Stuart Muir: Think local and shop local to cut your food bill

Whether it's clean eating or scratch cooking, making healthy choices in the kitchen has never been more expensive, with food prices on the rise at our favourite supermarkets.

Vsiting your neighbourhood fruit and veg store used to be normal. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Vsiting your neighbourhood fruit and veg store used to be normal. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Not only do we have inflation to contend with and harsh winters wreaking havoc on harvests, but with around 40 per cent of our foods imported and Brexit looming, rising prices are only set to continue.

Fruit and vegetable prices are at an all-time high, which makes it more expensive to eat how the government and almost every healthy eating expert out there tells us to. A major contributor to this is the harsh winters of 2015 and 2016 which have affected the harvest and supplies for leafy vegetables which has, in turn, impacted prices in our supermarkets.

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But eating healthily doesn’t have to cost a small fortune in groceries.

In my opinion it is time we reset our mindset, change our shopping choices and think more like our parents’ and grandparents’ generation. Do we really need a portion of pretentious acai berries or papaya with everything, when Scotland’s fertile soil can grow just as good and nutritious without any food miles and extortionate price labels?

We also need to start questioning the logic of this approach and reassess how “clean” our diets are if we’re buying shipped in exotic fruits that have made their way halfway across the globe. These foods are only “super” when eaten whole and fresh… hard to achieve this when they were grown and picked thousands of miles away.

I am passionate about eating local and buying local, making the most of suppliers and produce within Scotland. As executive chef at Dine, I have access to Scotland’s top independent suppliers and see first-hand how cost-effective it can be. Apart from that, the taste is phenomenal.

Of course, rewind a few decades and it was perfectly normal to visit your local independent butcher, fishmonger and fruit and veg store to buy your groceries. We shopped sensibly, we ate locally grown and locally made produce and weren’t affected by fashionable (and questionable) super fruits and superfoods.

I also love farmer’s markets – they’re not just for the amateur foodie, our kitchen team regularly visit them to snap up ingredients and get menu inspiration. Once perceived as an expensive luxury, they provide a great source of fresh and affordable fruit and veg – without the air miles.

There are a number of companies out there that will deliver fruit and veg boxes to the home for those who don’t have the time to visit a farmer’s market. East Coast Organics, for example, are third-generation farmers, their farm is only ten miles from Edinburgh. Organic and biodynamic, they deliver a basket of fresh produce for 25 per cent less than shop prices.

The supermarkets will always have a place, but it’s time we all shopped smarter. Read the label, find out where your chicken, fish, meat and vegetables are from.

It’s by thinking local, and shopping local, that we can keep your shopping bill down.

Stuart Muir is co-owner and executive chef of award-winning brasserie Dine.