Ordering food online is becoming increasingly popular, and no wonder - you can order a week's meals with just a few clicks and there's no need to stand in supermarket queues.
Products from independent producers come beautifully packaged and make for impressive gifts, as well (and we're not against treating yourself once in a while, either!). Buying from a smaller company adds a personal touch to your daily shopping, and most of the suppliers are just a phone call away. We had a chat with some of our favourite online and mail order food suppliers to find out the secrets behind their success, and get the best tips on what to buy this season.
HelloFresh: Meal Kits
HelloFresh delivers all the ingredients you need to make their recipes each week, helping to do away with the weekly recipe rut. Using quality fruits and veggies as well as high welfare meat means you end up with a delicious plate of something new to try each evening, all while avoiding a trip to the supermarket. Options include a family menu, meals for two and a vegetarian option - plus they offer seasonal specials too. The latest in the line up is an Easter box filled with everything you need to be able to make Chermoula Prawns with a Pomegranate Salad and Za’atar Toasts for starters, Aromatic Leg of Lamb with Herby Gratin, Purple Sprouting Brocolli, Roasted Carrots, Parsnip Picada and a Berry Jus for main and an Apple, Rhubarb and Orange Zest Crumble with Vanilla Bean Cream for pudding.
Market Porter: Meat, Cheese and Chocolate
Market Porter delivers high quality meat, cheese, charcuterie and chocolate as well as offering a regular subscription service. Superior to anything you'd find in the supermarket they place huge emphasis on where their produce comes from and hand pick only the finest British foods. Perfect for sourcing ingredients for special occasions or treating yourself regularly to beautiful steaks, trendy chocolate or a few bits of British charcuterie.
Ciao Gusto: Italian Food and DrinkMake classic Italian comfort food at home time and time again with Ciao Gusto's help. Promoting the culture, health and heritage of Italian food, they specialise in Italian food and drinks of the highest quality, from pasta, cured meats, olive oil and fresh veg, to coffee like Lavazza, chocolates and even wine. Bring a little taste of Italy into your home with these artisan Italian products.
Donald Russell: MeatDonald Russell delivers a variety of top quality beef and venison, among other meat products. The company also offers a wide selection of gourmet seafood, chef-made meals and desserts, which means you can order a whole dinner from the same place. With 40 years of experience behind them, Donald Russell still uses the traditional maturing methods and focuses on providing high quality meat to its customers. All their beef and lamb is grass-fed and the company has a dedicated team of butchers and chefs, and if that's not enough, their website has plenty of recipe ideas for eager home chefs.
Contact: 01467 629666
The Fish Society: Fish
The Fish society specializes in high quality fish from around the world, from luxury and hard-to-get seafood to home kitchen essentials. That, Jeremy Grieve from the Fish Society believes, is what distinguishes their company from others: "We can offer customers in their own homes a range of fish that has never been possible before for an average person. Many items people would have to search high and low for but we have brought them together in one convenient place."
One of the Fish Society's specialities is their wide selection of pre-cut sashimi. "There are others selling sashimi grade fish in loins but not cut like you would get in a sushi bar. We have had recent requests to produce sashimi for exclusive events and weddings."
The Alaskan black cod offered by the The Fish Society is a good example of the company's commitment to quality, and Jeremy says: "We have many customers who buy black cod from us on a regular basis and swear by it."
For a tasty recipe for black cod, the Fish Society team recommends serving it with spring onion, garlic and saffron risotto. Serve with Parmesan and garnish with basil leaves.
Contact: 01428 687768
Fish for Thought: Fish
Fish for thought delivers a range of fresh fish from Cornwall, as well as frozen and smoked fish. Their selection also includes a bunch of tasty seafood dishes: one of their best sellers is a lobster mac & cheese. Fish for thought also delivers complete recipe boxes so that you can recreate the dish fresh at home. The company has grown quickly in less than 10 years, delivering top-quality fish to homes and restaurants all over, and has won awards in the past for being the Cornish Food Hero of the Year and the Cornish Fishmonger of the Year in 2011.
The Fish for thought team is committed to sustainable and responsible fishing, and when possible offers line-caught fish.
