze box, the graze pack weights vary from 25 to 60 grams depending on pack size and contents. I decide to aim for 50 gram portions for my home-made packs.


organic (pitted) dates, raisins, pistachios, walnuts and almonds

A quick trip to Lakeland supplies me with 10 little reusable boxes for less than 70 pence each. I get to work packing them with healthy, tasty goodies.

So how do my DIY boxes price out?


DIY graze boxes

The pitted dates come in a 375 gram bag, and I fit 50 grams into the box. That's 7 boxes for £2.89.
The raisins also come in a 375 gram bag, and I fit 50 grams into the box. That's 7 boxes for £1.75.
The almonds come in a 250 gram bag, and I fit 50 grams into the box. That's 5 boxes for £2.99.
The walnuts come in a 200 gram bag, and I fit 40 grams into the box. That's 5 boxes for £2.55.
The pistachios come in an 85 gram bag, and I fit 42 grams into the box. That's 2 boxes for £3.49 (currently on offer at £2.79).

To my surprise, that averages out at about 63 pence per box (or £2.50 for four) though it’s skewed by the pistachios, and drops to 42 pence per box if I exclude those (£1.68 for four).

Of course, if price is the foremost concern, buying from Abel & Cole isn’t the only option. A quick internet search of supermarket sites reveals that I can buy 500 grams (non-organic) stoned dates for £1.25 and 500 grams of Californian raisins for £1.89 but that walnuts, almonds and pistachios are priced similarly to or just below the Abel & Cole bags for both non-organic and organic versions.

Clearly, graze prices aren't quite as high as they may initially seem (although two out of four packs in their boxes are pretty small in size).

And of course, my unmixed boxes don't match some of the appealing combinations offered by graze such as Bakewell tart (cherry raisins, cranberries and almonds), Johnny come lately (dried blackcurrants, whole almonds & dried apricots) or Swallows & amazons (dried mango, dried morello cherries & brazil nuts), though there's nothing to stop me mixing and matching some of my own favourite ingredients.

Plus it would definitely take a bit more work (and cost) to make my own versions of their frosted cashews, honey pecans or hot chilli almonds. Perhaps something like Nigella's bar nuts or Tana Ramsay's caramelised nuts or even my mum's own spicy roasted nuts, which went down so well at my stall?

Again, looking to the supermarkets reveals that I can source a 150 gram bag of honey peanuts and cashews for £1.49

The other downside to my DIY approach is shelf-life and shelf-space. To achieve the variety available from graze, I need to have quite a few different bags on the go but, once open, the produce may not remain in tip top condition for very long. I need to be making quite a few boxes a week to make this worthwhile.

Still, I’m happy with my homemade graze boxes,and I’m really pleased with the quality of the Abel & Cole contents.

Incidentally, for those of you who don't fancy the DIY route, you can still use code 21Q63KF to trial a graze box for free.

12 comments:

gastrogeek said...

What a stellar idea! I always need to carry emergency snacks around with me, and as my recent spate of gluttony has left me in danger of developing gout, this is right up my street - you are brilliant Kavey :)

Mark said...

Interesting post Kavey.

Nicely put Pro's and Con's to both sides.
It has certainly made me think about spending some time preparing the days elevenses instead of popping into the nearest newsagent for a bar of chocolate and a bag of crisps every day.

Louise said...

good idea, and with a few pounds to lose after my honeymoon (food in Canada was fab but lots of it) I think I may do some DIY grazing!!

Mamta said...

Hello Kav
Looks very good, splendid for days out etc. It will be a great help for people like me (mild to moderate diabetics), who have to watch their sugar/carbohydrates/caloric intake, if there was a rough idea of total values of the content in each box. Is that possible?
Mum

Kavey said...

Mum, if the original bags have that kind of information, per 100 grams, then it would be easy to work it out. Otherwise, I do have a book that lists the averages for most foods, I could lend it to you!

Food Urchin said...

I've been pretty sniffy about Graze as I felt the whole service was a bit of a rip-off so its interesting that DIY versions aren't as cheap as you would imagine. Healthy snacking at £10-£15 a week?

That's 4 pints of Guinness and a packet of pork scratchings you know.

RuthJ said...

Very interesting Kavey. It's nice to see photos of your diy boxes - they look so cute. Also it is good to see how the prices compare.

I'm loving my 'postal strike' graze boxes and will probably keep getting them cos they contain such delicious things. (I took one on the train journey to and from your anniversary do) But I will also head down to Lakeland Ltd to get some of those little plastic boxes for ad hoc snack stashes.

Ollie said...

Good on you, Kavey. DIY approach far better.

Kavey said...

Ruth, if you prefer to have ONLY dried fruits, nuts and seeds even when there's not postal strike they are trialling this, they said for me to mark ALL fresh fruit as binned, and this would indicate to them that I wanted the postal strike box all the time. :)

Mamta said...

Thanks Kav, it will be nice to know how much sugar etc. each dried fruit has. Fruits looks deceptively small when dry, and can give too much sugar in the blood. Nuts and seeds on the other hand sound good in small boxes, like the ones you have.

Winton said...

I took up the 'Graze' offer and to start with it was great fun - like Christmas every week! It's good being able to change the delivery date but this advantage was so often negated by them being delivered late.
I suppose like so many 'subscription' services the company relies on the lassitude of the customer not to cancel when they tire of the product. (Luckily my bank card expired so it was done for me!
Some great ideas there Kavey. I have taken to filling a small plastic box, originally designed with compartments for different sized screws and nails, with different nibbles on long journeys.
I would not have thought of it though without the original 'Graze' experience and your write-up.

Kavey said...

Winton,
Thank you, that's really great news. What kind of nibbles are you choosing for your compartmentalised box?