Veg Box Cake and Eating Gourmet for Less


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


  1. Preheat the oven to 180’C/350’F and line the base of a 9 inch round tin.
  2. Whisk together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice in a medium bowl.
  3. 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.
  4. Add the flour mixture, walnuts and raisins to the wet mixture and fold through followed by the carrots and beetroot.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

I’m entering this into the #EXTRAVEG FOOD BLOG CHALLENGE – MAY 2015 hosted by Veggie DessertsFuss Free Flavours and Utterly Scrummy.

Calorie Count :: New Recipe

Nutritional Benefits

No saturated fat
No cholesterol
Very high in vitamin B6
High in vitamin C
High in Dietary Fiber
This entry was posted in Cakes, Gluten-free, vegan, Vegetarian and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to Veg Box Cake and Eating Gourmet for Less

  1. Those are very interesting ideas for saving on food! I wonder if we have something like Approved Food here in Canada…my only concern is that unlike you guys in the UK, we only get a best before date, not the two dates which would be MUCH more useful. Maybe we’ll catch up to you some day 😉

    • Poppy says:

      Interesting about the fact that you don’t have use by dates. We don’t have them on everything but the idea of Approved Food is that they only sell things that they know is safe. I hope you find something similar in Canada! 😀

  2. Deena Kakaya says:

    Oh my goodness that looks moist and deep, great idea x

  3. The cake looks lovely 🙂

  4. Erin Hedrick says:

    I love your blog! And as a thank you for being such a wonderful read, I’ve nominated you for the Sunshine Award! You can read the details on my blog here:
    Congrats, and please keep writing!!

  5. That looks really really tasty!

  6. josy7272 says:

    Looks simply yummy ! Going to try it soon ! Thanx for sharing !

  7. I really enjoyed this post, Poppy. We are always trying to be better at eliminating waste. We do pretty good, but sometimes, there’s something we find in the fridge that we didn’t get to! I’ve never heard of Approved Food, what a great idea.
    Your cake looks amazing, and only 3 grams of fat – I’ll take it!

  8. Great post! The cake looks delicious, I too NEVER throw anything away. I love hearing how people in countries other than mine (the U.S.) find organic ingredients!

  9. Marfigs says:

    This looks so delicious! I love carrot cake that doesn’t require icing! 😀

    We don’t like to waste food either, so anything veg-like that seems to be on its last tail I chop and freeze to use in our weekly soup, for example. When I go to family and see the amount of food just sitting in their fridge that’s gotten mouldy I have to restrain myself from freaking out, because even in simple economic terms it’s rather ridiculous. Sometimes, however, it’s difficult to get everything eaten when you live with another half who doesn’t eat stuff like salad unless it means putting an honorary sliver of lettuce on a huge veggie burger and a minuscule shaving of tomato exiled to the far end of his plate just to get me to hush! :p

    • Poppy says:

      Haha, your description of forcing vegetables into your other half made me laugh! I’m lucky that mine is quite good in that department!

      Freezing veg for soup is a great idea! Thank you for sharing 😀

  10. Riddhi says:

    Great post Poppy! I hate the wastage too and always use those extra fruits & veggies in baking or in soups. Love how moist this cake turned out! 🙂

    • Poppy says:

      Thanks Riddhi! It’s great that you use up your produce too, that’s lovely to hear! This cake is so moist yet has a great body too which was a surprise given it has no fat added! 😀

  11. Rose says:

    Great looking recipe Poppy! Thank you. It’s interesting to read about your vegie boxes, we are spoiled for choice in Australia because of our climate and size. Organic costs more of course but I think it’s worth it for many items.

    • Poppy says:

      Hi Rose, thank you so much!
      I’m sure there must be great abundance in sunny Australia! I definitely agree that for some items, it is worth paying extra for organic, for taste not only health. It’s even better when the organic produce is reduced! 😀

  12. kristahlmaaria says:

    This is such a great article, thanks for sharing! Your insight into minimising food waste and shopping around to find the best available deals and options is information we should all follow. Not to mention that cake looks so good!

  13. MamaD1xx4xy says:

    Great post! Sounds like you have lots of shopping options. We don’t have nearly as many but do our best. Of course we have a huge garden in the summer which helps. This cake looks great, I love to use over ripe fruits or limp veggies in a similar way.

    • Poppy says:

      Thank you!
      Most of the options are online options, local shops don’t offer much, especially as I don’t have a large supermarket for miles, adding more travel cost and time and emissions, I find it cheaper to pay the little postage fee!

      I’m glad you like to use up produce like this too, it’s so rewarding!

  14. May says:

    I’ve stopped getting my veg box because I was making myself feel sick over how much I was wasting – things which arrived already beaten up and starting to rot, things which went mouldy overnight, and the weirdest combination of items that I couldn’t find any way of eating without buying a whole load more veg, which sort of defeated the point! I think it’s definitely reliant on having a good local option available. I love your idea of baking the leftovers though; I don’t bake half often enough but I really should!

    • Poppy says:

      Hi May, lovely to hear from you!

      I hear what you are saying about wastage and on that premise it sounds like you’ve done the right thing in cancelling it, especially if the produce wasn’t the best quality. I think it totally depends on how much veg a person or family eats, sometimes it’s more economical and less wasteful to just buy a few items a time and for others a bulk box is best. Trial and error I guess! I hope you enjoy some baking soon! 😀

  15. This is the cake that use the most of fruit and veggie, but I think it must so good, of course it looks good. Thanks, you sharing the mail order veg box information with us, I only can afford to buy organic when it appears in the bargain corner.

    • Poppy says:

      I totally understand about only being able to afford organic when it is in the bargain corner, I’m the same most of the time. I think it depends how much veg you eat. Buying a large veg box from Riverford every other week works out that you get generous portions of organic veg for around £10 a week. 😀

  16. That cake looks SO good! Were you with Abel&Cole? We’re really lucky in having a great local veg box provider, the weeks and months keep passing by and I still feel that it has changed my life! Ha, perhaps a little overly enthusiastic, but it works for me 🙂

    • Poppy says:

      Thank you! I have used Abel & Cole before but I now use Riverford as they are much better value and the boxes are so much more generous. I’m always on the look out for a local provider, you’d think living in the Kent countryside there would be one but all the ones I have found appear to have stopped running! Maybe I should find some farmers and start my own!! 😀

  17. Wow Poppy, AMAZING post, I love it!
    I didn’t know about Approved Food, that’s amazing! There are few things I loathe more than food waste!
    And all your other tips are great too!! 😀 Thanks so much!!

    • Poppy says:

      Thank you so much, I’m really glad you found this information useful! It is great that there are companies selling on the food that would otherwise be binned in mass by manufacturers! 😀

  18. Great post! Never knew about Approved Food! Thank you for that tip…I can see myself shopping there a lot! Love the idea of using up left up veg this way too 🙂

  19. The New Loaf says:

    Woah, this looks great! what a great idea.

  20. Sophie33 says:

    All great tips! I also cook for 2 days in a row, it saves us two a lot of money! A glorious wiining cake that I must amke tomorrow! Yummm!

  21. afracooking says:

    What a fabulous topic for a post! Yum cake!

  22. chefceaser says:

    Reblogged this on Chef Ceaser.

  23. merysony says:

    It looks delicious . I will try to make it myself this weekend.Wish me luck with that 🙂

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