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.

A Natural Grazer (+ Free Trial Code for Graze)

Humans evolved, so I’ve read, as foragers. Eating a predominantly fruit, vegetable, nuts and seeds diet, our ancestors ate little and often. Whether they turned to meat because we couldn’t find sufficient edible flora or simply by watching and learning from predators, it’s clear that the ratio of meat to non-meat we eat has steadily increased over the millenia, especially in recent decades. And, in the majority of cultures, we’ve fallen into a pattern of 3 main meals a day rather than small, regular grazing.

Of course, fewer larger meals fits in much more easily into our modern lives, segmented as they are into work, play and chores. But I often come across suggestions that some of us might benefit from a shift back towards the little-and-often pattern of those long-ago ancestors. Certainly, it might alleviate those after-meal crashes where one’s body feels lethargic and bloated as it struggles to digest a large volume.

What is Graze?
All this was loosely in my mind when I started reading blog posts from friends who signed up with Graze to receive regular deliveries of fresh and dried fruit, nuts and seeds packed into handy boxes posted directly to their work or home addresses.

I’d been meaning to investigate and try them out myself for quite some time when a twitter friend posted a free trial code that finally prompted me to check our their site.

A single graze box costs £2.99 including delivery and usually contains one large portion of fresh fruit plus one medium and one small pack of dried fruits, nuts, seeds or mixes. The box is sized to fit through a standard letter box and the packaging is recyclable.

Although you can’t specify the contents of each box, you are encouraged to spend a few moments browsing through the various categories (including fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, savoury snacks, olives and mixes) to rate each option as either bin, try, like or love. The first means you’ll never receive the item, the next that you’re not sure but are happy to try it and the other two indicate how much you like the item and hence how often you’d like to receive it. The idea is that, as you graze your way through each box, you pop back onto the site to update your ratings resulting in boxes that match your personal tastes ever more closely. (Clicking on an item produces a pop up with further information on the contents).

Some Grazers use their boxes to achieve a steady level of energy through the day, replacing lunch with all-day nibbling. Others use the natural snacks to restore energy when they’re flagging. Me? I’ve geared my boxes towards the more decadent options such as frosted cashews, lemon salted pistachios, dried mangoes, seaweed peanut crackers… and simply enjoy the contents of my boxes as a tasty treat!

Pros and Cons
So the pros are tasty, natural treats conveniently delivered to one’s door.

What are the cons?
Cost is probably the first one. Whilst the price is not unreasonable for a variety of nibbles in handy packets, delivered directly to your door it’s also true that one could assemble one’s own packs for significantly cheaper.

The second is the reliance on Royal Mail for delivery. My first box (for which I was re-credited) was due on a Friday but didn’t arrive till the following Tuesday, by which time the fresh fruit was rotting. The second box was hit by the postal strike but arrived only one day late – however Graze had cleverly re-designed the box in advance to exclude the large portion of fresh fruit and replace it with an extra medium and small pack of the longer life dried items.

What I’d love to see is the option to deliberately choose the dried goods only configuration, regardless of whether a postal strike is expected. This would make the boxes more flexible for me, as most of the dried packs have use by dates a few months in the future.

Free Trial Code
If you’d like to try Graze for yourself, enter code 21Q63KF to get your first box absolutely free. (Each time the code is used, I also get a £1 back, just so you know!)

If any of you do go ahead and try Graze, I’d love to hear about your experiences and opinions. Happy munching!

Edit: I have since had a go at creating my own graze boxes and realised that the pricing is actually very reasonable!