If you shop at a typical supermarket, the prices on organic produce might be enough to convince you that only the rich can afford an organic diet. But you, too, can afford to eat organic.
The first step is to educate yourself. Right now, we are spending money on being sick (health insurance, co-pays, medication) instead of spending money on being healthy. Your health begins with eating good food loaded with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Whenever possible, that means buying an organic product over a regular one. But it doesn’t always need to be labeled USDA Organic to be a better choice. Did you know the Certified Naturally Grown label also certifies food as organically grown?
Locally grown fruit and vegetables bought at a vegetable stand on the side of the road may have been grown organically. Many small farmers don’t go to the expense of certification. Ask them about pesticide use and crop rotation and do your best to support these small organic farms. Their food has more vitamins, minerals, and enzymes than the organic food farmed by the big agriculture companies (due to a lack of crop rotation).
When trying to find the cheapest possible food, you should look at the amount of nutrition you are getting for your money. Instead of focusing on getting full, focus on getting nourished. Instead of relying on microwave dinners or Top Ramen, buy some brown rice and kale and throw them in a slow cooker or toss whole wheat pasta enriched with fiber into a pot of water. It takes no more effort than heating up your mac ‘n cheese but the health benefits are much greater. Think about what you are buying. You could spend $10 on a cooked chicken from the grocery store, or you could spend $6 on organic, naturally raised chicken legs, $2 on sweet potatoes, and $2 on broccoli. See how you can manage eating well on a budget?
When you stop buying processed foods, including processed “health foods,” your budget will benefit. When you lower your consumption of protein and buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season, your food expenditures will go down.
Author David Hennessey, in How to Buy Organic Food Inexpensively, says his family ate organic for the five months they lived on welfare. You can go organic without having to be rich!
Here are some more tips for shopping healthy even when money is tight:
- Compare the price of organic fruits and vegetables at your local farmers market or health food store to your local grocery store. You might be very surprised at the difference. And get to know your prices – sometimes organic products are less than regular items or the same price.
- Check online to see if your area has a real farmers market. Sometimes areas have a “parking lot” farmers market on the weekends. The food is often grown naturally (without pesticides) and is so much fresher than something that was shipped across the country a week or two ago – and usually at about the same price you’d pay at the grocery store. If you go to the market, you’ll get the bonus of enjoying your area’s bounty while supporting local farmers and their families. Get to know the person that grew your food – you won’t believe what a difference it makes!
- Take the amount of what you normally spend on groceries – say it’s $150 every 2 weeks – and see where that money is going. Is any of it going to impulse buys, junk food or unnecessary items? If so, allocate that money to investing in healthier choices.
- Invest in buying those items that are worth going organic for, like peaches, apples and sweet bell peppers. When grown commercially, these foods are extremely high in pesticides. You can get a full list in the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce from the Environmental Working Group Website – www.foodnews.org/walletguide.php
- If you need to buy some conventionally grown foods, buy onions, avocadoes, and pineapple, as these have the fewest pesticides. Use that extra money to buy organic meat and grains. (Remember, you should always buy organic meats. When you eat off the top of the food chain, you are eating everything that animal ate include growth hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides.)
- Those free circulars and magazines at natural and health food stores often have coupons or deals for organic products. Sometime you can even email for a free sample. This is a great way to try something new.
- Buy dry goods, such as beans and rice, in bulk.
- Consider growing your own organic vegetables. They will taste better than anything you buy and will cost a few cents as opposed to a few dollars.
- Remember, some farmers cannot afford the cost of being organically certified but follow the same practices as those who are. Enquire at your local health and natural food stores. You might be surprised to learn that you’ve been buying “organic” all along!
- Is it worth a little extra time and energy to learn more about organic food? Absolutely! Not only are you and your family benefitting from a healthier lifestyle, you are helping the planet too.