Contact: 01208 262202
Forman & Field: Meat, Cheese and Wine
Forman & Field makes excellent smoked salmon and other fish and a whole host of other delicacies, from pies to liqueurs, cheese to patisserie. Every dish is made to order and is high in quality, coming from artisan producers.
The salmon is cleaned and filleted by hand, and cured in dry rock salt. The cured fillets are hang out to dry in the wooden smoke, making them delicious.
The company has a rich history dating back to the 19th century, and is nowadays led by Lance Forman, a descendant of Harry Forman who started the business in 1905. In addition to the home clients, Forman & Field supplies seafood to many of Britain's top restaurants.
Contact: 020 3601 5464
Graig Farm Organics: MeatThe award-winning Graig Farm sells organic meat and poultry, and has been praised particularly for its lamb. The company also stocks organic wine, pet food and groceries. The Welsh farm is based on the family farm of the owner Jonathan Rees, who turned his passion for organic farming into reality in 1999. Still very much a family business, the team believes that organic meat tastes better and avoiding intensive farming is better for the wildlife and environment.
Graig Farm offers organic quality meat from their own farm and other traceable sources. Their impressive selection of different meats and poultry, fish, vegetables and meatboxes has something for everybody - along with the online shop, the company supplies some of the best restaurants in the country.
Contact: 01686 627979
Lane Farm Country Foods: Charcuterie
What started out as a pig-breeding family business nearly twenty years ago,
is now a beloved producer of pork products, such as sausages, ham and salami.
Lane Farm was one of the first producers of salami and chorizo in the UK, and they do it following the same traditional methods as in Italy and Spain. Suffolk Salami is a real family affair run by husband and wife team Ian and Sue and their daughter Rebecca. All their award-winning salami is made on the farm using their own pork which has been outdoor bred and finished in open straw barns. Suffolk Salami is part of Lane farm who also make excellent dry cured bacon and succulent hams. This year they have also introduced their pulled pork ham hock, which has been going down a storm locally!
Contact: 01379 384593
With five generations of knowledge, expertise and experience behind them, Godfreys supplies a wide range of high quality meat.
Chris Godfrey takes great pride in his company, saying: "We specialise in offering only Premium Quality Meats that possess impeccable provenance and immaculate husbandry skills - that are reared as slow grown, additive free naturally raised animals and poultry -as they traditionally should be."
In Autumn Chris' advice is to make the most of the game season by enjoying roasts, pies and stews, together with seasonal vegetables: "The game".
For those wanting to eat more seasonal produce, Godfreys lists on their website all the best meats, vegetables and fruits for each month, for a handy source of cooking inspiration.
Godfreys state of the art dry ageing rooms are another one of their specialties. Chris says: "We are particularly proud of our Dry Aged Beef and Lamb - especially our Beef Picanha and Beef Florentines that have had so much recent attention."
The little-known fact about high quality meat is that it doesn't always have to cost a fortune. Chris says: "Many people think of Premium Quality Meat to be too expensive for them - but one look at our Thrifty Cuts selection will show how a couple can dine on the finest meat - every day of the week - sometimes for as little as £35 a week - and avoid the disappointment of the Supermarket visit!"
Contact: 020 7226 2425
The Well Hung Meat Company: MeatThe Devon-based company sells award-winning, organic lamb, beef, pork and poultry. The company has a great selection of meat boxes to butchers cuts and barbeque. All meat comes from a group of close-knit farms in Devon, following strict standards for their organic meat. All keen foodies, the team behind The Well Hung Meat Company loves experimenting with new cuts, and are ready to advice the customers, too.
Contact: 01364 643087
Field & Flower: Meat Image: Sandro Sodano
Field&Flower deliver free-range, grass-fed meat, sustainably sourced fish and local Somerset produce like delicious cheeses. After meeting in agricultural college, farmer James Flower and foodie James Mansfield founded Field & Flower in 2010 with one cow on Flower's home farm in Somerset. Passionate about low-intensity, traditional British farming, the guys set out to farm, butcher and deliver the best meat possible straight to people's homes with full traceability.
The two James' and their team believe that what really sets them apart is their dedication: "We're farmers supporting other independent British farmers. There aren't many of us in the team, but we like to think we're a nice honest bunch who really care about delivering some really delicious food with the ethos ‘quality over quantity'.
