My name is Laura Di Giulio and I am a massage therapist, healing diets coach and busy mum. I have been eating organic food for around 15 years and a few years ago I moved over to a Riverford organic box delivery because I wanted to try to eat as organic, seasonal and sustainably as possible.
I do get a kick out of trying to plan meals around what arrives because it isn’t always easy.
We eat takeaways probably once every seven to 10 days, but I have noticed that the prices have gone up significantly in the last year.
I am frequently surprised how many people I know who eat takeaway food as often as they do, but would consider organic food to be expensive and out of their price range.
While following the Riverford Instagram account, I saw a post saying how organic food is more affordable that you think. I commented that for my family of four it isn’t unreasonable to expect a takeaway to cost between £40-60 and that I could probably feed my family for a week with just the cost of one takeaway. Riverford contacted me with the challenge to do so.
So here goes!
When the box choices became available, I had a look at the options and opted for the large seasonal vegetable box at £22.70. I chose this because it has both onions and potatoes. Onions are good for flavour and potatoes are a staple to fill you up.
The box contained:
2 red peppers
A small Butternut squash
6 red onions
A box of mushrooms
A bag of potatoes.
When creating meals on a budget, I find stews, curries and stir fries can make a little food go a long way so I also added as extras:
A bag of carrots
Fresh chillies and ginger
This took the price of my box from £22.70 to £30.75.
The garlic, chillies and ginger did use quite a lot of my extra money but will last, so I will be saving next week.
Some people may have garlic, chilli and ginger in their cupboards already. If so, perhaps you could spend the extra £8 on a meat item like chicken, beef mince or sausages. Beef mince is always a good choice because I can generally stretch it to two meals.
I was left with roughly £10 for my staple extras, of which I have chosen:
Organic kidney beans 230g (£1)
Organic brown rice 250g (£1.30)
Organic pasta 500g (£1.35)
Soba noodles 250g (£1.40)
Organic tomato passata (£1.35)
Organic red lentils 250g (£1.50)
Organic vegetable stock cubes, pack of 6 (£1.50)
Organic risotto rice 250g (£1.40)
In total with the veg, this shop came to £44.30.
I have shown all the items bought separately, which increases the cost. If you were able to buy the items in bulk, you would reduce the bill again.
To cut the price further, you could do most of the meals with only rice and cook a large pot of vegetable lentils, which you could eat for three days. But I’m trying to make the food tasty and varied, as well as affordable. Below are the ingredients I used and a suggested recipe for the dish (please note these may not be the exact recipes I used as the point of the diary was a budgeted meal plan).
The first meal I choose was a mushroom and Spring green risotto. Risotto is a great way to take only one or two ingredients and stretch them out with a great taste.
I used the mushrooms first as they are best eaten when they arrive. I used fresh rosemary from my garden. Herbs are a great and affordable way to pack flavour into your food. They can be grown inside on a window sill throughout winter. Additional add-ons could be white wine, cream or Parmesan cheese.
Mushroom and Spring green risotto
2 large Spring greens leaves, chopped
4 garlic cloves sliced
2 red onions, chopped
2 pints of vegetable stock
3 sprigs rosemary
Find a mushroom risotto recipe here.
I was really happy to have a Butternut squash in my veg box because it is so versatile and can form the basis of many meals. I went with a chilli and added kidney beans for protein. If you had mince beef then this is also a good addition. You could also add yoghurt and avocados as an optional extra for flavour.
Butternut squash chilli
Butternut squash peeled and chopped
2 red onions, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 tin organic kidney beans in water
3 carrots, chopped chunky
Red chilli, 1 sliced with seeds
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 stock cube
Find a butternut squash and bean chilli recipe here.
Roasted ‘steaks’ are a great use for cauliflower. You can flavour them really easily and marinade for a few hours before roasting. This meal makes a great veggie alternative to the roast dinner. I roasted mine with just salt and pepper and dried mixed herbs. I steamed the vegetables and then fried in butter and garlic. I also used the cauliflower greens to bulk up my vegetables and you could add chilli if you like spice.
We ate with gravy but a great add on could be a cheese sauce. You can get a good organic cheese for around £3.
Cauliflower cheese steaks, roast potatoes and garlic vegetables
Cauliflower greens, washed and chopped
Half the potatoes
Find a recipe for a whole roasted cauliflower here.
Soup is a wonderful meal choice and can again be eaten for two days. I actually had leftovers that my daughters took to college with them the next day. Leek and potato soup is a good option as a meal because it is very filling. My recipe is basic but you could add cream and top with crispy onions or feta cheese.
Leek and potato soup
The remaining potatoes
Knob of butter
4 cloves garlic
1.5 litres vegetable stock
Find a leek and potato soup recipe here.
My family love a stir fry. It’s a great way to pack vegetables into their diet and can be helpful if you have a vegetable item in your box that you are unsure how to use.
I like to use buckwheat noodles as a healthy alternative, but normal noodles would work too. I used soy sauce in my stir fry as it’s something I always have in the cupboard, but you could use lemon, honey, sesame seeds or Chinese spices.
Vegetable stir fry
Spring greens, thinly sliced
2 courgettes sliced
1 red pepper sliced
2 small carrots sliced
1 red onion sliced
1-2 knobs of ginger (to taste)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large chilli, chopped, no seeds
250g soba noodles
1 tablespoon oil for frying (sesame preferably, sunflower would work or olive)
2 tablespoons of soya sauce
Find an easy guide to veg stir fry here.
Pasta is an incredible way to save money. It is like risotto in that you only need a few ingredients to create the loveliest pastas. My husband is Italian and we have a cookbook I picked up in Italy full of simple pasta dishes that are really tasty and affordable. I knew the moment I saw the ripe tomatoes in the box that they would be fabulous in a pasta sauce.
Tomato and basil pasta
Punnet of tomatoes, dunked in hot water and remove the skins.
4 cloves garlic
Handful of fresh basil
Find a recipe for tomato sauce here.
I made it to day seven with a few leaves of Spring greens, 1 onion, 1 courgettes, 2 chillies, a knob of ginger and 250g of brown rice.
I have added the lentils and I am making a spicy vegetable dahl. Lentils are a great money-saving option and are really good for you,
4 leaves of Spring greens
1 red onion, chopped
A knob of ginger
5 cloves of garlic
1 courgette, chopped
The final total was £44.30. As I said before, there are ways to bring this in slightly cheaper as food is often leftover to be used the next week, or you can bulk buy the dried items. I’m pretty happy with the result and the family ate every dish and enjoyed it. My husband would have preferred a few meat dishes but this week I went with spicy over meat.
I hope this helps to show the organic box in a fairer light and as a possibility on a budget.