Plastic-free shopping aisles proposed, but MSE investigation reveals in many cases buying fruit & veg in plastic packaging is CHEAPER than the same produce loose

Plastics and waste are big news with the Government proposing plastic-free supermarket aisles. But outrageously we’ve found that many of the plastic-packaged fruit and veg sold at major supermarkets are actually cheaper than buying the exact same produce loose.

We visited six supermarkets close to MSE Towers on one day and compared several items of fresh produce that could be bought packaged or loose, and only those that were very similar in size, or could be purchased by weight.

In over half the examples we checked, you’re being penalised for helping the environment, though in some cases buying loose was cheaper. These were our findings…


6-pack Gala apples – £1.25
6 loose Gala apples – £1.92
54% cheaper packaged

3-pack courgettes – £1.20
3 loose courgettes – £1.62
35% cheaper packaged

10-pack bananas – £1.59
10 loose bananas – £1.50
6% cheaper loose


3-pack mixed peppers – 95p
3 loose peppers – £1.44
34% cheaper packaged

5-pack oranges – 95p
5 loose oranges – £1.50
37% cheaper packaged

2-pack avocado – £1.75
2 loose avocado – £1.98
12% cheaper packaged


5-pack limes – £1.31
5 loose limes – £1.40
6% cheaper packaged

5-pack oranges – £1
5 loose oranges – £1.60
38% cheaper packaged

6-pack Royal Gala apples – £1.50
6 loose Royal Gala apples – £2.55
41% cheaper packaged

5-pack bananas – 94p
5 loose bananas – 64p
32% cheaper loose

Packaged broccoli – £1.58 per kg
Loose broccoli – 55p per kg
65% cheaper loose

3-pack onions – 67p
3 loose onions – 35p
48% cheaper loose

Plastic packaged fruit and veg often cheaper than loose


5-pack bananas – £1
5 loose bananas – £1.10
10% cheaper packaged

6-pack Granny Smith apples – £1.65
6 loose Granny Smith apples – £2.10
22% cheaper packaged

3-pack mixed peppers – £1.20
3 loose mixed peppers – £1.65
27% cheaper packaged

300g packaged broccoli – £2 per kg
Loose broccoli – £1.45 per kg
28% cheaper loose

3-pack onions – £2 per kg
Loose onions – 85p per kg
57% cheaper loose


5-pack bananas – £1
5 loose bananas – £1.10
10% cheaper packaged

3-pack peppers – £1.05
3 loose peppers – £1.71
39% cheaper packaged

3-pack onions – 90p
3 loose onions – 87p
3% cheaper loose

6-pack Granny Smith apples – £2.51 per kg
Loose Granny Smith apples – £2.31 per kg
8% cheaper loose


300g packaged mushrooms – 90p
300g loose mushrooms – 90p
Same price

6-pack bananas – £1
6 loose bananas – 84p
16% cheaper loose

4-pack Royal Gala apples – £2
4 loose Royal Gala apples – £1.24
38% cheaper loose

3-pack courgettes – £1.50
3 loose courgettes – £1.35
10% cheaper loose

Does loose fruit and veg ever save you a packet?

Apart from Waitrose, where all the fresh produce we checked was cheaper (or the same price) loose than packaged, at least half of the produce we checked at Asda, Lidl, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco was between 10%-54% cheaper to buy wrapped in single-use plastic, rather than the more environmentally-friendly loose option.

From a MoneySaving point-of-view, don’t assume that loose fruit and veg bought at the supermarket is always cheaper and be sure to compare the price tags, paying close attention to the price per kg if the produce is sold by weight.

Can you still save money and help the environment?

If you’re concerned about the use of plastic packaging but still want to save money on your fruit and veg, here are some suggestions…

  • Your local greengrocer or market may be cheaper than some of the supermarkets and use less non-recyclable plastic packaging.
  • Check our Cheap vegetable deals page for offers – we’ll tell you which produce is loose.
  • Morrisons offers a £3 ‘wonky’ veg box which doesn’t use any plastic packaging, just a recyclable cardboard box. Asda also offer a similar box for £3.50.
  • You could consider growing your own veg, from windowsill containers to allotments – see the MSE Forum for tips.

But what if you’re still using a plastic bag for loose veg?

You might find you’re not reaching for a bag for onions or other vegetables you peel before use, but for delicate or multiple items like mushrooms, carrots or potatoes, sometimes the only option the supermarket gives is plastic. If you’ve got any smaller washable canvas bags for life, you could use these as an alternative or make your own – Morsbags has instructions and a free downloadable pattern.

Have you ever seen outrageous pricing on fruit and veg? Do you always buy loose? Leave your comment below, on Twitter, or Facebook.