Subscription meat boxes may be what the company is best known for, but there are plenty of other delicious products available: "We can't get enough of Barber's 1833 Vintage Cheddar and neither can our customers. It's definitely the star of any good Christmas cheese board. We want people to make their festive feast free-range. Keep your eyes peeled for our beautiful Somerset turkey from Farmer Stu. We'll be serving ours with plenty of our free-range pork, cranberry and Clementine stuffing."
Contact: 08456 899 007
The Cornish Fishmonger: Fish
The Cornish Fishmonger offers a seasonal selection of seafood from sustainable sources. The fish is delivered fresh, and with over 30 different species on offer there's plenty to choose from. For seafood lovers, there company offers a regular fish box scheme - try the best-selling Cornish Seafood Box for the day's catch.
The company puts high value on sustainability and preserving the marine biodiversity, through supporting local fishermen and working together with them and other industry stakeholders to ensure sustainable future for both fish and fishing. They're a sponsor of the National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow, donating £1 for every lobster bought online to help conserve the lobster population in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
The Cornish Fishmonger has plenty of recipes and tips for preparing the fish, and a helpful phone team at hand to answer any fishy questions.
Contact: 01726 862489
Abel & Cole: Fruit and Vegetables
Abel & Cole have a huge selection of organic, seasonal fruit and veg. Delivered straight to your door you can pick from family favourites like easy fruit and veg boxes or go for something a little more exotic like their recipe boxes - which offer slightly more unusual flavour combinations and ingredients.
Aside from their lovely fresh fruit and veg Abel & Cole also do meat and fish boxes as well as all your storecupboard staples so that you can have one big delivery every week without ever having to brave the supermarket.
Contact: 08452 626262
Riverford Organic Farmers: Fruit and Vegetables
Best known for their organic vegetable boxes full of seasonal veg, Riverford organic farmers also deliver meat, dairy and a variety of beverages. What started out as a family farm in Devon over 20 years ago, now includes three other farms in Hampshire, Cambridgeshire and Yorkshire, delivering vegboxes to England and South Wales.
The self-confessed "unashamed veg nerds" do everything from growing, packing and delivering the veg, to creating recipes and videos. "We're proud of our on-going commitment to farm and run the business in the most ethically, environmentally friendly way possible," they say.
Recently the company started offering smaller meat boxes after their survey showed that their customers were interested in buying less, but better quality meat. "There's no doubt about it, people are changing how they eat meat. The feedback from our meat customers has been great; they especially like that there is less commitment to buy so much meat at once. We're also finding customers who used to only buy veg are now having meat from us, and often comment on the quality difference with ours compared to supermarket, non-organic meat."
Contact: 01803 227227
Caprera: Drinks and More
Caprera is the largest network of independent food and drink producers in the UK. Their website showcases producers offering anything from meat and dairy to bakery products, beverages and kitchen cupboard essentials as well as lots of really unique alcohol producers. Caprera's dedication for good food and drink means that they only work with independent producers, and want their customers to be able to make that connection with the producers, too. Stephanie Ang from the company says: "We're all about telling the stories behind our producers and products, be this through great in-depth biographies, behind-the-scenes videos and exclusive interviews. That, to us, is true traceability, and how food should be - made by real people."
One of the products Stephanie recommends from their selection is English honey with Cinnamon and Brandy by V&L Honeymakers "and not just because they are delicious, but because there is a fantastic story behind the producer!" The husband and wife duo Viktor and Lucy started their company seven years ago, but for Viktor, bee-keeping runs in the family and has always been a part of his life - so much so that he even kept a couple of hives on the balcony of his student flat!
Caprera has interesting roots, too, as it's named after a Mediterranean island to which Giuseppe Garibaldi, famous Italian patriot and fighter (and also founder Jeremy's great-great-grandfather) retired. Stephanie says: "It's where he grew the first lemon, orange and olive trees, made wine, and kept the first honeybees, transforming it from a small rocky island into the vibrant landscape it is today. These ideals of careful nurturing and cultivation are ones we are trying to bring back into the food production process."
The Fine Cheese Co: Cheese
The Fine Cheese Co. sells great-quality artisan cheese from cheesemakers and affineurs across the UK and Europe. Each piece of cheese is cut fresh to order, and the crackers come from their own bakery.
