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It’s not actually that much more money a year to upgrade to an ethical banana.

This is the first in an occasional series where I’ll break down just how much you’d need to spend in order to go green.

Each year in the UK we buy 5 billion bananas. That’s 100 per person, so roughly two a week each.

Of that around a third are Fairtrade certified, meaning the farmers and other workers are getting paid a fair price for each banana, but also receive rights as workers and money to invest in their communities.

If you’re buying your bananas in Waitrose, Sainsbury’s or Co-op then you’re buying Fairtrade every time – whether loose or in a bag. But the other supermarkets tend to only offer Fairtrade in packaged bunches. 

These bundled ones tend to be more expensive per banana than the loose alternative, and of course there’s also the wasteful plastic bag, which I know lots of people try to avoid on fresh fruit and veg (it really isn’t needed).

And it’s both those reasons which can put people off buying these more ethical bananas. But should they?

How much more do Fairtrade bananas cost you?

Before MySupermarket shut down this weekend, I took a look at the prices for loose and packaged bananas, Fairtrade and non-fairtrade, at the major supermarkets.

Loose Fairtrade vs non-Fairtrade bananas

First loose bananas. The price you see is in pence per banana. Morrisons and Ocado don’t sell loose bananas on their websites while Co-op and Aldi don’t do online shopping, so these retailers aren’t in this table.

Now, the price given online is the price per KG rather than banana. So I weighed the five bananas I had at home and have gone with 170g as an average weight of a banana bought loose. Of course it could be higher or lower, but this gives us something to work with.

  Waitrose Tesco Asda Sainsbury’s Lidl
Loose 170g banana
  14.28p 14.161p   13.94p
Loose 170g Fairtrade banana 14.96p     14.45p  

(Scroll right on your phone to see the full table)

Straight away you can see there’s not much difference between the supermarkets. Yes the Fairtrade ones at Waitrose and Sainsbury’s are a fraction more expensive, but not by much. 

The smallest difference is between Tesco at 14.28p and Sainsbury’s at 14.45p. That’s a difference of just 0.17p. Nothing. Even over the average 100 bananas a year it’s 17p difference. Seventeen pence. A year. 

And even the biggest difference, between standard non-Fairtrade bananas at Lidl and Fairtrade bananas at Waitrose is just 0.96p – less than a penny per banana. Over a year, you’d just be paying an extra 96p, not even a quid.

So if you can swap your banana shop to Waitrose or Sainsbury’s (or Co-op) then you’ll be making a huge difference to the farmers without even noticing an impact on your wallet.

Packaged Fairtrade vs loose non-Fairtrade bananas

Of course, you might not have the option to shop at one of these supermarkets. So if you want to go Fairtrade you’ll have to buy them in those five or six banana bundles in a plastic bag. 

For a moment, ignore the environmental concerns about the plastic bag. Let’s focus on the price of the bananas.

The table below covers the main options from the supermarkets. I’ve ignored “ripen at home” and so on. The price is once more per banana, rather than per pack. 

  Tesco Asda Morrisons Lidl Ocado
Loose 170g banana
14.28p 14.161p   13.94p  
Non-Fairtrade bunch
20p 18p 20p 17.8p  
Fairtrade bunch         19.8p
Fairtrade organic bunch
27p 20p 26p 19.2p 26.7p

(Scroll right on your phone to see the full table)

The first thing you probably notice is that packaged bananas cost more than loose ones! You’re be paying between 17.8p and 20p for a non-Fairtrade banana this way. 

Next you’ll probably spot Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Lidl don’t sell just Fairtrade. They only sell Fairtrade and Organic. This allows them to charge them at a higher price – and therefore make the price difference much larger.

I think that’s really cheeky and it’s got to put people off. At Tesco a loose non-Fairtrade banana will cost 14.28p on average, but 27p from a Fairtrade Organic package. 

For comparison, the Fairtrade only packaged bundles from Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Ocado come in at 20p per banana. The same price Tesco and Morrisons sell non-Fairtrade bunches. So it is possible to sell bunched Fairtrade at a lower price.

However, the 12.72p difference at Tesco between it’s loose and packaged Fairtrade Organic bananas works out as £12.72 for 100 bananas. That’s still not a huge amount of money. 

