I’m a well known frugal shopper, especially when it comes to food shopping yet I want delicious meals and exciting ingredients with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables at hand.
I used to subscribe to a weekly organic veg box on the premise that it was more economical than buying the same organic vegetables from the supermarket. I soon realised there were a couple of issues with this idea; firstly, I’d spend hours comparing the prices between the supermarkets but this became impossible when supermarkets tend to have a limited range of organic produce, making any comparison unreliable. My local supermarkets don’t sell items like Swiss Chard in any form, let alone organic. Secondly, whilst the veg box was organic, it wasn’t local. They advertise as local, but really it’s not. OK, maybe if you happen to live right near their Devon, Somerset and Herefordshire farms then yes, but I don’t and my local farm shops sell produce grown within 20 miles I haven’t been able to find a more local veg box scheme). But it’s not always organic. My local supermarket sells produce which is not organic but is part of a programme to ban, prohibit and reduce pesticides.
Furthermore, when the weekly box contents are advertised online, the weights of each item are not given, not only making it impossible to do a price comparison but also, it often works out that you can get more by weight for the same money from the supermarket organic range. I’ve found that unless I buy the largest box, which tends to be generously filled and definitely the best value, most of the time, I’m not saving all that much and I don’t need the largest box. Furthermore, I often find highly reduced organic produce at the supermarket.
I check the box contents every week and sometimes find it worth getting one. If the box contains vegetables such as butternut squash, spinach and avocados, I have found it to be well worth it as these items are always expensive elsewhere.
For storecupboard items, I love Approved Food. It might not be for everyone, I’ve certainly heard a few people’s bad reactions when I’ve told them but that’s just based on a misled perception. Approved Food sells close to, and past, best before date food and drink. The trouble is, so many people think that ‘best before’ means gross, unsafe and equals bin. That’s not the case, it’s the ‘use by’ which refers to safety. Dried pasta will actually be just fine for years past the best before date. The bargains you can pick up here are incredible and even as a vegan, I manage to wade through the tins of chicken soup and find all sorts of vegan friendly staples such as soya milk, pasta, rice and other grains, spices, dried fruit, nuts, chocolate and so much more. A lot of the time there is actually months until the best before date and my most recent order contained products with over a year left. This is because they also sell products which may have been discontinued or the packaging or recipe changed. Every item has the best before date displayed online so you know exactly what you are buying. Trust me, you’ll be surprised, my most recent order contained 6kg of Tortiglioni pasta for £1.98, Cocoa Tahini for 60p and Frank Raw Chocolate Snack Bars for 12p!
For the fridge and freezer, once a month I get an order from Goodness Direct using the £10 off voucher I get in my Vegetarian Living magazine each month. This is where I stock up on vegan sausages, tofu and tempeh and soya and coconut yoghurts and ice cream. Plus, they send the frozen stuff with dry ice which keeps Mat occupied for the entire day with the kitchen sink, making my kitchen look like a mystical cave.
For items such as agar and coconut oil, I use Ebay or Amazon and most importantly, I try to make my own products as much as possible like nut milks, vegan mayonnaise and cheese. I also find it important to never, ever waste anything. Throwing food away is such a big ‘no, no’ for me but I see it happening so much. I won’t go in to a lecture about how many people are hungry in the world, but I’m sure you get the point. It also means you can save money by using your leftovers and past it’s best veg by making a meal from ingredients that would normally (unnecessarily) be in the bin. A bendy carrot isn’t harmful, just passed it’s crisp best, but no one will know once it’s simmered away in a minestrone soup or vegetable stew or stock or juice or smoothie. If you really don’t want to use it, throw it outside in a bush for a little mouse’s supper.
My favourite way to use up surplus fruit and veg when I’ve gone over the top at the farmers market or want to use the weeks veg before the veg box comes, is to bake with it. In fact, the older the fruit and veg the better, as the natural sweetness will have developed more and the softness helps create a moister cake.
This recipe is totally variable to whatever you want to use. Ideas include, sweet potatoes, squash, courgettes and parsnips and you can use all of one or a combination, just make sure they’re all finely grated. The pear could be subbed with other fruit such as apple or 3/4 cup grated or blended pineapple or mango. This cake is so good with a classic, subtly spiced carrot cake flavour that it is worth making not only when you have floppy carrots.
Ingredients: Serves 8
- 280g/2 cups whole wheat flour (or gluten free baking blend)
- 3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tbsp mixed spice
- 185ml/3/4 cup date syrup (or maple syrup, agave syrup, stevia or sugar or other sweetener of choice)
- 1 pear, finely grated (see note above for variations)
- 1 ripe banana, mashed
- 165ml/ 2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 85ml/ 1/3 cup almond milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Zest of one orange
- 375ml/1 1/2 cups raw carrots, scrubbed and finely grated
- 250ml/1 cup raw beetroot, peeled and finely grated (see note above for variations)
- 25g/3 tbsp chopped walnuts
- 100g/ 2/3 cup raisins
- 2 tbsp date or maple syrup
- Juice of 1 orange
- 1 tbsp lucuma powder or golden icing sugar for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 180′C/350′F and line the base of a 9 inch round tin.
- Whisk together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice in a medium bowl.
- In a large bowl, whisk the date syrup, grated pear, mashed banana, applesauce and almond milk together. Stir in the vanilla and orange zest until combined.
- Add the flour mixture, walnuts and raisins to the wet mixture and fold through followed by the carrots and beetroot.
- Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out without wet batter but a few moist crumbs.
- Whilst the cake is baking mix together the syrup and orange juice for the topping. When the cake is ready, place in the tin on a wire rack and poke holes all over with a fork or skewer. Drizzle over the syrup, spooning into the holes. Leave to cool completely in the tin before removing and dusting with lucuma powder or golden icing sugar to serve.
Very high in vitamin B6