How To Eat Clean Without Going Bankrupt

It's just another fussy food fad that's going to cost a fortune, isn't it? Kirstie McDermott debunks some of clean eating's myths.

Clean Eating

When Gwyneth Paltrow’s morning smoothie recipe calls for ingredients like maca, ashwagandha, ho shou wu and cordyceps (that’s a Peruvian root veg, ginseng, Chinese knotweed and er, mushrooms, FYI), Kourtney Kardashian’s eating a spoonful of ghee a day for its clean-based benefits (steady on…) and owner of LA-based Moon Juice, Amanda Chantal Bacon, whose idea of an on-the-go treat is, “mint chip hemp milk with double servings of maca and sprouted brown rice protein,” it’s all too easy to think that eating clean is going to be crazily expensive, uses ingredients and recipes that are hard to source and master and, quite frankly, the sort of thing you’re going to hate having to do.

Not so, says Aimee Patchell, the woman behind the Primal Piggy blog. “All it means,” she explains, “is that you’re eating unprocessed whole foods. Nuts, seeds, good free range meat and fish, that there’s nothing pre-packaged and you make everything from scratch.” If you’d like to remove the ‘notions’ factor from it, consider this: clean eating is really just how our grandparents did things. They went to their local butcher and greengrocer for the raw materials, and did the rest themselves.

Essential shopping list

Free range chicken 1.5kg, €6
Irish Angus round steak 500g, €6.30
Organic salmon fillets 300g, €6.40
Free range eggs, 12, €3.75
Natural brown rice, 1kg, €3.19
Organic broccoli, 500g, €2.99
Carrots, 1kg, €1.49
Avocado, 49c
Organic almonds, 200g, €4.29
Sweet potatoes, 800g, €1.13
Total: €36.03
All prices from


That’s appealing, sure, but what about cost: is it expensive to eat clean? “Well, yes and no,” answers Aimee. “There’s been a shift and we’re more aware of fitness. So now you can by vegetables for 29c and 39c and that’s not expensive. When it does start to get expensive is when you introduce coconut oils, supplements and protein bars,” she says, stressing, “basic healthy food is no less and no more expensive.”

You can use a few tricks to keep costs down, too. Don’t get swayed by the superfood buzzword. “An avocado is a superfood, and you can buy them cheaply in Lidl and Aldi,” Aimee points out. Buying cheaper cuts of meat, like a round roast instead of a rib roast of beef, and slow cooking it with some root vegetables, is just as delicious, and you’ll have leftovers for next day’s lunch too.

A whole chicken can often be cheaper than individually packaged chicken breasts, giving you more with less packaging waste. Once you’ve had dinner and a couple of lunches from it, you can use the carcass for stock, soups or bone broth. “It’s so nourishing,” she emphasises.

Buying food in season cuts costs too, as you’re not paying a premium for something with a bigger carbon footprint. “I buy frozen berries too,” Aimee says, emphasising that this is a cheaper option.


Aimee acknowledges that to eat the cleanest, you do need to do a bit of shopping around. Getting to know your butcher is key. “Ask for the best possible meat. They often have deals on offer, so go for them. Build a relationship with your butcher and do things like mince your turkey for you, or throw in extras,” she reveals.

“In terms of supermarkets, I think Lidl and Aldi are good for deals and I like to buy Irish, and they have a lot of Irish brands. SuperValu is the best – it gives back to startups and has a lot of good Irish producers,” she says. Find our which markets are near you – “they’re great for a day out” – and discover which shop sells what the cheapest.

“Lidl sells Chia seeds now for about €4, which is way cheaper than a health shop, so there’s a lot more clean eating choice available for a lower cost,” Aimee says.


Planning is also a key component to succeeding with clean eating. Work out your meals in advance if you can, so you have your ingredients to hand. And no, it’s not as hard as it might seem. “For breakfast, I often have eggs and avocado. I don’t often eat bread, but I might have a wrap with that,” Aimee says. A typical lunch is a chicken salad with lots of greens, vegetables like broccoli and green beans to add bulk, with a simple dressing made from olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Eating clean for dinner can be as simple as a grilled chicken breast, some sweet potato mash and greens, too.

The upshot? You don’t need a degree in nutritional science, a bank loan or a Ballymaloe-certified cooking course to make the switch to a cleaner way of cooking. Basically, you just need to use your (multi-grain) loaf.

This article first appeared in STELLAR’s June issue. The August issue is on shelves now!

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