So if you really can’t buy your Fairtrade bananas loose, then it’s not going to cost you the earth to buy the premium bundles from your usual supermarket.

Bananas and plastic wrapping

Sadly doing the latter doesn’t help with any desire you’ve got to buy less food that has plastic wrapping. 

So do you choose plastic-free or Fairtrade? Well I can’t answer that for you. Like many ethical purchases, it can come down to choosing your battle and compromising from time to time.

Personally I’d go for Fairtrade bananas every time, and making it known to your supermarket that you want less plastic in general, not just on bananas. And while you’re at it say you want lose bananas to be Fairtrade too.

Bananas and food waste

Wherever we buy our bananas from, one thing we can all do is cut down on the amount we throw away because they’re a bit brown or mushy.

Every day 1.4 million perfectly edible bananas are thrown away in the UK. That’s £80 million worth according to waste campaigners Wrap, or over £500 million worth over a year. 

This works out as 10 bananas each a year. If you’re in a household of four or so, assuming an average banana price of around 20p, that’s £8 of wasted bananas you’re chucking out.

Ok, so not a huge amount. But alongside the other edible things you’re likely binning at the same time it can all add up.

What to do with those bashed bananas

Personally I’m happy to put an overripe banana in some porridge, but I know some people still won’t be keen.

Even then you don’t have to bin them as there are plenty of ways to use them. For a start you could look at freezing them (peel and chop them up first) and using in smoothies, or even better use them in baking.

Recipe: Low-fat bashed Fairtrade banana and berry cake

My wife Becky is an amazing baker and often whips up a banana cake. She’s got a few different recipes, but this is her favourite. It’s really easy and low fat.

Low-fat bashed Fairtrade banana and berry cake
Yield: 12 servings or 12 muffins

Low-fat bashed Fairtrade banana and berry cake

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

There's no need to throw away bananas that on the outside look like they've seen better days. You know the type, hanging around the fruit bowl looking all bruised and sorry for themselves.

But luckily it's not the bashed and marked skin we need - we need the perfect-for-baking, soft inside part that provides a healthy sweet treat while simultaneously avoiding being thrown in your kitchen bin.

If that sounds good to you, here's my tried and tested low-fat banana cake recipe:

Ingredients

  • 300g of self-raising flour
  • 50g porridge oats
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g golden caster sugar (or white caster sugar is fine too)
  • Half teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 2 medium Fairtrade bananas (the riper the better)
  • 284ml carton of buttermilk (if you don't have or can't get buttermilk, you can use any other type of milk. Measure approx 260ml into a jug, then add a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar, whisk and leave to stand for 10 minutes. You now have buttermilk!)
  • 5 tablespoons of light olive oil or sunflower oil
  • 2 egg whites (you can use the leftover yolks to make mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, or add to your scrambled eggs or omelette mix next time you make one. They'll keep for a couple of days in the fridge)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 150g of berries e.g. blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, redcurrants

Instructions

1) Heat oven to 180C (160C fan) and line a cake tin, loaf tin or muffin tin with greaseproof paper/muffin cases

2) Weigh and measure the flour, oats, bicarbonate of soda, sugar and salt into a large bowl

3) In a separate bowl, mash the bananas until nearly smooth. Stir in the buttermilk, oil, egg whites and vanilla into the mashed bananas until evenly combined

4) Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour the banana mixture into it

5) Stir the mixture until well combined but it doesn't matter if it has some lumps in it

6) Tip in the berries and stir gently just a couple more times, then pour the mixture into your prepared cake/loaf/muffin tin

7) Sprinkle the top of the mixture with a few extra oats and put into the oven for: 20 mins if baking the mixture as muffins, 25-30 mins if baking in a cake tin, or 40-45 mins if baking in a loaf tin

8) Towards the end of the baking time, open the oven door and carefully stick a cocktail stick or metal skewer into the centre of the cake or muffins; if it comes out clean then it's done

9) Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes in the tray before lifting out onto a wire rack to cool completely

10) Enjoy with a cuppa!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 202Total Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gSodium: 590mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 2gSugar: 14g

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