Co-Founder Ann-Marie Dyas says that what makes their company stand out is their focus on the quality. "The Fine Cheese Co. is special because we are still small enough to care: care about the quality of what we source and sell, and care about the service we give to our customers."
The Fine Cheese Co. offers a sumptuous selection of cheese boxes and hampers - and even cheese wedding cakes! With the holidays approaching, the seasonal hampers make for great gifts.
"We believe cheese should be an adventure", Ann-Marie says, "Partnering with the fruits, pickles and crackers that we have created is aimed at making cheese an evolving and involving experience. Welcome to the party!"
Contact: 01225 448748;
Paxton & Whitfield: Cheese
Paxton and Whitfield is the oldest cheesemonger in the UK. Its story began in 1742 when Sam Cullen set up a cheese stall in Aldwych market. The company was honoured with its first Royal Warrant in 1850 by being appointed cheesemonger to HM Queen Victoria.
Today, the company stocks a wide range of British and Continental European artisan cheeses, fine foods and cheese serving accessories. In addition to their online shop, there are four shops in Piccadilly and Chelsea Green in London, Stratford upon Avon and Bath.
For a seasonal speciality, Ros Windsor, managing director at Paxton & Whitfield recommends the creamy Mont d'Or cheese: "In terms of seasonality, Mont d'Or is a fantastic cheese to enjoy at the moment. It is a soft style cheese that comes in a round wooden box. You eat it by scooping the delicious paste of the cheese out of the box with a spoon. It is made in the Jura mountains on the French/Swiss border and is only available from October to March. "
Throughout its long history, Paxton & Whitfield have been the go-to cheesemonger for many Britts, Winston Churchill among them. But he's not the only historical figure to take a stroll in their store, Ros says: "Well, Winston Churchill bought his cheese from us, there is a quote attributed to him that goes "...a gentleman only buys his cheese at Paxton & Whitfield...", but a lot of people don't know that Lord Byron would also buy his cheese from us."
Contact: 01451 823460
Rosebud Preserves: Condiments
Rosebud Preserves has been making jams, marmalades, chutneys and jellies at Masham, North Yorkshire, since 1989. The company was started by Elspeth Biltoft, whose love for countryside and all the produce it offers were the starting point of the company, and she is still involved in the running of the company and product development.
The company values traditional recipes and time-honoured techniques, and all the products are made without any additives. For seasonal products, Elspeth recommends their Red Onion & Port Marmalade, which is a great, savoury marmalade to go with cold meats and Blue Stilton.
One of the founding principles of the Rosebud preserves is to source local produce whenever possible. The less-known fact about the company is that the team's great love for countryside means that sometimes they go searching for the ingredients they use in their products themselves. "We often go foraging in the great North Yorkshire countryside for ingredients to make our products", Elspeth says, "The wonderful natural larder that the North Yorkshire Dales produces helps us create some really special things. For example, we make a Gooseberry &Elderflower jam. We forage for the elderflower when it is in season and use it to make a delicious liquor that we use to flavour the jam."
Contact: 01765 689174
This artisan chocolatier from Dorset offers top-notch hand-made chocolates both online and at its three Chocolate Houses (a combination of café and shop) in Swanage, Winchester and Exeter. Chococo has a varied selection of classic chocolate boxes and other treats, along with humorous novelty chocolates.
Chococo's chocolates are made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients and they don't contain any additives or preservatives. Established in 2002 by husband and wife team Claire and Andy Burnett, Chococo is made special by the passionate team behind it. Claire says: "We are proud to have been one of the first, if not the first UK chocolatier to make truly fresh chocolates by hand and nearly 14 years later, we are still making our chocolates in the same way with the same passion...but with a team to spread the workload! We take a lot of care and attention in what we do and we are passionate about creating chocolates that are not packed with any nasties."
Chococo also offers chocolates with unusual, Dorset-inspired flavours, such as Black Cow Vodka, Blue Vinny cheese and wasabi. Claire says that the team is always looking for interesting flavour combinations: "When we opened our Winchester Chocolate House, we developed a chocolate that was flavoured with watercress and Twisted Nose Gin, a craft gin distilled in Winchester, that uses watercress as one of its botanicals. We named the chocolate Totally Twisted Nose and are thrilled that it has become one of our best sellers and also won a Gold Medal at the Academy of Chocolate Awards 2015."