Saving Money and Avoiding Food Wastage – My 6 Top Tips to use Vegetables past their Best Before Date
In my first post in this series ‘Saving Money and Avoiding Food Wastage’ I talked about how to save money on your food bill – before, during and after you have been shopping. In the last post I gave you my fruity tips – how to freeze fruit.
Today we discuss vegetables!
When you come home from your weekly shop, do you tend to throw away last week’s carrots, peppers and half a cauliflower as you make room for the new?
As with fruit, the Best Before date is a mere suggestion from the manufacturers as to when the vegetables can be enjoyed at their best. To eat veggies raw we want to enjoy them as fresh as possible, but if you have not managed to utilise these within date they are still absolutely edible and not harmful in any way.
Have a good look in your fridge the night before you go shopping. Make sure you have used everything before bringing in more of the same food. Look at planning meals around what you already have. You may well have some items in your fridge that have passed their Best Before date, but before you condemn your bendy carrots or sprouting potatoes to the bin there are things you can do.
MY 5 TOP TIPS TO USE UP VEGETABLES – WHAT I DO IN GENERAL (except no.6 because we don’t have any!)
- Make Soup. There are a million different soup ideas for any given vegetable. Have a look in your fridge and cupboards and see what you have to hand. Chop up veg, adding lentils to the pot if you fancy. Add stock to cover the veg, simmer until cooked, blend then season to taste. The smaller you chop the veg, the quicker the soup will be ready and the more nutrients you will keep locked inside.
- Roasted Vegetables. Perfect for veg that is past its best. Cut into similar sized pieces, drizzle with oil and season with salt, pepper and other spices. Add to salads, sandwiches or pasta dishes. Roasted vegetables can happily stay in the fridge for 3-5 days, but they also freeze well. This is great for nights when you don’t have time to cook. You can cook them from frozen.
- Make a Curry. A great midweek dinner. If you don’t already have a meat-free day this could be a great opportunity to incorporate this into your weekly plan, especially if this veg was going to end up in the bin! Healthy and totally economical. (see below)
- Veggie Dips are great to make from soft vegetables. My favourite veggies dips are Curried Cauliflower Dip, Roasted Carrot and Chickpea and Green Goddess Dip (see below).
- Blanch and Chill. Like ‘Netlix and Chill’ except slightly different. Briefly submerge your chopped vegetables into boiling water for 30 seconds – 1 minute. Have an ice bath ready to plunge your veg into to stop the cooking process to keep them as fresh as possible. Use kitchen paper to allow the veg to dry fully before freezing on a lined try then transfer to a labeled freezer bag.
- Feed it to your animals. Animals still need to be healthy!
HERE ARE THE THINGS I DO IN PARTICULAR
Bendy carrots and parsnips. Ok, so you don’t want to eat them raw or make into coleslaw, but bendy carrots make great soup and are delicious roasted with bashed garlic and onions. This can be eaten as an accompaniment to your meal or blended with chickpeas or lentils and yogurt to make a Roasted Carrot and Chickpea. This will keep in the fridge for 5 days and can be spread on oatcakes or used as a grazing snack in the evening.
Potatoes are fine for weeks after their date. Even if they have started sprouting, just cut the sprouts off. I don’t think anyone ever got sick from eating a squashy potato. You can freeze mashed potatoes but not cooked cubed potatoes as they hold too much water and do not taste good when defrosted. You can add butter and milk and freeze in a silicone muffin tray in 100g portions.
Cauliflower is my favourite vegetable! Did you know you can freeze it raw? I chucked one in the freezer the night before we went on holiday this year as I didn’t manage to use it in time. It was absolutely fine! I made Cream of Cauliflower Soup.
Cauliflower Rice – Cut into small florets and pulse in the food processor. This can be frozen into individual portions in small freezer bags. The beauty of doing this rather than freezing it whole is that you can throw it straight in to the wok and it will cook in 5 minutes. It is best to cook from frozen because when it starts to defrost it oozes its cauliflowery smell – not good!
Cauliflower Mash is a great thing to make if your cauliflower is feeling a bit soft. Simply boil or steam the florets then blend in a food processor or hand blender. Add some mustard, salt and pepper. It is also very delicious with any strong cheese; cheddar or parmesan. For extra creaminess add Greek yogurt or soft cheese. This makes a great substitute for mashed potato and it freezes like a dream. I love having this in my freezer. I use it to make comforting winter bakes. You could use it to make a potato free cottage pie.
Curried Cauliflower Dip. Cut the cauliflower into small florets and coat with oil and My Indian Spice Mix (recipe below)and salt. Roast in the oven at 180°C for 30-45 minutes. Blend with Greek yogurt and season to taste. Delicious with raw veg or spread on oatcakes or corn thins.
Broccoli. Even a squashy broccoli deserves a proper end to its life! Soup is always an option, but you could try making a Green Goddess Dip. Steam the broccoli until soft. Add soft cheese, cheddar or Parmesan to a blender. Add a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper. Delicious!
Tomatoes can be fine long after their date and other times they are soft long before their date. My favourite thing to do with tomatoes is to slow roast them. Cut them into eighths, season with salt and pepper, bashed whole garlic cloves and drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil then roast in the oven at 110°C for 3 hours. These will live happily in your fridge for 5 days. They are a great addition to salads, scrambled eggs at breakfast, stirred through pasta or on oatcakes with houmous.
Peppers are also delicious roasted, but I tend to do this on a griddle pan as I like the chargrilled flavour you get. You can add roasted peppers to sandwiches, wraps or salads.
To make a red pepper sauce for chicken or pasta add the pepper and some goat’s cheese to a tall jug and blend using a hand blender and you have a super tasty dinner for another night.
Spinach can be a few days past its Best Before date and still be fine. If it is unopened and has little or no moisture around it is good. Freeze fresh baby spinach in its sealed bag making sure there is lots of air around it. Once frozen, scrunch it up into tiny pieces then use a bag clip to keep it tight. This can now be easily poured into smoothies or added to soups and curries, but will be no good to eat in a cold salad.
Kale can also be frozen raw, but will only be good if it is steamed, stir fried or in a smoothie and NOT in a salad.
Courgettes have such a high water content that they will not freeze well. Even if they are bendy and squashy, they will still make a mean Courgette and Cheddar Soup or simply throw them in with your roast veg or curry.
How to make a quick curry if you have an odd selection of vegetables!
- Sauté onions and garlic
- add 1 tbsp. My Indian Spice Mix (see below)
- 1 tbsp. grated ginger
- 2 cloves crushed garlic
- cut any veg into bite size chunks
- 1-2 tins chopped tomatoes
- 1 tin coconut milk
- simmer until veg cooked
- season to taste and add a squeeze of lime
My Indian Spice Mix
Add these spices to an old jam jar. When you want to make a curry use 1 – 2 tbsp depending on how much veg you have!
- 1 tbsp. garam masala
- 1 tbsp. cumin
- 1 tbsp. turmeric
- 1 tbsp. ground coriander
- 1 tbsp. chilli flakes
- Chickpea and Chorizo Stew
- Mexican Tortilla Soup
- Breakfast Pizza
- Brussel Mania
- Asian Meatballs
- Courgetti Spaghetti
- Honey and Wasabi Salmon
- Cauliflower Rice
Previous money saving tips
Saving Money and Avoiding Food Wastage – My Top Tips for Store Cupboard Essentials