Minimising wastage – getting the most out of your purchases

How often do you find an old, wrinkled mystery veg right at the back of your fridge? Rock hard, or seeping liquid, either way, it makes me sad to think that I totally forgot it was in there, and hence, forgot to cook/eat it. There are times when I feel unrealistically positive about my upcoming eating habits, and I confidently purchase my weight in fresh fruit and vegetables for the week.

Keeping this in mind, for post #2, we’re going to explore:

Five veg title image

What does that mean exactly? Well, in the last post, I discussed becoming a farmers market frequent, and buying your fruit and veg fresh, for a fraction of the cost. I also explained some of my grocery list regulars, with a brief explanation of why I buy them. So, moving on from that, what are some quick, basic recipes you can prepare with a whole bunch of THE SAME vegetables?

For this, we’re going to assume you have onions and garlic at home, and a selection of spices available for all these recipes. Stocking up on herbs and spices for your pantry is one of my top recommendations for easy cooking, as it allows you to add a BURST of flavour to something that may otherwise be quite bland. It also reduces the temptation to throw in a truckload of salt! A lot of canned goods and pre-made sauces contain high levels of sodium, and that, plus a large quantity of extra salt is not doing great things for your blood pressure. Best to increase the spice, and add a pinch or a teaspoon of salt to season.


The five vegetables I use most often are:
• Potato/sweet potato
• Carrot
• Celery
• Peas
• Baby spinach
Potato and sweet potato are pretty interchangeable in my opinion, and these recipes work well with either, so choose whatever is your preference.

A study conducted by the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry noted that the demand for convenience remains a strong consumer preference, which has lead to a rise in takeaway or fast foods [1]. This finding holds true particularly when it comes to managing portion sizes and reducing waste. Rather than buying convenient foods, why not utilise your produce in a way that means you don’t need to make double trips to the shop each week? Convenience is key for most of us, so think smart when you’re purchasing veg, and make sure you can cook a few dishes out of the same ingredients.

Image: Closet Cooking

Bolognese Sauce
Serves 6

This is my ultimate, go-to recipe for Bolognese sauce. It is incredibly easy to make, and can be used in a variety of ways!

½ tbsp olive oil
1 carrot, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 stick of celery, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
500g pork mince
500g beef mince
2 strips of bacon, diced
1 small tub of tomato paste
1x 400g tin of crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried oregano
1 cup milk
1 cup red wine
Salt and pepper to taste

To make:
In a large pot, heat the olive oil.
Add onions, celery, and garlic and sweat over a medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and soft – approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
Crank the heat up to high, and add in the bacon and mince and mix into the vegetables, stirring frequently until the meat is browned.
Add in tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano, milk and wine. Simmer over a medium to low heat for approximately one hour. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and remove from the heat.

* * *

How can I eat this?
The most obvious way is with pasta for spaghetti Bolognese, but there are a number of ways you can enjoy this sauce. Why not try:
• A rich, beef lasagne
• Spooned over cheesy polenta and wilted spinach
• In a burrito or taco with salad veg
• In a makeshift cottage pie, with potato or sweet potato mash on top
• As the stuffing for mushrooms or capsicum

Image: Cookie and Kate

Chicken Thai Green Curry
Serves 6

**Recipe adapted by Not Quite Nigella**

1 tbsp oil
1.5 tbsp Thai green curry paste (use a jar, or learn to make your own from scratch here)
400mL tin of coconut milk
2 tbsp fish sauce
1.5 tbsp palm or white sugar
500g chicken thigh, cut into small cubes
¾ cup frozen peas
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 large handfuls of baby spinach
Steamed jasmine rice to serve

To make:
Heat a wok or fry pan over a medium heat.
Add the curry paste and cook until nice and fragrant – approximately 5 minutes.
Add the tin of coconut milk and stir to heat through.
Season with fish sauce and sugar and then add in the chicken and potatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the peas, and allow to cook in the curry sauce until potatoes are soft and peas are defrosted. Finally, add the baby spinach, and stir through to wilt.
Serve the curry spooned over the rice.

* * *

No time?
I find that curry cooks nicely in a slow cooker as well, which can be great if you know that you’re not going to have time to cook dinner. I would recommend frying off the curry paste still, until it is fragrant, stirring in the coconut milk until it is well combined with the paste, before pouring into the slow cooker. I like to pan fry my chicken too, just to give it a bit of a crust on the outside. Other than that, throw it all in the slow cooker, place it on the low setting and allow to cook for 2-4 hours. Occasionally I substitute the meat for seafood – which you should add before you serve so you don’t overcook it – or I opt for a full vegetarian meal, with baby corn, capsicum, asparagus and snowpeas as well.

Image: Katie at the Kitchen Door

Beef and red wine stew
Serves 4

The stew in this recipe can be made into a flipping delicious pie filling too.

2 rashers of bacon, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 potato, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1kg chuck steak, cut into small cubes
1 tbsp cornflour
1 cup red wine
1.5 cups beef stock
1x 400g can chopped tomatoes
2 carrots, diced
2 sticks of celery, diced,
½ cup frozen peas
A handful of baby spinach
Chopped fresh parsley
Pepper to taste

In a slow cooker, add the bacon, onion, potato, garlic, steak, wine, stock, tomatoes, carrots, celery, peas and parsley. Turn on to a low heat and leave to cook for eight hours, until meat is soft and tender and sauce is fragrant. Add in spinach at the last minute, and stir through to wilt.
Take half a cup of the liquid out into a cup and whisk in the corn flour. Pour back into the stew and stir well, so that the entire sauce thickens well. Spoon over pasta, polenta or couscous and enjoy.

* * *

What else can go in?
The best thing about stews is that you can replace a number of these vegetable ingredients with whatever you have in the fridge. Try mushrooms, pumpkin, brussel sprouts, swede, or beetroot.

There you go! A few different recipes that use similar vegetables, that are simple and easy to make. Let me know how you go, if you do try these.

Catch you at instalment #3.

Illustrations by Keisha Love Creative
Check out her Instagram page at: @keishalove_creative

[1] Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. FOODMAP: Analysis of Australian Food Supply Chain. Australian Government; 2012.