There’s no question that organic foods are healthier for your family, especially during vulnerable times such as pregnancy and childhood. If you have yet to make the switch to shopping organic, cost is probably the main deterrent. Can eating organically really be affordable enough for the average family? I think the answer is “yes”, but it’s not easy to see why.
First off, making the choice to eat organically means more than just buying organic produce. It should also include taking steps to reduce the amount of processed foods in your diet. If you don’t recognize the ingredients, don’t buy it. Processed foods are even more expensive than organic foods! For example, my husband loves to snack on popcorn. We used to buy bagged microwave popcorn that was loaded with junk. Now we buy organic popping corn and he pops it on the stove, which is far cheaper, though more time-intensive. Other quick snacks include: fruit, cream cheese on whole wheat crackers, organic granola in plain yogurt, etc. All these options are far cheaper than granola bars and other packaged snacks.
Besides avoiding processed foods, here are some tricks to saving money on buying organic foods:
- Avoid the grocery store! Really, the grocery store is the most expensive way to shop. At the farmer’s market, organic produce costs the same as pesticide-laden produce at the grocery store. Cutting out the middle-man makes a big difference. To find a market near you visit this site. You can also buy direct from farmers by joining a local CSA (a program where a variety of in-season produce is delivered each week for shareholders).
- Buy in bulk! When it comes to meats, organic gets pretty pricey. Besides limiting your meat intake to make more room for those desperately needed fruits and veggies, you can buy organic meat in bulk directly from farmers for the most reasonable price. This practice also allows you to support local farmers, which helps keep those rolling pastures in your area, rather than another new subdivision. Buying “half a cow” will typically save you $2+ a pound! For produce buy in bulk at Costco (if you have one), which has an extensive organics section.
- Drink better! Your body needs water, what do you drink? Juice, soda and milk quickly bulk-up your grocery bill. Fruit is healthier than juice, because fruit provides fiber. Soda is definitely a no-no. Milk is great, but drinking it all day (like my husband does) at the exclusion of water is not healthy or affordable. Replacing some beverages with water is free!
- Grow your own food! Well, we’re not there yet, but next year I intend to plant a least a few easy growers like tomatoes, potatoes and corn. Even if you have a tiny backyard, a garden can be compact and fruitful. Plus, home-grown food tastes so much better than super-market fare.
- As a last resort, shop selective! If you’re worried about your budget, start by buying the most pesticide-laden produce organic. You can download and print a free wallet guide produced by the EWG (Environmental Working Group), which details which fruits and veggies are loaded with pesticides or relatively low on pesticides. The same link includes a full list of 43 fruits and veggies ranked by pesticide danger. It takes into account washing and peeling too.