Food | 5 Tips for Eating Clean on a Budget

eating clean: budget edition - how to shop for clean groceries without breaking the bank

A little while ago, I talked about how I meal prep in just about an hour a week. This helps me reduce the time I have to spend away from my family on a Sunday, and also makes meal prep seem like much less of a task. In today’s post, I want to continue the meal prep theme and tell you how we manage a clean(ish) food shop for two adults and a toddler for around £50 a week!

eating clean on a budget

1. Find your retailer

It might seem like supermarkets are all kind of the same – and in a way, they are. Their offerings are similar, they price-match against each other and, shocker, a lot of their products look exactly the same. BUT: their price points for different products are completely different. Over the years, we’ve shopped at different supermarkets, taking into account their product selection, their proximity to where we live and their offers. At the moment, we tend to shop at Aldi or Asda, as this is where our shopping list seems to be cheapest.

2. Shop online

If it’s an option for you, doing your shop online (and collecting if you can!) is a great way to reduce cost. You’ll be able to keep an overview of what you spend, and remove and swap items around as necessary. You’ll also be able to find better deals from other sections of the store, which you might miss if you were browsing physical aisles. Finally, shopping online will keep you from picking up unnecessary bits and pieces – BUT it will also make new discoveries harder, which can be a downside. TOP TIP: Ask for your shopping without bags, and add a note that you want fresh produce to be packed without additional plastic bagging. If you find that this is ignored, feed it back to your store to make sure they’re hearing that customers DON’T want excessive plastic packaging!

clean eating for the whole family - on a budget!

3. Buy unwrapped & in season

This is really simple, but was a revelation to us when we figured it out: loose produce is often way cheaper than pre-packaged produce. Just remember to specify that you want it without bags, as noted in point 2. Similarly, seasonal produce from the UK (or wherever you live) is likely to cost less than imported out-of-season fruit and veg. Realistically, this can’t always be helped (unless you want to live without bananas), but everyone, myself included, can make more of an effort in this area, and it will save you money as well as benefitting the environment.

4. Stock up

When certain items I know I like are on sale or promotion, I stock up. For instance, Aldi recently had legume pasta and vegan bounce balls. Both are usually quite costly, so I stocked up on them over the course of a few weeks, and now we have a stash of them in the cupboard to last us for a little while before we have to re-purchase.

clean eating on a budget - for the whole family!

5. Work out your favourite treats & stick to them

I have a real sweet tooth, and I struggle with any meal plan that doesn’t have any wiggle room. I do find that I spend a lot less money on extras when I’ve included them in our weekly shop, so I make sure to add some dark chocolate and some savoury snacks. This helps me stick to both my plan and my budget!

A note on waste

Over the last years, the amount of plastic waste we generate purely from food shopping has moved into the headlines more and more, but despite several initiatives from retailers and the government alike, we don’t seem to be getting anywhere. As you’ll notice from the photos in this post, this shop alone has resulted in far more waste than I’m comfortable with. I’m trying to be mindful of it and reduce it, by:

  • making my own nut milk as much as possible, which has hugely reduced how many tetra packs we throw away each week. I do keep a few UHT milks on hand for emergencies, however
  • Buying ‘naked’ produce wherever possible. This is frustratingly difficult, which I hadn’t expected: there is so much fruit and veg (leafy greens especially) that just isn’t sold unpackaged! In the pictures above, I had planned to buy fresh beets, but they just weren’t available
  • Trying to find a balance between plastic waste and food waste: buying frozen items creates plastic waste, but I’ve found that it reduces the amount of waste we, as a family, create from food. 
  • Looking for recyclable packaging – wherever I can, I buy glass and paper packaging, which is easily recycled

This is absolutely not enough, and I know it. What do you do to reduce waste in your household? Let me know and I’ll try to embrace it, too!

P.S. There’s a post that’s making the rounds on facebook about recycling bread bags etc. It appears that there is quite a lot of packaging (such as bread bags) that can’t be chucked in your recycling bin, but that can be recycled together with plastic shopping bags (which I hope you’re not using much anyway) at larger supermarkets. The original poster states that this should be clearly marked on the packaging in question, and that she just collects it for a bit and then drops them off when she does a big shop. I’ll be looking out for this information on all my plastic wrapping and doing the same!



  1. February 27, 2018 / 3:49 pm

    I use plastic bags for my produce. Eek. I know it is bad, but I do REUSE them. If the produce doesn’t go bad, or doesn’t crumble (like the florettes of broccoli) I save the bag. I go to a CSA, and they have rules that you can mix and match whatever produce that fits in a bag (or part of a bag) We also use the sturdier bags for compost. We live in a rowhome, and don’t techincally own the land. I am sure our neighbors would prefer we didn’t compost. We we fill sandwich bags and the like with food scraps that we aren’t using for stock, and bring it to our CSA. It usually gets tossed afterwards because the produce gets gross, but at least I am trying to use it again, right?

    • hannahcolquhoun
      February 28, 2018 / 9:33 pm

      It sounds like you’re doing everything you can at the moment! I don’t think trying to live a greener life is about being perfect and never using plastic – if you’ve got an awareness of how much plastic you’re using, and you’re reusing it wherever it’s possible and trying to re-use food scraps, too, then you’re already doing way more than most people :)