Organic September is well under way and it's time for me to join in and support organic eating with the thrifty organic challenge from the Organic Trade Board.
To support Organic September I got myself in gear and set up a weekly veg box delivery from my local organic farm. It really helps shape my meals for the week. The vegetables are a bit more expensive than their supermarket counterparts, but I find I'm making less trips to the supermarket and so I'm spending less on all the other things I end up picking up when I'm shopping. Also the vegetables taste better too and that has to be the best reason to do it.
I order the weekly £12 standard box (or net, the veg comes in re-usable nets) from Bellfield Organics. If you live in Scotland, do check them out. If you live elsewhere in the UK use the Soil Association's veg box scheme search box.
|photo: Bellfield Organics|
Have you tried eating organic yet? Or are you daunted by it and think it will cost too much?
Here are my top 10 tips for going organic:
- Make small changes - Don't try to do it all at once, try a veg box scheme or even just start buying one new organic vegetable or fruit a week (check out my guide below on which produce to switch first).
- Look at labels - Look for the word organic and not natural. The soil associations label makes it easy to know you are actually buying organic and not falling for a marketing tactic.
- Farmers markets - Find out where and when your local farmers markets are held. You'll find lots of fresh and seasonal organic produce.
- Farms shops - When you are out and about look out for signs pointing you to farm shops. Support your local farmer, buy fresh produce and save a bit of money by buying direct.
- Veg boxes - Follow my example and check out your local veg box schemes. Fresh fruit and veg delivered right to your door.
- Grow your own - Now, I'm no gardener. If you're like me and just don't have green fingers, why not start small and grow some herbs in your garden or your window sill, then try some salad leaves, which are simple to grow and move on from there.
- Buy in bulk - Now you don't want to do this with fruit and vegetables unless you are about to make jam, chutney or do a spot of pickling, but it's often cheaper to buy bigger bags for things like organic pulses or special offers on organic household products
- Buy in season - Produce is always at it's best when it's in season and cheaper too.
- Save elsewhere - Worried it's going to be expensive? Think about where else you can cut back. Maybe order less takeaways (I order a pizza once a week), ready meals or start choosing supermarket own brands for some of your basic shopping.
- Cook from scratch - I know this is pretty obvious, but if you cook from scratch your meals will be tastier, healthier, cheaper and you can control the quality of the ingredients and how much sugar or salt is added.
I usually make soup with my veg box goodies on the first night, to go with that gorgeous crusty bread they give me each week, the rest will go into various dishes and sometimes a new recipe too like this red lentil shepherd's pie.
Now it's getting colder I seem to be making more comfort dishes. This is an old family favourite I usually make with soy mince, mushrooms and carrots, but this time it was all about using what was in my veg box, so I made this shepherd's pie with carrots, courgette, squash and red lentils. I also threw in a leftover red pepper I wanted to use up.
Make sure the vegetables and lentils are tender before adding the mashed potato and baking. You are really just heating it up and browning the top a little. Crunchy lentils are not a good thing.
Veg Box Red Lentil Shepherd's Pie
A rich comforting pie topped with creamy mashed potato, using seasonal organic vegetables.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 6 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 medium courgettes (zucchini), chopped
- 1/2 squash, seeds removed, sliced and chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 5 tbsp tomato puree
- 4 tbsp HP brown sauce (or veggie Worcestershire sauce)
- 250g red lentils
- 750ml organic vegetable stock (3 cubes)
- 1 kg potatoes, quartered (or small for quicker cooking)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- a good grinding of salt and black pepper
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and saute the onion and garlic until soft. Add the carrots and squash and cook gently until starting to soften, then add the red pepper and courgette and cook for a few more minutes. If it starts sticking a little add a splash of water.2. Add the lentils, stock, tomatoes, tomato puree and sauce, then stir well. Cover and leave to simmer gently for about 20 - 25 minutes until the lentils are starting to soften, stirring occasionally. Add a little more stock if you think it needs it.3. Heat the oven to 180c / 160c fan / gas mark 4 and get on with peeling and chopping the potatoes. Boil them for 15 - 20 minutes until tender, then mash with the olive oil, salt and pepper.4. Spoon the lentil mixture into one or more ovenproof dishes and top with a generous layer of mashed potato, then bake in the oven until the mashed potato starts to crisp and brown at the edges, about 20 minutes.5. Serve with a smile and if you want to be extra virtuous, a portion of broccoli and green beans.6. Enjoy!
Yield: Serves 4-6
If you want to follow the conversation or join in use the hashtags #organicseptember and #thriftyorganic
If you're in the mood for hearty dishes, check out some of my favourites:
- Veggie Sausage Lentil and Red Pepper Bake
- Fridge Lentil Soup
- Mexican Sweet Potato and Puy Lentil Mole
- Hearty Chickpea and Sweet Potato Stew
Disclosure: I've been paid to develop a recipe and share some tips with you for the Thrifty Organic Challenge. I was not expected to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own.