Supermarkets have long been criticised for adding to food wastage by refusing to sell misshapen fruit and veg, forcing farmers to bin the rejected crops or use them as animal feed.
However this month Asda launch a family sized Wonky Veg Box – as featured in Channel 4’s Jamie And Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast – for the bargain price of £3.50, a saving of 30 per cent against their usual price.
The supermarket chain found that 65 per cent of their customers were open to buying imperfect carrots, potatoes and the like thanks to the significantly low price point.
This month Asda launched a family-sized Wonky Veg Box – as featured in Channel 4’s Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast – for the bargain price of £3.50. FEMAIL writer Joanne Gould, 30, (pictured) from Golders Green, London, tested if it really is such good value
Joanne was worried she might not be able to survive the week without purchasing extra vegetables
And with TV chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty urging the big chains to relax their rules on only accepting ‘perfect’ fruit and veg from suppliers, the pressure is on.
FEMAIL writer Joanne Gould, 30, from Golders Green, London, picked up a Wonky Veg Box to see if it was as good value as it sounded…
The first thing I’m struck by is how heavy the box is; I’ve tried a lot of fruit and veg box schemes in the past, and whilst I think they are fantastic in terms of the environment, supporting farmers and the sheer quality – all this comes at a price.
But Asda’s offering is an incredible 5kg of veggie goodness for a fraction of the normal cost.
Asda’s is offering 5kg of veg for a fraction of the normal cost. Joanne says the veg is all cheap, seasonal stuff. She receives 3 jumbo parsnips, a particularly bulbous onion, some carrots, leeks, a cabbage, three peppers, two cucumbers and the biggest potato she has ever seen, above
The mother wonders how she will survive on seasonal veg – like the enormous potato above, without craving something more exotic. She said: ‘Sometimes there is only so much you can do with root veg’
Wonky cucumbers and imperfect parsnips: She find it embarrassing that she could be spending £3.50 a week on the bulk of her veg, rather than what she estimates is around £20. However, the box has downsides including its lack of variety
This challenge has really made Joanne think about how much she spends on fruit and veg on a weekly basis
Leftover leeks: The Wonky Veg boxes are currently in 120 stores, but Joanne wouldn’t be surprised if this takes off further
WHAT’S IN THE BOX
4 leeks; 1 onion; 2 potatoes; a cabbage;
2 cucumbers; 3 parsnips;
3 carrots; 3 peppers
Opening it up, I see how they manage it; the veg is all cheap, seasonal stuff which is very commendable, but sometimes there is only so much you can do with root veg before craving a sweet cherry tomato or exotic aubergine.
Inside is four leeks, one onion, two potatoes, a cabbage, two cucumbers, three parsnips, three carrots and three peppers.
As I survey three jumbo parsnips, a particularly bulbous onion, some carrots, leeks, a cabbage, three peppers, two cucumbers and the biggest potato I’ve ever seen, I realise it might be a challenge to make this stretch without purchasing any extra veg at all.
I’m allowed to purchase extra fresh food if needed, and have a well-stocked store cupboard, so get to work trying to make as much as I can from the box. Here’s how I got on:
Meal One: French Onion Soup
Joanne uses two thirds of the massive onion in her box to make this French onion soup, above, by caramelising sliced onion in some butter before sprinkling in flour, a splash of wine and adding beef stock
Jo makes the soup with the misshapen onion that came in the veg box
French onion soup is an easy thrifty and tasty meal, so I use two thirds of the massive onion in my box to make this by caramelising large slices in some butter before sprinkling in flour, a splash of wine and finally adding beef stock.
That’s all it needs, but I can’t resist topping it with the traditional Gruyere crouton. Delicious and easily makes two portions.
Meal Two: Parsnip Rosti, Spinach, Fried Egg
Joanne doesn’t like parsnip, so she fries them up into a rosti and tops with spinach and a fried egg
Parsnips aren’t my favourite vegetable, but anything tastes good in a rosti so I grate two of them up and form into rounds before frying in a saucepan.
To serve, I top them with some wilted spinach which I’ve bought, and a fried egg on each. A hearty lunchtime dish or light supper for four.
Meal Three: Cheesy Gnocchi Bake with Chili and Cabbage
This is a family favourite for the Gould family, and Joanne likes it as it’s cheap, hearty and surprisingly tasty. She’d usually use kale but swaps it for cabbage which works really nicely with the cheese and chilli
This is a family favourite as it’s cheap, hearty and surprisingly tasty, but I’d usually use kale as the deep green leaves work really nicely with the cheese and chilli.
I’m sure the darker cabbage leaves will do the trick though, so blanch them along with the gnocchi before adding to a large shallow dish and covering with a quick cheese sauce made with a roux and adding taleggio which I’ve bought.
Fresh chilli is sprinkled on top then it goes in the oven. Two of us eat half and the rest goes in the freezer for when I’m feeling lazy.
Meal Four: Carrot and Coriander Soup
A wonky carrot cooked in veg stock with fresh coriander and a dollop of yoghurt makes a hearty soup
A quick lunch for one: one wonky carrot cooked in veg stock and blitzed up with fresh coriander and a dollop of yoghurt (both from extra shopping). A hunk of ciabatta to go with it.
