We talk with a lot of people who don’t think it’s possible to eat healthy, organic food and still live within their means. In fact, maybe people think it’s not even possible to eat conventionally grown fresh food on a budget, which is why so many lower-income families resort to heavily processed packaged options or fast food.
While many of us can’t afford to shop exclusively organic, most of us can afford to choose organic more often.
Decide what absolutely has to be organic. The “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean 15” are helpful guides for choosing which produce to buy organic. The Dirty Dozen are the 12 conventionally grown fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residue, and the Clean 15 are those with the least. You may also decide that other products, like dairy or meat, are items you absolutely have to buy organic. Splurge there and save on other stuff.
Shop local to save money on organics. Frequent summer farmer’s markets or even shop direct from local farmers or ranchers.
Buy in bulk. Stocking up on non-perishable (or freezable) items when they’re on sale, or on bulk organic items, is a great way to save money in the long run.
Shop “generic” organic brands. Many grocery stores, not just organic markets, are beginning to carry their own certified organic brands. These tend to be cheaper than specialty brands.
Join a co-op and support local farmers. Organic food cooperatives are popping up everywhere, and they can be an awesome way to get organic produce, grains, even dairy and meat products, for much cheaper than grocery store prices. Some deliver, but many ask their participants to endure the mild inconvenience of picking up their food at a scheduled time and place.
Shop in season. It only makes sense that berries and peaches are more expensive during winter, because they’re out of season and have to be shipped in from other countries. Shopping in-season is a great way to save money on organic food and minimize your carbon footprint. Now that’s a win-win.
Scale down your recipes. It can be fun to experiment with new ingredients, cook elaborate meals, and eat something different every night. But that can get expensive. Try planning your meals around a group of ingredients so that you don’t have to buy so many different items. Plus, you’ll cut down on the risk of food spoiling before you can use it.
Ask yourself if you can afford not to shop organic. Pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics aren’t the only hazard of conventionally produced food. The more I learn about GMOs, the more I want to shop organic. We each have to make a value assessment and choose where we’ll spend our money, and the conclusion will be different for everyone. Ask yourself if the extra cost of organic food isn’t worth it in the long-term.