‘Clean eating’ - without the cost

There’s a new healthy eating craze, one that involves avoiding processed and refined foods, and instead basing your diet on whole ingredients. It’s been dubbed ‘clean eating’ and celebrities such as Nicole Kidman and Kim Kardashian are reportedly signed up

But even if you’re sold on the concept and the promise of clearer skin, healthier children and more energy all round, do you need to have a celebrity bank balance to afford what should be a simpler way of life?

The high cost of quality

So how much has clean eating really cost?

One tenet of the method is to eat organic produce wherever possible - but that’s definitely more expensive. For example:

- you’ll pay £1.88 for two litres of organic milk, compared to just £1 for 2.3 litres of standard milk
- organic beef mince costs £6.96/kg compared to £4/kg for standard mince
- pre-bagged organic onions are 32p each, compared to 25p each for pre-bagged standard onions

Frustratingly, it can also be more expensive to buy basic ingredients and cook food than it is to buy ready-made meals. For example, an 800g ready-made beef lasagne would cost £3 at ASDA, but 500g of organic mince costs more than that before you’ve bought veg to make the sauce

So is clean eating actually affordable for the average family, particularly with many people struggling with their household bills?

Here are some of the tactics you can use to cut the cost of clean eating

Eat less meat

If you’re already vegetarian, this one doesn’t really affect you, but even then other family members may not be. Eating fewer meat-based meals each week will definitely cut your food bills. Beans, lentils and other pulses are a wholesome and cheap way to get protein into your diet, and they are a fraction of the cost of meat - especially organic meat!

Buy cheaper meat

You don’t have to worry that you’re eating horse to buy cheaper meat! Ask at your local butcher to find out what cuts sell for less and get creative in the kitchen - a new cut might inspire you to try a new way of serving meat.

In addition butchers at local indoor markets are usually cheaper than the supermarkets

Find cheaper fruit and veg

There are a lot of ways to cut the cost of the fresh produce you buy. For example, if you don’t mind dropping the organic label then you can buy economy fruit and veg. It’s just as tasty as the pricier brands, it’s just the fruits can be smaller and a little more misshapen

If you definitely want organic fruit and veg then ordering a veg box can be a good way to save money. Although they can be more expensive than standard supermarket produce, you could save 26% on like-for-like groceries, according to the Soil Association

Again, the supermarket is about 50% more expensive for fruit and veg than the grocer at your local market

Cook in bulk

One reason that ready meals cost less is that the manufacturer has been able to buy the ingredients in bulk. To a certain extent, so can you. Cooking vast batches of meals brings down the overall cost per dish. Obviously you’d prefer to serve freshly cooked meals every day, but don’t always (ever?) have the time, money or energy! Cooking in bulk and filling the freezer solves all those - convenience food without the price tag or nutritional sacrifice

Find a cheaper supermarket

One way to cut your bills is to move to a cheaper supermarket. Aldi, Lidl and other cheaper shops are all getting rave reviews so it could be worth checking them out for bargains

You could also try using a service like Mysupermarket.com to compare the price of your regular shop and find the cheapest retailer. It claims you save an average of £17 every time you shop via its website

Inescapable expense

Even with such careful tactics, it’s likely that your food bills will rise. It shouldn’t be the case that healthy, basic ingredients cost more than heavily manufactured products that are also laden with sugar and salt - but it is!

Considering abandoning organic food, as this adds around 20% to the cost of many regular products. You can still make many substantially healthier choices overall and eating less meat will definitely help cut your food bills.

However, the sad conclusion is that clean eating is hard to afford for anyone whose grocery budget is already tight

Eating fresh, natural whole foods may not be just for the rich, but it doesn’t seem to be something that’s properly affordable for struggling households either, which is scandalous

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