Laura Di Giulio took up the organic budget challenge.

Organic on a budget: Feeding a family on £44

Here's how I fed my family of four for a week on organic food for under £50 and less than the cost of a takeaway.

My name is Laura Di Giulio and I am a massage therapist, healing diets coach and busy mum. I have been eating organic food for around 15 years and a few years ago I moved over to a Riverford organic box delivery because I wanted to try to eat as organic, seasonal and sustainably as possible. 

I do get a kick out of trying to plan meals around what arrives because it isn’t always easy.

We eat takeaways probably once every seven to 10 days, but I have noticed that the prices have gone up significantly in the last year.

I am frequently surprised how many people I know who eat takeaway food as often as they do, but would consider organic food to be expensive and out of their price range. 

While following the Riverford Instagram account, I saw a post saying how organic food is more affordable that you think. I commented that for my family of four it isn’t unreasonable to expect a takeaway to cost between £40-60 and that I could probably feed my family for a week with just the cost of one takeaway. Riverford contacted me with the challenge to do so.

So here goes!

When the box choices became available, I had a look at the options and opted for the large seasonal vegetable box at £22.70. I chose this because it has both onions and potatoes. Onions are good for flavour and potatoes are a staple to fill you up.

The box contained:

1 cauliflower

2 red peppers

4 courgettes

Spring greens

A small Butternut squash

3 leeks

6 red onions

A box of mushrooms

A bag of potatoes.

When creating meals on a budget, I find stews, curries and stir fries can make a little food go a long way so I also added as extras:   

A bag of carrots


Fresh chillies and ginger 

This took the price of my box from £22.70 to £30.75.

The garlic, chillies and ginger did use quite a lot of my extra money but will last, so I will be saving next week. 

Some people may have garlic, chilli and ginger in their cupboards already. If so, perhaps you could spend the extra £8 on a meat item like chicken, beef mince or sausages. Beef mince is always a good choice because I can generally stretch it to two meals. 

I was left with roughly £10 for my staple extras, of which I have chosen:

Organic kidney beans 230g (£1)

Organic brown rice 250g (£1.30)

Organic pasta 500g (£1.35)

Soba noodles 250g (£1.40)

Organic tomato passata (£1.35)

Organic red lentils 250g (£1.50)

Organic vegetable stock cubes, pack of 6 (£1.50)

Organic risotto rice 250g (£1.40)

Butter (£2.75)

In total with the veg, this shop came to £44.30.

I have shown all the items bought separately, which increases the cost. If you were able to buy the items in bulk, you would reduce the bill again. 

To cut the price further, you could do most of the meals with only rice and cook a large pot of vegetable lentils, which you could eat for three days. But I’m trying to make the food tasty and varied, as well as affordable. Below are the ingredients I used and a suggested recipe for the dish (please note these may not be the exact recipes I used as the point of the diary was a budgeted meal plan).

Day one

The first meal I choose was a mushroom and Spring green risotto. Risotto is a great way to take only one or two ingredients and stretch them out with a great taste.

I used the mushrooms first as they are best eaten when they arrive. I used fresh rosemary from my garden. Herbs are a great and affordable way to pack flavour into your food. They can be grown inside on a window sill throughout winter. Additional add-ons could be white wine, cream or Parmesan cheese.

Mushroom and Spring green risotto

Risotto rice

Mushrooms, chopped

2 large Spring greens leaves, chopped

4 garlic cloves sliced

2 red onions, chopped

2 pints of vegetable stock

3 sprigs rosemary

Find a mushroom risotto recipe here.

Day two

I was really happy to have a Butternut squash in my veg box because it is so versatile and can form the basis of many meals. I went with a chilli and added kidney beans for protein. If you had mince beef then this is also a good addition. You could also add yoghurt and avocados as an optional extra for flavour.

Butternut squash chilli

Butternut squash peeled and chopped

2 red onions, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

1 tin organic kidney beans in water

3 carrots, chopped chunky

Red chilli, 1 sliced with seeds

4 cloves garlic, sliced

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons cumin 

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 stock cube

Brown rice 

Find a butternut squash and bean chilli recipe here.

Mushroom risotto; A weekly meal plan; Butternut squash chilli.
Mushroom risotto; A weekly meal plan; Butternut squash chilli.

