The Cruelty-Free Shop Vegan Mystery Box – May 2016

The Cruelty-Free Shop Vegan Mystery Box is a subscription box that promises 8 – 10 cruelty-free items valued at $34.95 minimum. The contents of the box are entirely vegan and range from snacks and sweet treats to more substantial food or pantry staples.

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Cruelty-Free Shop Vegan Mystery Box
Cost: $34.95
Shipping Costs: $9.95 within Australia only.
Payment Method: Credit Card.
Mailed Out: First Wednesday of each month
**Note: subscriptions auto-renew on the 2nd of each month**

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The Cruelty-Free Shop does not send an email to confirm your parcel has been shipped, but as the shipping date is etched in stone rather than the vagueness of some of my other boxes that estimate ‘first week of month’, etc. I suppose it’s safe to assume that the shipment has taken place.

I had a minor issue with my delivery as the courier rang up to confirm my address, which was apparently NOT what was on the package. When it hadn’t arrived early this week, I contacted CFS and they helpfully provided me with a tracking number to see where it was (its status was marked as ‘returned to sender’ and then resent with the correct address). I’d prefer if this tracking number was automatically provided, but their FAQ mentions it’s available upon request, so I will have to remember to do that next month. I like to know where exactly my packages are and when to expect them!

This box was dispatched on Wednesday 4th May and arrived on the following Tuesday 10th May.

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We receive a contents sheet listing everything in the box plus the individual value for each item.

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First peek into the box – nice to see full-size products, and some yummy looking ones at that! Very favorable first impression πŸ˜€

OVERVIEW OF CONTENTS

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Biona Organic Jelly Dino Lollies$5.40 on CFS (found online from $3.95 on sale to $4.10 to $4.95)

These were naturally sweet and delicious! The dinosaur shape was up to your interpretation, it wasn’t as defined as the picture would have you think, but it tasted great. I don’t understand why jelly lollies need to have gelatine in them when the vegan alternative is just as yummy. My gluten-free vegan friend, Brad, wolfed down several of these before reluctantly relocating the bag to my side of the lunch table to avoid finishing it all off himself, lol.

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Clif Coconut Chocolate Chip Bar$2.95 on CFS (found online for $2.79 to $2.99)

Another winner! I did intend to share this with Brad, but it was TOO GOOD. I polished it all off myself, whoops… I had my doubts about the oats, which aren’t my favorite, but this was chewy and delicious, the perfect snack to keep you going when the afternoon munchies hit. There was just enough chocolate chips to satisfy without overwhelming what’s meant to be a relatively healthy snack, so you can still feel virtuous!

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Coconut Magic Raw Cacao Energy Bar$4.60 on CFS ($4.20 on four different sites)

This one wasn’t as much to my liking as the previous snacks. It was a bit too rich and sweet for my palate, with a very strong taste of dates, which I’m not fond of – Brad enjoyed it, however, so each to their own.

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Bonvita Chocolate Coated Rice Cakes$3.90 on CFS (found online from $3.45 to $3.60)

When I first saw these, I thought the chocolate to rice-cake ratio was off, but there was enough chocolate to make it sweet without being too much, so it was just right! Really enjoyed this snack. Each rice cake was huge and filling, so we split this over two days. πŸ˜€

I will say it felt a bit odd at first because I usually eat salty rice-cakes, so having one that was chocolate-y messed with my taste-buds a bit, but then I rationalized it was a bit like Coco Pops and the world made sense again, lol.

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Colgin Hickory Liquid Smoke$5.50 on CFS (found online from $4.25 to $5.95 to $7.50 to $7.95)

This product was divisive! I surveyed a few of the folks in the office and some hated the smell while others (me included) thought it smelled enticing. I tried a bit out of curiosity and it’s so bizarre, it really tastes like smoke in liquid form! Definitely true to the advertising, and something very new and different.

