When we're in the UK, I always visit Holland and Barrett at least once, sometimes more. (For those who don't know this chain, they're basically a health food shop). Their range and quality of vitamins and minerals is excellent, and although the prices can be on the high side, they have new special offers every week, and I take advantage of many of them.
They do an online ordering option, which I've used a couple of times to a UK address, when someone was coming out to see us. I've also, on rare occasions, ordered directly to Cyprus. The reason I haven't done that very often is that the postage was, in my view, ridiculously high. They charged £16.75 to deliver here, for any size of parcel. It was worth it when I wanted to order Vitamin C powder, which I stir into our fresh juice each morning. They charge around £18 for the odd amount of 567g, or just over half a kilogram of Vit C powder. The best price I found in Cyprus for something similar was over €20 for 100g. So even with the extortionate postage, it was worth making an order for that alone. But, obviously, better still to buy when we're in the UK.
Since I have ordered online, I get emails of special offers from Holland and Barrett now and again. I sometimes delete them unread, sometimes check to see if there's anything I want. Just before Christmas, they sent me an email offering me £10 off any online order for more than £30, which seemed like a very good deal. I had forgotten about it with all that goes on in December, until they sent me a reminder that it would expire in a few days.
So, in an idle moment, I browsed around the Holland and Barrett site. I knew I'd run out of lavender oil and was very low on tea tree oil, both of which are extremely expensive in Cyprus. But I didn't really want to spend $30 just on essential oil.
I was, therefore, rather pleased to see that they have started including nuts, seeds and dried fruit in their online options. And, at a quick glance, it seemed that they were very good value. I was even more pleased to see that they now also offer green tea and blackcurrant tea-bags online, since I haven't been able to get hold of any of those for a couple of months. Cyprus supermarkets do tend to run out of things from time to time, and I've been drinking green tea and raspberry instead, which I like almost as much.
So today, while it pours with rain outside, I decided to have a proper look at the site, compare prices with what I've bought here, and - perhaps - make an order taking account of the voucher.
My first and perhaps most exciting discovery is that postage to Cyprus is now a much more reasonable £6.95.
Almonds, I discovered, are a little more expensive from Holland and Barrett than the best prices I've found here. So I didn't order any of those.
Flaxseeds (linseeds) which I add to bread are €2,39 for 250g from Metro; £1.54 for 500g from Holland and Barrett. Even given that a pound is worth a bit more than a euro, that is considerably better value. Sunflower seeds were not quite so significantly different, but still rather less: £2.19 for 500g at H&B compared to €1,79 for 250g at Metro. Dried apricots were cheaper too - slightly - and (I hope) free of additives. I did order some essential oils, some of which were on special offer this week, making them even better value, and a pack of green tea and blackcurrant, which is only 79p for 20 bags (compared to over two euros which I pay when they're available here). I was delighted to see Ricola cough lozenges now available to order online (oddly, searching for 'Ricola' does not produce any results, but I spotted them anyway, labelled as 'swiss herb drops'.
I saw bags of oats (oatmeal) too, £1.49 for a kilogram; the best bargain I've been able to find in Cyprus is €1.00 for 500g - and not always available. I have a couple of bags in the freezer, and only really use them for granola, which I make about once a month, so I didn't order any this time. My Holland and Barrett order had reached £30, and I can see myself using this facility regularly now the postage is so much more reasonable. With the £10 discount, my entire order - including postage - came to just over £27. For items that, in Cyprus, would have cost me nearly €50.
I suppose this shows just how the cost of living in Cyprus has risen in the past few years. Although vitamins and minerals have always been expensive here, food in general used to be reasonably good value. And I don't think of Holland and Barrett as particularly cheap compared to other UK shops.
My order will probably take a couple of weeks to arrive, but assuming it's in good condition (and assuming the Post Office doesn't try to charge me anything for receiving foods here) I shall definitely be ordering online from Holland and Barrett again.