Day three

Roasted ‘steaks’ are a great use for cauliflower. You can flavour them really easily and marinade for a few hours before roasting. This meal makes a great veggie alternative to the roast dinner. I roasted mine with just salt and pepper and dried mixed herbs. I steamed the vegetables and then fried in butter and garlic. I also used the cauliflower greens to bulk up my vegetables and you could add chilli if you like spice. 

We ate with gravy but a great add on could be a cheese sauce. You can get a good organic cheese for around £3.

Cauliflower cheese steaks, roast potatoes and garlic vegetables

Cauliflower head

3 carrots

Cauliflower greens, washed and chopped

Half the potatoes


Find a recipe for a whole roasted cauliflower here.

Day four

Soup is a wonderful meal choice and can again be eaten for two days. I actually had leftovers that my daughters took to college with them the next day. Leek and potato soup is a good option as a meal because it is very filling. My recipe is basic but you could add cream and top with crispy onions or feta cheese.

Leek and potato soup

The remaining potatoes

Knob of butter

4 cloves garlic

1.5 litres vegetable stock

1 onion

Find a leek and potato soup recipe here.

Day five

My family love a stir fry. It’s a great way to pack vegetables into their diet and can be helpful if you have a vegetable item in your box that you are unsure how to use.

I like to use buckwheat noodles as a healthy alternative, but normal noodles would work too. I used soy sauce in my stir fry as it’s something I always have in the cupboard, but you could use lemon, honey, sesame seeds or Chinese spices.

Vegetable stir fry

Spring greens, thinly sliced

2 courgettes sliced

1 red pepper sliced

2 small carrots sliced

1 red onion sliced

1-2 knobs of ginger (to taste)

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large chilli, chopped, no seeds

250g soba noodles

1 tablespoon oil for frying (sesame preferably, sunflower would work or olive)

2 tablespoons of soya sauce

Find an easy guide to veg stir fry here.

Day six

Pasta is an incredible way to save money. It is like risotto in that you only need a few ingredients to create the loveliest pastas. My husband is Italian and we have a cookbook I picked up in Italy full of simple pasta dishes that are really tasty and affordable. I knew the moment I saw the ripe tomatoes in the box that they would be fabulous in a pasta sauce.

Veg stir fry; Spicy vegetable dahl; Leek and potato soup.
Veg stir fry; Spicy vegetable dahl; Leek and potato soup.

Tomato and basil pasta

Punnet of tomatoes, dunked in hot water and remove the skins.

4 cloves garlic

Handful of fresh basil 

500g pasta

Find a recipe for tomato sauce here.

Day seven

I made it to day seven with a few leaves of Spring greens, 1 onion, 1 courgettes, 2 chillies, a knob of ginger and 250g of brown rice.

I have added the lentils and I am making a spicy vegetable dahl. Lentils are a great money-saving option and are really good for you,

Vegetable dahl

4 leaves of Spring greens

1 red onion, chopped

A knob of ginger

5 cloves of garlic

2 chillies

1 courgette, chopped 

250g lentils

The final total was £44.30. As I said before, there are ways to bring this in slightly cheaper as food is often leftover to be used the next week, or you can bulk buy the dried items. I’m pretty happy with the result and the family ate every dish and enjoyed it. My husband would have preferred a few meat dishes but this week I went with spicy over meat. 

I hope this helps to show the organic box in a fairer light and as a possibility on a budget.


Leave a Reply

  1. This is how to feed a family of four one organic meal per day for £44 per week…presumably they also eat breakfast and lunch?? The headline is a bit misleading but nice meal ideas!

    1. I agree with Meeshmoo, the headline is a little misleading as it’s only one meal a day. I thought it would give me some tips as I struggle on a large veg box and there’s only 2 adults in the house, but we also eat breakfast and lunch so maybe that’s why we struggle. There are some tasty recipes I will try but maybe not so much garlic!

