A greener way to shop

The Green Impact blog is being handed over to the Student Services teams for this week! This post is by Anna Symington, Project Support Manager: Massive Open Online Courses, Projects and Development Team.

I’m someone who likes to think of themselves as an ethical consumer. I’ll research the best buys for hours searching for cost-effective, long-lasting, fairly traded products. I’m prone to browsing in charity shops, will avoid Amazon, have an 100% eco electricity supplier – that kind of thing, you get the idea.

So, when I was looking for the best way to shop for my weekly fruit and veg fix, I have found that the most effective way to ensure that my purchases are as environmentally and economically friendly as possible is through an organic veg box scheme. While there are lots of people who offer this service (Riverford organics, Abel and Cole, Wildstar Organics etc) I order mine from Beanies (http://beanieswholefoods.co.uk/) in Crookesmoor. Full disclosure – my Mum used to be a member of this local co-operative and they gave me my first Saturday job when I was 14.

The fruit and veg I receive each week is organic, fresh, as local as possible (never air freighted), and seasonal. Importantly, as we all struggle to make our pennies go as far as possible, the box scheme takes advantage of bulk buying toA greener way to shop offer the produce cheaper than the same items bought off the shelf in the shop. The veg boxes come in a variety of sizes, you can request that items you don’t like are left out, you can have it delivered or there’s a cost reduction if you pick it up from the shop. You can also ask for items to be added to your delivery. The spuds aren’t a clean as those on the supermarket shelves (though the muck seems to help keep them fresher), and while they do try to keep as much variety as possible seasonality does mean that there is a lot of root veg during those cold winter months. One of my favourite recipes at this time of year is a hearty cottage pie – my version is vegan but you can just make it veggie if you want:



1 medium onion
3 celery sticks (the natural celery salt gives a great flavour)
3 handfuls of any winter veg, carrots, swede, parsnip, butternut squash etc.
50g red lentils
1-2 cloves garlic
100ml Vegetable stock (cube or homemade if you have the time)
2 tbsp Olive oil
1tsp Mixed herbs
salt and pepper to taste


1½ to 2lb potato (or a mixture of potato and celeriac)
3 tbsp Olive oil (or butter)
3 tbsp Milk (soya, coconut, cow, almond – just check it’s not sweetened or flavoured, I’ve been caught out like that before with interesting results. Bleurgh!)
Salt and pepper

Simmer the lentils in boiling water for about 10 minutes and drain. Chop all of the veg for the filling finely and sauté in olive oil over a medium heat – start with the garlic, onion and celery and once translucent add in the rest of the veg. You want the veg to soften without browning too much – this should take about 10-15 minutes. Add in the stock and cooked lentils. Simmer for another 5 minutes or so until the mixture begins to thicken then and add in herbs, salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, peel and chop your potatoes (and celeriac if using – it’s best not to use too much celeriac as while it adds flavour, it can make your mash a bit too soggy – maybe a quarter?). Boil for about 10 minutes until soft, drain. Add oil (or butter), milk salt and pepper and mash.

Put the filling in an ovenproof dish, add the mash on top – for an added flavour you can sprinkle the top with some Engevita yeast flakes (the look like fish food flakes but add a lovely nutty, cheesey flavour) –  or I understand a similar effect can be achieved using cheese :o)

Cook in the oven at a medium heat (gas 4, 170C) for about 30 minutes until your cottage pie is golden brown on top.

Serve with steamed seasonal greens like broccoli, kale or cavolo nero for added iron and vitamin C.


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