Meal Five: Sausage & Mash, Onion Gravy
In a bid to use up some of the potatoes, Joanne makes a luxuriously think mash using some butter, above. Topped with some Quorn sausages and a quick onion gravy made with leftover onion, this makes two large portions plus another two large portions of leftover mash
I’m conscious I have rather a lot of potato to get through – not something I tend to buy – so luxuriate in a very rich mash made with just potato and butter.
The spud is so huge it barely fits in my pan. I top it with some Quorn sausages and a quick onion gravy made with leftover onion.
This makes two large portions plus another two large portions of leftover mash.
Meal Six: Bubble and Squeak, Ham, Poached Egg
Thee mash gets turned into bubble and squeak along with most of the rest of the cabbage. She serves it with a thick slice of ham each and an egg
Predictably the mash gets turned into bubble and squeak along with most of the rest of the cabbage. I serve it with a thick slice of ham each and a poached egg. Another two large portions.
Meal Seven: Pasta and Roasted Pepper Sauce
To satisfy her tomato craving Joanne creates a pasta sauce out of pepper, slow roasted and then blended up
I’m really missing tomatoes, but come up with the idea of making a sauce from the peppers instead.
I roast two of the wonky peppers in a low oven for an hour then blend them up with a tablespooon of tomato puree and a splash of veg stock.
Stirred into pasta it’s rich and surprisingly tasty and makes a generous two portions.
Meal Eight: Carrot and Cucumber Satay Noodles with Chicken
The cucumbers are quite tricky to use as a vegetable as there is no other salad to go on, but Joanne decides to use one with a carrot to bulk up a simple noodle dish by julienne peeling them
They’re stir fried with chicken, soy, noodles and a tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter to make a light meal
The cucumbers are quite tricky to use as a vegetable as there is no other salad to go on, but I decide to use one cucumber and a carrot to bulk up a simple noodle dish by julienne peeling them.
Then, they’re stir fried with chicken, soy, a few noodles and a tablespoon of crunchy peanut butter to make a light, tasty meal for two. I’ll do this again.
Meal Nine: Cheese & Leek Tart
Leeks, sliced and caramelised make the perfect tart topping. Joanne lays them over a sheet of puff pastry
However Joanne notices the leeks are much smaller than normal and the outside leaves are too tough to use
Leeks, sliced and caramelised make the perfect tart topping, so I do this and spread them over a sheet of ready-made puff pastry.
These leeks are much smaller than normal and the outside leaves are too tough to use, so I end up using three of my four leeks. A handful of taleggio cheese tops off the tart it serves four with a spinach side salad.
Meal Ten: Potato Curry, Cucumber Raita
Joanne uses up more potato creating simple curry, chopping up the remaining onion and frying in spices
She adds a squeeze of tomato puree and some water and serves with a cucumber raita of purchased yogurt
I’m fairly over potato now! Still, I wrack my brains and make a simple potato curry by chopping up my remaining medium sized one and frying it in curry spices from my cupboard.
A squeeze of tomato puree and some water to cook the potatoes down is all it needs and I serve it with a cucumber raita of purchased yogurt and a quarter of my other cucumber. Makes two portions.
Meal Eleven: Stir Fry
Joanne stir fries the remaining pepper with the cabbage heart and some carrot with a salmon fillet
I stir fry the remaining pepper with the cabbage heart and some carrot with a salmon fillet, soy and honey for a quick meal for one.
They’re not the usual veg I’d choose for a stir fry, but do the trick and I’m conscious I would have spent £4-5 on exotic veg like baby sweetcorn, mange tout and tenderstem broccoli usually which makes me feel wasteful and silly.
Meal Twelve: Chicken Stew
Joanne makes a chicken stew which is comforting, warming and will feed at least five people
I’m left with one carrot, a parsnip, a leek and some cabbage.
I’d been planning to use the odds and ends up in a chuck-it-all-in vegetable soup, but frankly I’m bored of soup.
Instead I make a stew – something I haven’t done in years, probably due to rarely buying root veg – adding chicken, rosemary, red wine and stock.
It’s comforting, warming and will feed at least five people, so I feel really pleased with it and wonder why I don’t make them more frequently.
An amazing 31 portions, working out as just over 85p per meal.
This challenge has really made me think about how much I spend on fruit and veg. I am conscious never to throw anything away and get use out of everything I buy, but it’s still fairly embarrassing to realise I could be spending circa £3.50 a week on the bulk of it, rather than what I estimate is around £20 at the moment.
The negatives of the veg box (as with many of these schemes) is that you aren’t able to choose the exact contents, but you can always top up with your favourites – you’re never going to get blueberries or out of season asparagus for example.
Also, you may find that you have a glut of something you wouldn’t usually buy, such as I was left with three quarters of a cucumber, which I found myself chucking in smoothies rather that eating in a meal.
However, if you are a creative cook – or just someone really looking to watch their pennies – then I cannot recommend Asda’s Wonky Veg Box highly enough.
They’re currently in 120 stores, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this takes off further. It gives farmers a fairer price, is beneficial to the environment – and to my pocket – so I truly hope it does.
6 eggs £1.25
Ham from deli £1
Puff pastry £1.25
Taleggio cheese £3
Gruyere cheese £1.80
4 chicken thigh fillets £4.50
Salmon fillet £2
Quorn sausages £2.50
FROM THE CUPBOARD
Rosemary from garden