National Vegetarian Week: Thinking Outside The (Veg) Box
It’s National Vegetarian Week; the annual awareness-raising campaign to promote vegetarian food and the perfect excuse to introduce a few more vegetables into your diet – hopefully for longer than just one week!
Many of us buy our fruit and veg at the supermarket; however, supermarket produce often comes wrapped in plastic, plastic and more plastic, which is bad news for the environment.
And whilst supermarkets have recently been urged to create plastic-free aisles, we’re still a long way off.
Those wanting to eat fruit and veg in a more ‘eco-friendly’ way tend to look towards organic veg box schemes; however these schemes have a reputation for being quite pricey.
Riverford’s medium original veg box, for example, comes in at £13.95 and contains 8 seasonal vegetables, but a larger selection of 10 vegetables adds up to £18.45. A medium veg box from rival Abel & Cole, on the other hand, is even more expensive at £16.50 and for a larger selection of vegetables, the price goes up to a whopping £24.75.*
It begs the question: is being more eco-friendly worth the money? But on the other hand, if you choose the cheapest option, you have to ask: at what cost?
I was recently on the panel at a sustainable eating event ran by Food at Heart and organic produce was a hot topic.
Whilst it’s beyond the scope of this post to summarise everything that was said, my view was that, although going organic is an ideal that many of us aspire to, sometimes other factors take priority. For some this is price, for me it is waste.
What I mean by this is that I would rather rescue fruit and vegetables from the reduced section at the supermarket than have a box of fresh organic produce delivered weekly.
Having said that, the packaging at the supermarket does really bother me. (I am particularly offended by ALDI’s individually wrapped aubergines.)
But what if there was a kind of… happy medium? A DIY veg box, to suit any budget, that may not be 100% organic but is plastic-free and could potentially reduce food waste?
Recently, I went down to my local market towards the end of the day and asked the veg man to just give me roughly a tenner’s worth of whatever he wanted to get shifted.
He’d obviously not been asked before, because he became a little flustered and seemed a bit unsure as to what he should do with his new-found freedom. But with a little encouragement, for twelve whole English pounds I received 13 kinds of vegetable:
- 1 cauliflower
- 1 cabbage
- 3 large flat mushrooms
- 3 large beetroot with leaves
- 1 bunch of carrots with their tops
- 5 large parsnips
- 1 cucumber
- 5 vine tomatoes
- 1 enormous sweet potato
- 4 normal potatoes
- 3 large white onions
- 2 courgettes
- 2 lettuces
Granted, I have no idea if the veg is organic or not (I didn’t ask), but I was really pleased with the variety and quality of what I received. Plus, he took into account what I already had at home and what he’d already given me in order to provide the most balanced selection possible. I was also really happy with the price and, of course… nothing was wrapped in plastic.
I’ve talked previously about bartering at markets at the end of the day to save a bit of money on your food bill and about growing your own food where possible, but the ‘DIY veg box’ is another option available to those of us who are trying to eat healthily without it costing the Earth. (Both metaphorically and literally.)
What I love about shopping this way is that, like veg box schemes, you never really know what you’re going to get. For some, that might be really off-putting, but I’m one of those people that looks at ingredients and then works out what they’re gonna make, as opposed to buying ingredients with set meals in mind.
I’m not fussy!
What do you think? Is that something that could work for you? Let me know your thoughts!
And on that note, I’ll leave you with some further reading from the Sustainable Food Trust blog on why we could all do with being a little less picky…
*prices accurate at time of writing