  2. I agree with the other commenters that the headline and in fact the main text of this piece are very misleading. I wouldn’t even say this is a whole week of dinners, as soup is not a main meal (especially without any bread, which doesn’t seem to be included in the budget). Most of these meals are very short on protein, and there’s a total absence of fruit. Some of the portions seem very small: 250g of risotto rice is not enough for 4 as a main course, 300g is usual and in fact the linked Riverford recipe calls for 400g of rice for 4 people; a 250g packet of noodles is 3 modest portions; the listed 250g of brown rice, probably enough for 1 meal for 4 but not very generous, appears to have been eaten twice! There are ways to save money and eat well (going meat-free, buying in bulk, etc), but unfortunately this article doesn’t really show the way.

  3. Interesting article. I live off stews and risottos and soup and many things similar to Laura.

    I didn’t find this misleading in the slightest as I’d assumed it meant main meals and not having cardoon fricassee for breakfast. 😉 You don’t need tons of protein in every meal, and there is lots in various vegetables. I listened to a podcast recently where an NHS dietician dispelled a lot of myths around this. Basically eat a balanced diet and you’ll be fine.

    Some more info. here if you’re open to thinking about this:

    1. Sorry, I can see how my comment about protein might have come across as the typical meat-eater’s attack on veggie diets – I’m a lifelong vegetarian and these days about 70% vegan. I totally agree with what it says about protein in the link you shared: “You can easily meet protein needs by eating protein-rich foods. These include lentils, beans, chickpeas, seeds, nuts and nut butters (e.g. peanut butter), tofu and tempeh.” But only 2 of the meals here have any of those ingredients, and only the dal has a decent amount to be shared between 4; cheese is mentioned a few times but not actually included in the recipes or budget.

  4. Thanks for the thoughtful efforts made to encourage organic meals on a budget Laura. Good recipes and pics. (Yes, to be entirely accurate, it’s main meals here. But still, not a huge outlay!) You might be interested in the Zoe App podcast on How to Eat Well on a Budget – covers the protein issue too, and could easily be adapted to organics. Mindful shopping must be the way ahead!

    1. I second the Zoe app. We’ve been riverford customers for about 12 years now, but the app is showing me how to convert my veg box into meals that fuel my energy and focus by cultivating my gut microbiome. The difference in our approach to making meals is really changing the way we feel.

  5. Great, inventive ideas to help stretch your mains budget and although everyone’s ideas of adequate portion sizes do differ (I’m probably greedy, especially when things are so tasty!), a breakfast of homemade yoghurt (£2 for organic milk makes a good big pot in the Lakeland multi) with fresh fruit, nuts and honey and homemade hummus of various varieties with pitta breads and veg sticks for lunch could make this a full menu for not much more.

  6. What a great idea. There are normally only 2 of us and so I don’t think about the bigger boxes. But perhaps once a fortnight or 3 weeks I could buy a bigger box. Really interesting use of ingredients rolling over from one week to the next. Recipe plans are great when you run out of ideas midweek.

  7. Sharing around with like-minded neighbours or people you see often eg work or school gate can help a lot on economy. We used to do this before moving to be near family. Eg swap less favourite veg from a box rather than order less. Also share out bulk buys, we used to get 25kg or organic muesli, scoop the whole lot into big airtight boxes [ex Christmas biscuit ones saved from work], store under the stairs, then just pass on a box at cost price. Likewise bulk bought eco toilet paper. Helps build community too.

  8. I get our lunches and dinners for 2 people from a large veg box plus extras or 2 smaller boxes. Obviously we need much more than the Riverford-supplied items – rice, beans, lentils, cous cous and pasta (all dried), salt, pepper and spices, tins (tomatoes, tuna, coconut milk), jars (mayo, mustard, harissa), bottles (vinegar), Parmesan and occasional other cheese (e.g. goats cheese for beetroot, mozzarella for baked pasta), frozen peas, pancetta and prosciutto (our only meat), fish once a week (it used to be twice but it’s now too dear), flour and yoghurt (for flatbreads), bread for sandwiches, toast, wiping up salad dressing and breadcrumbs (we do get one loaf from Riverford, but use 2-3 in a week), stockpots for soup, nuts (walnuts, hazel nuts, pine kernels), olive oil, butter and crème fraiche for cooking.
    And still we don’t have enough ingredients for Oliver or Ottolenghi recipes!
    We don’t get takeaways or eat out.
    Breakfast is another matter …


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