How to cook with a veg box

What to cook first, how to meal plan and what to do with unusual veg: food writer Stacey Smith talks through how to cook with a veg box.

Where to start

Choose a box that’s right for you. In our household it’s just the two of us, so to limit food waste, we tend to opt for a small box. Most brands will give you the option of ordering as a one-off, or on a subscription basis arriving on a frequency of your choice. When it arrives, take stock of what goodies you’ve received and give everything a good wash before putting things away. We put most items in the bottom drawer of the fridge, with fruit going straight into the fruit bowl to remind us to eat it. If you have a cool, dry, dark place such as a pantry, you’ll find potatoes, onions, garlic and squash will be very happy there.

Meal planning

To ensure we make the most of everything that arrives, the first thing we do is start meal planning. Will that aubergine become the hero ingredient of a main meal or would it be better in a supportive side dish? A quick Google will pull up a long list of recipes you could try, but we also like referring to the Riverford cookbooks which look at what’s in season throughout the year. Another great resource is the ‘save’ feature on Instagram. Put your scrolling to good use and keep any tasty looking meals in one place, referring back to the post when you’ve got the veggies to make it.

Veg box zero waste
Eating leafy greens first will help reduce waste later on in the week.

Try to leave a little bit of leeway (we like to plan for five out of seven days of the week) because even the best laid plans can go awry – and let’s face it, sometimes you’ll just fancy a takeaway after all. Once your menu is set, you’ll be able to see if you need any additional ingredients, such as store cupboard staples and will be able to stock up accordingly.

First things first

Bear in mind that your leafy greens will need to be eaten first – anything that can wilt is best enjoyed whilst it’s nice and crisp. Fear not, this doesn’t mean you’ll be living off salads for the first part of the week. We like to chuck in a handful of spinach to our mixed berry smoothies (sweeten it up with a pitted date and a spoonful of peanut butter), incorporate into savoury breakfasts, add to soups and stews, stir-fry recipes and pasta dishes. Towards the end of the week, you might find yourself with more root veg – carrots, parsnips, potatoes, etc – than you can shake as stick at. Soups and stews are our favourite way of using up these last bits and pieces.

Zero waste

If you think there’s anything you might not be able to use before it’s past its best, we’d recommend prepping it and popping in the freezer. Think about your veg differently – a head of broccoli could be whizzed up into ‘rice’ and then frozen until you need it. Kale and Cavalo Nero just needs a quick blanch and a good dry and then that too can be used from frozen. Pickling is another great way of preserving veggies, fronds are excellent whizzed up into pestos or herby oils, which will add the final flavour-packed punch to dishes, while peels and scraps work well in slaws. Anything else, compost!

stacey veg box
Coming across unusual vegetables can inspire new recipes.

Unusual veg

A veg box is a great way of discovering new produce that you’d maybe never pick up, or even see, in your local shop. We’d recommend approaching unusual veg with a simple recipe. Once you’ve nailed that, you’ll be more confident to experiment. I distinctly remember the first time an artichoke arrived. After a quick YouTube tutorial on how to prepare it, our newbie veg became a rather romantic starter for two, lightly steamed and served with a melted butter dipping sauce.

And that’s it. Before you know it, your next box of fresh veggies will be arriving, ready for you to come up with a brand spanking new menu, designed to tickle the taste buds. Enjoy!


Leave a Reply

  1. I have had veg boxes for years and I google ingredients I have and see what recipes it turns up. Meals are based around what vegetables I have. For instance yesterday I had spring greens and I also have eggs from my hens that can start mounting up. I didn’t want bubble and squeak again. So I googled cabbage eggs recipes and came up with a Chinese style dish that was chopped cabbage steamed with some oil and soy sauce. Then pour over beaten eggs and turn over until the egg is cooked. It was delicious and I would not have cooked it unless I had veg boxes

  2. I was interested in your article, and surprised to learn that you washed the contents of your box before storing it. We never do, as things seem to keep better when we don’t…
    I’m sure planning is crucial, remembering, as you say, that sometimes you don’t/can’t stay with the plan! We have a list of dishes that we have cooked and enjoyed before, for the times when we need ideas/inspiration for planning, and I keep a notebook for listing references to recipes which have been particularly enjoyable – and some to avoid! (It can be so frustrating, to be unable to remember which book or website had that great recipe for something-or-other, perhaps made with seasonal produce…)

    1. I use an App called Paprika where you can download recipes from multiple websites and save and organise into your own categories. It’s solved that problem of where did I see that recipe, although not which book I’d seen it in! I have over 200 recipes saved now, many yet to try! You can edit them too so put in your own adjustments or notes, and easily change quantities for different number of people. It’s the only App I’ve ever paid for. Well worth it.


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