Laura was previously the editorial assistant on Healthy Food Guide. She is now a freelance journalist specialising in health, wellbeing, food & travel.

When it comes to the weekly shop, how much of your basket is organic? And do you make choices based on your health, the environment or cost alone?

Recent research by the Organic Trade Board found the market grew by 8% in 2014, with fruit and veg being the main entry point for consumers. But the preconception remains that organic equals expensive, rendering it off limits to many. It can be difficult enough to get your five-a-day, and if you’re trying to eat the rainbow on an organic diet, you might assume it’ll put a strain on the bank account.

Can you be thrifty AND organic?

The Organic Trade Board (OTB) recently launched the Thrifty Organic campaign, aiming to prove that – with a little bit of planning and creativity – you can shop organically on a budget. Yes, organic produce has, until now, been more expensive in general, but major retailers are taking this problem seriously. Aldi began by launching an affordable organic range, with prices around 25% cheaper than its organic competitors.

The challenge

The OTB set me the challenge of making lunches for two for a working week, spending £25 on only organic produce. I’m an organic veg box scheme devotee, so I get what my scheme gives me for a set price. That means I don’t normally have to choose and budget for my fruit and veg, so this was a little more challenging.

The planning

I love a shopping list and a spot of meal planning, so I picked a couple of HFG recipes I thought would go far while giving a good serving of veg. I was keen to get some meat in there, too, to experiment with the budget. I made Spiced chicken with pomegranate salad & harissa yogurt, and Roasted veg frittata – both include a fair bit of veg and salad to use across my lunches.

Organic chicken salad
Spiced harissa chicken with quinoa and brown rice
Organic frittata and salad
Roasted veg frittata with salad

The list

When I got to my local Tesco, it was sadly lacking in organic options, and I could only find carrots, tomatoes and spinach. I picked up broccoli and a reduced cauliflower head in case I struggled at a second Tesco. Luckily, I got most things – except for red onions and an organic pomegranate, which was no surprise. My shop came to £25.60. I blame the impulse cauliflower and broccoli. Otherwise I’d have come in under budget by £1.95.

My thrifty organic shop

ItemOrganic priceConventional price
Cauliflower (whole head)£1.30 (reduced from £2)£1
Broccoli (300g)£1.2549p
Carrots (700g)£160p (1kg)
Peppers (250g)£1.4966p (x3)
Cucumber (whole)£149p
Vine tomatoes (2 x 200g)£1.75 each£1
Spinach (200g)£1.50£1
Eggs (x6 mixed)£1.9089p (x6 medium)
Chicken breast fillets (336g)£5.21£3 (300g)
Spring onions (bunch)75p49p 100g
Sweet potatoes (750g)£2£1.25
Avocadoes (x3)£2.50£1.75 (x4)
Courgettes (x3)£2.20£1.50 (500g)

Can you eat organic on a budget?

My organic shop was 69% more expensive than if I’d bought the nearest equivalents as conventional produce (excluding current offers.) Also, I found choice at my local supermarket – a superstore, no less – limited, and not being able to buy veg individually meant I ended up with a whole bag of carrots I didn’t really need.

The potential health benefits of eating organic are still being researched, but if environmental factors are important to you, organic will come at a premium. However, buying through veg box schemes is a competitive alternative, which ensures a supply of seasonal, organic produce for a week. I supplement mine with any extra conventional fruit and veg I want in my supermarket shop. I find this brings an affordable balance to what I eat without spending a lot on completely organic products.

Do you shop organically, or dip in and out? And what are the major pros and cons of organic for you?