So recently. The Organic Trade Board challenged us to take the Thrifty Organic Challenge and switch our usual weekly shop for organic. The average grocery shopping budget for a UK family of four is £83 a week. Could I switch everything we usually buy to organic , stay on budget, and still produce yummy, healthy food for my family? Here’s how we got on.
First things first was an online shop at Ocado with my £83 budget. This is actually a lot more difficult than it looks – especially when you’re buying food to feed two teenage boys. It made me think creatively, which is no bad thing. I had to plan out everything: breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks and drinks.
We were given a box of organic store cupboard staples, including Mr Organic tomato purée and chopped tomatoes, Doves Farm flour, gluten free pasta and biscuits, Clearspring rice noodles and soy sauce, loads of stuff from Wholefoods like rice, sugar, Fresh and Wild Olive Oil, mustard and agave, and Crazy Jack’s mixed herbs and spices.
What I bought:
Here are the ingredients we bought for the week:
- Organic Wholemeal Farmhouse Waitrose 400g £1.21
- Organic Brown Pitta Bread 6 per pack 79p
- Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate 100g x 2 £4.38
- Organic Brazil Nuts Waitrose 150g £3.50
- Organic Almonds Waitrose 100g £1.99
- Ocado Organic Mature Cheddar 245g £1.98
- Villa Organic Mozzarella 125g £2.09
- Grove Organic Fruit Co. Apple & Mango Juice £2.94
- Houghton Organic Honey Roast Dry Cured Ham 110g £3.79
- Organic Mango Waitrose £1.50
- Organic Limes from 3 per pack £2.05
- Duchy From Waitrose Organic Free Range Pork Sausages 400g £3.49
- Duchy From Waitrose Organic Unsmoked Streaky Bacon 184g £4.49
- Organic British Lamb Mince from trolleyRemove 1 Ocado Organic British Lamb Mince from trolleyAdd 1 Ocado Organic British Lamb Mince 400g £4.99
- Ocado Organic Medium Whole Chicken Free Range 1.4kg £9.10
- Duchy Organic mixed weight British free range eggs 12 per pack £4.49
- Organic Semi Skimmed Milk 4 Pints Waitrose 2.27L £ 1.85
- Rachel’s Organic Butter 2 for £3 £3.00
- Organic Avocado Pears Waitrose 2 per pack £2.59
- Organic Baby Plum Tomatoes Waitrose 25% Extra Free £2.10
- Organic Hot & Peppery Unwashed Wild Rocket Waitrose 60g £1.09
- Organic Peppers Waitrose 2 per pack £2.09
- Ocado Organic Broccoli from trolley 300g £1.25
- Ocado Organic Carrots 1.2kg £1.70
- Organic Courgettes Waitrose £2.19
- Remove Organic Potatoes Waitrose 1.5kg £2.35
- Organic Red Onions Waitrose 500g £1.15
- Organic White Cabbage Waitrose 520g £1.05
- Yeo Valley Organic Lemon Curd Yogurt 4 x 120g £1.31
- Yeo Valley Organic Limited Edition Yogurt 4 x 120g £1.31
- Yeo Valley Organic Vanilla Dairy Ice Cream £2.50
- Rocks Organic Orange Squash 740ml £2.00
What I learned:
Well, firstly, that I don’t think when I shop. I bung things into the trolley left right and centre (it drives Mr E Mad) without comparing prices or sell-by dates. I’m very lucky that I’m able to shop like this as I know a lot of people can’t, and I need to shop much more thoughtfully.
Secondly, that it’s quite easy to shop organic. I did an online shop at Ocado where you can just basically put in that you want organic and it takes you to a kind of online hub. I made some silly mistakes, though, like spending £4 on organic Brazil nuts then forgetting to actually use them (I can’t even remember why I wanted them). We also learned that organic bacon is delicious. Expensive, yes, but wow, incredibly good. The squash? Not so much.
What I didn’t buy:
Our usual big packs of Pepsi Max, much to the boys’ disgust, no crisps, no wine (argh! Which made us realise exactly how much we spend on wine and beer: a lot), oh and I couldn’t find organic tortilla wraps, which is a shame as the boys usually snack on quesadillas quite a lot.
What we ate:
I have overnight oats with fruit and nuts, or a yogurt. Mr E doesn’t really do breakfast.
I bought yogurts, and also made honey and almond flapjacks and brownies, and the grocery pack included digestive biscuits.
The boys have both been at home all week as university/school has now finished which put extra strain on the budget. Happily this also means that they don’t tend to get up until lunchtime so lunch/brunch tended to be bacon sandwiches, eggs on toast, flapjacks, etc.
On Sunday we went all out for a big roast dinner and I made buttermilk roast chicken, with roasted rosemary potatoes and sweet potatoes, baked courgettes, carrots and green beans (from the freezer, from a friend’s garden so I’d say they were organic).
I spatchcocked the chicken which meant it cooked in just 45 minutes and is perfect to cook on a barbecue. I baked it in the oven but we ate al fresco as the weather was lovely.
We had chocolate brownies made from the Green and Black’s chocolate, with organic ice cream for dessert.
We used the leftover chicken to make one of our favourite family dinners, a lovely spiced chicken pilaf (cheaty note: I had the spices in the cupboard (organic, from Steenbergs), the soya beans in the freezer, and the pomegranate in the fruitbowl).
We had my gorgeous mango, mozzarella and prosciutto salad, but substituted some crispy bacon for the prosciutto. Delicious!
This one was a roaring success: lamb koftas with organic pittas and salad made from grated carrot and white cabbage and the remaining mixed leaves, plus a dressing made from plain yogurt, a little lemon juice and some chopped mint. So good.
I made a massive bowl of ratatouille, which I adore, and we had it with grilled sausages and hunks of bread. Yum.
Pizza night – my organic bread flour and yeast wasn’t out of my budget, but was honestly already in my cupboard, so we can call that a store-cupboard essential, right? I made a quick tomato sauce from the fresh tomatoes and onions, basil from the garden and a little honey, and used my easy pizza dough recipe. By the way, did you know that barbecues are perfect for cooking pizzas? The high heat makes the dough all bubbly and charred. Yum:
300g bread flour
Sachet of yeast
1 tsp sea salt
200ml warm water
Slug of olive oil
Bring it together, knead for 5 minutes (no need to leave it to rise if you want thin crust pizzas, but if you want puffy ones, allow to rise, then just roll the dough out into circles, smother with sauce and add cheese, ham… whatever you like. Unfortunately the pizzas were scoffed before they were photographed, but I also made a quick slaw by grating up the rest of the cabbage, adding grated carrot and raw red onion and tossing it in a simple vinaigrette with a bit of honey added for sweetness.
Our last day, our supplies were quite depleted, but we managed to knock up an easy, cheesy broccoli pasta bake with the store cupboard pasta, which we ate on the sofa in front of the telly, before finishing off the rest of the ice cream.
I think we did really well. As someone that spends an awful lot on food, especially with two strapping lads, I thought we wouldn’t have enough to eat, but planning meals made me think harder about doing justice to what was in my shopping bag and in the cupboards. It feels fab to know that I’ve fed my family really well with wonderful organic produce for a whole week (bar the soya beans, which was our only non-organic cheat). Not only have I saved loads of money on my normal shop, but I’ve reduced a lot of food waste as well. A total win.
The OTB also challenged Ella from Deliciously Ella to do the same with the two person budget. Find out how she got on here.