What it’s like to order – a Review of Azure Standard
I recently placed and picked up my very first grocery order from Azure Standard, a small food distributor and family-owned farm. The experience of placing my order online and then going to pick up my shipment was so easy and efficient I wanted to share it in a review of Azure Standard.
In complete candor, I was so impressed with the experience and the products that I decided to become an affiliate. That means I’ll receive store credit if you visit Azure Standard and place an order or if you use my code, heatherfleming1, when you order. I wanted to put that out right at the beginning. I had drafted this post before I knew Azure even had affiliates, and I would happily spread the word without any incentive from them to do so. I’ll be updating my review of Azure Standard periodically to ensure it’s accurate and truthfully reflects my ongoing customer experience with them.
If you’re wondering what it’s like to order from Azure Standard, read on.
What is Azure Standard?
Azure Standard is something between a small-scale food distributor and a co-op. You can order just about any food or personal care item from Azure. They’re committed to working with small business and small farms and they only sell non-GMO products. While they have plenty of non-organic foods, they also have a robust selection of organic items. The prices for most items seem to be consistent with local big box stores, but of course that’s going to vary with the seasons and your location. The selection is top-notch, even though Covid-19 shortages have hit their supply lines. Their products, especially produce and drygoods, are available in a wide range of sizes, from standard grocery store size or bigger quantities.
Some background on what I ordered from Azure and why.
It started with my backyard chickens. I’m not very keen on feeding them commercial chicken food, for a number of reasons. In searching for safe and healthy chicken food formulas, I learned I would need to buy large quantities of things like wheat berries, rye and millet. Since I also have a nascent interest in (eventually) starting to grind wheat and other grains for flour, I wasn’t mad about the idea of buying big sacks of grain. I was concerned about the prices I was seeing, until I found Azure’s website. They simply had the best prices on high-quality whole grains of any online retailer. They also sold everything I wanted to order in large quantities, which would let me stock up for six months.
How Azure Standard ships orders
I was looking at ordering about 200 pounds of grain. That’s….a lot of grain and potentially a LOT of money in shipping. When you order from Azure, you actually sign up to be part of a monthly, local drop shipment, rather than having your order delivered to your door. Because of that, the cost to have even a pallet of grain sent to you is negligible, especially compared with door-to-door shipping. It cost me about $9 to have 190 pounds of grain trucked from Oregon to Kentucky.
So honestly, that’s where it started. I wanted good quality grains to feed my chickens, and probably myself, and I wanted a price that made mixing up my own chicken food cost effective compared to higher quality commercial feed.
Do you need a membership to shop with Azure Standard?
No, although you need to create a free account, like any online retailer. Azure Standard doesn’t charge anything to join a drop site or place an order. You can order as much or as little as you’d like and you can order monthly or once a year or even less often. There IS a $50 minimum order amount per drop. If you’re not ordering $50 worth of items, you can just pay a $5 courtesy fee.
Since there was no commitment or membership fee, I was willing to take a chance and order. While I wasn’t super keen on having to drive 15 miles to get my order off a truck, I also figured it wasn’t a big deal to do that a couple of times a year.
So what was it like, driving to a parking lot and meeting a semi-truck full of food?
I’m the kind of person who get low-key nervous when I have to do something new. I worry about logistics, knowing where to go or how things work. So I was a little bit anxious about my first drop. The drop information was available before I placed my order, so I knew where I was going and what to expect. I also had contact information for the local Azure volunteer, in case I had questions.
Generally, the drop is scheduled for a short window of time. The local Azure volunteer (called a Drop-Coordinator) and the truck driver unload and distribute everything. It’s a little like a Christmas party – you stand in line and wait for your name to be called so you can approach the tree…er truck, and get your present. Except that the present is a sack of wheat and you paid for it.
It took about 35 minutes for all of the items ordered by our drop members to be distributed. Because of Covid-19, the drops are apparently taking a little longer.
A few more things about ordering from Azure:
- since your drop happens once a month, you have about 21 days to place items in your cart and order. The cutoff is usually 7 days from the next scheduled drop.
- there’s a chance that an item you put into your cart won’t actually be in stock when items are pulled and loaded. Once the truck is loaded, you get an email telling you exactly what items you’re getting and you are only charged for the items that are in stock and shipped. My entire order was listed as shipped but one box actually didn’t make it onto the truck. That was the only hitch and although disappointing, it wasn’t the end of the world. I called customer service and they immediately took the items off my order.
- you can add or remove things from your order any time during the 21 day window.
- Azure doesn’t charge your credit card until your items are actually shipped.
- Their customer service is outstanding. I had to call twice, once because my credit card was stolen and then because one of my boxes wasn’t on the truck. Both times, I got through almost immediately and the representative was friendly and helpful.
How’s the food quality from Azure Standard?
I opened the 25 pound bag of brown lentils almost immediately so I could make lentil soup. They were fresh and had a great color. When cooked, they were everything you want a lentil to be. The rest of my order is well-packaged and the grains look plump and fresh. When I order again, I’m going to purchase produce so I can update this post on the quality and freshness.
If you have food preferences or allergies, Azure has a site-wide account filter that lets you filter their products by ingredients or nutritional value, which is very helpful.
And what about their prices?
In terms price, all of my bulk grains and seeds were cheaper per pound than anywhere else I found online. The organic produce seems relatively consistent with prices at my local Kroger or Whole Foods but of course that’s going to vary by region and season. Keep in mind that although the price per unit might not be cheaper than your local big box grocery store, you might be able to save money simply by having to make fewer trips to the store, if you buy in bulk.
Azure also offers bulk boxes of fruit and vegetables, including cool things like this 25 pound box of assorted organic rainbow carrots and this 40 pound box of randomly chosen produce. I’m going to order one of those next time, it’s a cool way to get an assortment of fruits and vegetables for a great price.
A final thought on ordering food in bulk:
At the time of this writing, it’s mid-September 2020 and the Covid-19 disruptions to the food chain seem to have stabilized, which is a relief. Having said that, the empty grocery store shelves in March and April really shook me up. Like many people, I decided to keep a few months of food supplies on hand in the future, once things calmed down. That might not be a possibility or a priority for everyone, I realize. But I like the idea of buying my dry goods in larger sizes. It means we’ll always have at least some pantry staples on hand. That’s already meant fewer trips to the store and less wasteful packaging, too.
If you found this post helpful, I’m so glad. I am eager to find shopping alternatives to mega-corporations and Azure Standard seems to be an excellent option. I’ll be happy to answer questions about my experiences with Azure, post a comment or email me. A reminder that my Azure code is heatherfleming1, if you decide to sign up for an account or place an order. You can also connect with Azure by clicking here.
As a special bonus, when you join you’ll receive Splendor on a Shoestring, my guide to finding silver, china, linens and other home items on a budget.