I don’t think it will become a smash hit, it’s a bit too polarizing to replace the more traditional tomato sauce, etc. but it was fun to try! I’m going to start applying this to a variety of food as an experiment πŸ˜‰

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Nakula Coconut Water$4.30 on CFS (found online from $3.25 to $3.70 to $3.95 and up to $4.00)

This was not a success at all, unfortunately. I wanted to like it, as I have fond childhood memories of drinking coconut juice straight out of a coconut cracked open by my uncles on the farm in Fiji, but this was just disgusting. 😦 It looked like cloudy grey water and was not refreshing and taste-quenching as it claimed. This drink may be an acquired taste, but I gave it a go, downing half the can, and it didn’t get any better, so I had to bail. :/

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Dr McDougall’s Garlic Vegetable Noodle Soup$3.60 on CFS (found online between $3.30 to $4.56)

Back on form with this product – this soup smelled divine and had other staff members lured into our lunch room to track down that wonderful aroma! It was warm and welcome on a cold winter’s day, but on the downside, there was a ton of soup and relatively little of the noodles and vegetables. The noodles were also very thin and slippery and thus provided a bit of a challenge to consume! Let’s just say there was an undignified amount of slurping going on and leave it at that…

I’d be keen to try some other varieties from this brand, for eg. the pad thai noodle or the chicken noodle, which both look thicker and more manageable!

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Extra-ordinary Kale Chips with Cashew Vegan Cheese$8.45 on CFS (found online from $6.95$6.98 , $7.45$7.95 and up to $8.11)

The undisputed hero of the box – I was amazed at how much I loved these kale chips. I’m not a fan of kale and I was dubious about trying this snack version, but it’s incredible what drying it out and coating it with cashew vegan cheese can do! I basically inhaled most of the packet, SO YUM! ❀ I definitely cleaned out all the crumbs as well, wasn’t letting any of that goodness go to waste…

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The final ‘item’ is a recipe printed on the reverse side of the contents sheet. I think it’s a bit cheeky to consider this part of the subscription box’s contents – if they were going to include a recipe that anyone could google and print for themselves, at the least this could be printed on glossy paper or formatted in a visually pleasing manner or some sort of extra effort put into it so that it doesn’t seem like a cheap after-thought.

This seems more like a freebie to me, so seeing it listed as item #9 with the implication that it has some value is rather questionable. Little Box of Yum provides a contents card with recipes included on a lovely pamphlet as their default. (I shamefully failed to photograph this, but here is an example from a review by Brisbane Devoured)

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VERDICT

On the whole, I really enjoyed my first mystery box from the Cruelty-Free Shop! It was fun opening this up at work and sharing the different food items with Brad; it definitely made our lunch more exciting. ^_^We enjoyed 7 out of the 9 items from this box, so I call that a success and am looking forward to June’s box!

I’m a fan of the ease of convenience in simply placing your order and having someone else do the hard work of sourcing vegan items, saving me the effort of scanning through lists of ingredients in tiny print to figure out what’s suitable!

Quality of Curation: I thought CFS put together a great range of products – I appreciated how it varied between sweet and savory, and also included a drink and a condiment! Even though there were two bars, each catered to different tastes, with one being more fruity while the other was chocolate-based. And it’s great that these were all full-sized items instead of tiny samples, too. πŸ™‚

Worth It? The Cruelty-Free Shop promise a value of more than $34.95, and in the small-print, they note that this is based on their own retail prices. I expect that would be due to the fact that in the case of 5 items out of 8, the CFS prices were higher than the same products advertised elsewhere online. The value for this box based on the CFS store is $38.70, whereas if I calculate the total value based on the cheapest prices I found these items for on other sites, its value comes to $32.54.

It’s only a difference of just over $6, but I thought it worth mentioning. This doesn’t take into account the cost of postage – obviously having all these items shipped by the same store makes it a lot cheaper than sourcing the individual items from different stores and having to cop the shipping fee several times over.

Personally, I’d say it’s good enough that the value of the box (per CFS) covers the money you paid for it, and it’s a lot more convenient to have them put together a box of vegan goodies for you instead of paying for one or two items each from a variety of stores. Just be aware that if you do want to re-order anything you particularly enjoyed, it’s a good idea to have a quick search around on the interwebz to see if you can find it at a lower price!

Personal Rating: 4 out of 5 kitties approve this box!

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Find Out More: You can find the Cruelty-Free Shop on Facebook and Instagram.

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