How To… cook with cheap vegetables.

I am a big advocate of doing everything as cheaply as possible. On the other hand, anyone who ever bought 40 avocados or 5kg of broccoli because it was cheap can confirm that sometimes we buy cheap food and make a dog’s dinner instead of a meal.

Too many avocados!

Too many avocados!

Here is some step-by-step advice to help you buy and use cheap vegetables.

1: Learn the warning signs. There is nothing worse than buying a load of cheap mangoes, only for them to be fibrous and inedible. Learn how to sniff the produce and smell the freshness, how to press the skin or tap the shell to gauge the ripeness, how to check the colour and texture for assessing quality. A few bruises, a soft patch or even a dot of mold can be cut off. Stone-deep rot, dryness and hollowness aren’t usually fixable. Have a good search for the favourite or most expensive produce in your home and how to tell when it’s perfect to eat.

2: Look out for reduced sections. Supermarkets will mark down produce long before it’s overripe or going off, so buy that. Vegetable stalls and grocers aren’t quite so kind, so have a good look at anything you buy. Usually it will just be a little “ugly”: soft apples and dry cabbage being good examples. But sometimes you won’t be able to work with it.

All reduced price.

All reduced price.

3: Only buy what you can realistically use. A family of 5 may be able to eat 10kg of tomatoes in various forms over a week, but don’t push it to 20.

4: Plan ahead with whatever you’ve got. When I come home with tomato, aubergine and courgette, I want to know I can prepare more than one or two variants on meals with it. Ratatouille, mince and rice, salad, vegetable bake and curry, in this case. If you’re not sure, sit down and write out a list of recipes until everything would be used up.

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5: Once you’re confident checking quality, finding cheap produce, buying to suit your family and meal planning, try only using cheap plant foods. It saves so much money and even saves time to have an amount of perfectly ripe fruit and veg around the house.

6: Learn to store the produce. Slice and freeze fruit and vegetables. Make vegetable base for stews and freeze or can them. Make jam and chutney and pickles. Make a load of pasta sauce and leave it in the fridge. Dry fruit. Anything, just learn to store it so that when you find an amazingly good deal you can buy it all. We have salad leaves we freeze and use in stir-fries, jams in jars and sliced fruit in the freezer. Be creative.

Pie with home-made jam.

Pie with home-made jam.

So that’s how we find, buy and use cheap produce. I hope it’s reasonably enlightening. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments!

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

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