Super delicious meals from ugly, boring and cheap foods

Sustainable eating is as much about using what’s available locally and what’s already in your fridge or pantry as it is about buying expensive organic food. Best news? Look out for misshapen, boring or older, but still edible, foods to enjoy delicious meals and stretch your grocery spend with these cost-effective ingredients.

Outsized and ugly vegetables

Many great meals start with fresh fruit and vegetables, but they can be scary expensive at the moment. Meanwhile, a crazy amount of fresh produce – as much as 45% – never makes it from Kiwi orchards and farms because of oversupply or because it doesn’t measure up to rigid supermarket standards. It’s sad for many reasons, including that marked, misshapen, supersized or puny produce can be just as delicious as their conventionally perfect supermarket cousins.

Perfectly Imperfect is an Auckland-based pay-forward social enterprise started by waste-busting dynamo and 2022 Sustainable Business Award finalist, Wendy Zhou. Sign up to their Mystery Boxes, for well-priced rescued fruit and vegetables that are also supporting food sharing initiatives with others. Wonky Box is a Wellington food rescue service.

Oversized and ugly rescued kūmara, peeled, chopped and roasted and topped with balsamic drizzle.

Sarah Heeringa/Stuff

Oversized and ugly rescued kūmara, peeled, chopped and roasted and topped with balsamic drizzle.

Is there a local community fruit and vegetable co-op you can join? Some co-ops are small and organized between neighbors and friends, like the vegetable co-op we joined when our kids were younger. It was a great source of cheap produce and also a way to get to know others in our community. Try using Neighborly to find or start your own local co-op.

Food Together is a website with information on more than 15 local community produce collectives across New Zealand, including groups sourcing fruit and veggies from local suppliers to sell at prices well below supermarkets.

READ MORE:
* Dinner Sorted: Five low-cost meals that’ll do the most with the least
* Recipe: Chickpea tikka masala
* Wonky Box fruit venture expands to Palmerston North
* Substitutes make egg-free cooking a piece of cake as new welfare standards drive prices up

Alternatively, try your smaller, local fruit and vegetable stores and look for ‘reduced to clear’ produce at marked down prices. If time is short, check out options for having fresh produce boxes delivered to you.

A box of fresh fruit and vegetables from Auckland-based pay-forward social enterprise Perfectly Imperfect

Sarah Heeringa/Stuff

A box of fresh fruit and vegetables from Auckland-based pay-forward social enterprise Perfectly Imperfect

Chickpeas and aquafaba

Chickpeas are a cost-effective protein at a few dollars a can. Add them whole or mashed to meaty dishes to make the meat go further, or as a tasty vegetarian meat substitute, as with this last minute dinner sorted: chickpea tikka masala.

Toss drained chickpea in spices, roast with vegetables and toss with cooked, rice, couscous or bulgur wheat for satisfying salads. Add chunks of cheese or thin strips of fried meat for a light summer meal.

Stock up on extra cans when you see chickpeas on special. If time and freezer space allows, chickpeas are cheaper, and use less packaging, bought dried in bulk. Soak dried chickpeas overnight and simmer until soft in a large covered pot or slow cooker. Use plenty of cooking water and save any leftover liquid – otherwise known as aquafaba.

Homemade hummus

Use cooked chickpeas to make delicious hummus for a fraction of the price of small store-bought pots. Pulse soft, drained canned chickpeas using a food processor or smash up with a potato masher. Add lemon juice, olive or sesame oil, tahini (or substitute peanut butter), chopped garlic, dried paprika or cumin, salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle with olive oil to finish. Eat with carrot sticks (always a banger for value and nutrition) or twice-toasted bread. Use a potato peeler for thin carrot ribbons to make fancy salads look good and go further.

Cheap and sweet carrots are always a banger for value and nutrition.  Use a potato peeler for thin carrot ribbons that make fancy salads look good and go further.

Sarah Heeringa/Stuff

Cheap and sweet carrots are always a banger for value and nutrition. Use a potato peeler for thin carrot ribbons that make fancy salads look good and go further.

Aquafaba and saving on eggs

Chickpea brine, or aquafaba, will keep fresh for a few days in a sealed container in the fridge. Fresh aquafaba can be used instead of egg whites in everything from meringues to marshmallows, mousse, macarons, mozzarella and mayonnaise.

Baking: Use two or three tablespoons of room-temperature aquafaba, mixed with a teaspoon of ground flaxseed, as an egg replacement in baking. For whipped egg white replacement, add 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar for every 2 tablespoons of aquafaba. Use an electric mixer to beat to stiff peaks.

Nutrition booster: Aquafaba can be frozen in cubes for adding to nut roasts, gravy, soups and stews for adding extra substance and protein.

Best and cheapest Aioli

Ingredients

Fresh whipped aioli as cheap as chips and just as tempting.

¼ cup chickpea brine or aquafaba

1 ½ tsp dijon or wholegrain mustard

1 ½ tsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

2 garlic cloves, chopped, or a splash of hot chili sauce

¾ cup vegetable oil

salt to taste

Method

Mix everything together using a blender or egg beater.

Putting your blender on the slowest setting, beat the mix while slowly pouring in the oil.

Add salt to taste. Store in a clean, airtight jar in the fridge for up to three weeks.

Old bread made into Chocolate Orange Bread and Butter Pudding and French Toast.

Nicola Galloway

Old bread made into Chocolate Orange Bread and Butter Pudding and French Toast.

Yesterday’s bread

There are endless delicious options for using old bread. Buy extra loaves or sliced ​​bread on discount or pick up yesterday’s bread for a steal at the local bakery.

Throw it in the blender for basic breadcrumbs or lightly toast it for the fancy panko variety. Or, simply freeze it until you’re ready to make yummy treats like twice-toasted bread, scrumptious Summer Puddingsclassic Bread and Butter Puddingweekend French toast or the cleverest posh toast trick: bruschetta.

Here’s how to make banging bruschetta 6 different ways.

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