Eating organic on a budget
Organic food is the darling of the food industry because people naturally have a desire to eat food that’s better for them, and that has been grown in a way that’s better for the environment. The problem is, organic foods tend to be so much more expensive that their non-organic counterparts, and that can make eating organic cost prohibitive for many people.
It’s important to note that while most people believe that organic food is grown without pesticides, this is not actually true in most cases. In fact, it is simply grown without synthetic pesticides; organic pesticides are used on organic food, and are actually often applied more frequently because they are less effective. Organic pesticides are those that are derived from natural sources and processed lightly, if at all, and they are not necessarily any safer or less toxic than synthetic pesticides.1
The good news is that some organic farmers may use very few pesticides – or none at all – so it’s important to research where your food comes from to ensure that you are, in fact, eating as healthfully as you believe.
If you have found organic suppliers that meet your standards, the next trick is figuring out how to make that food affordable. We have some tips to help you do just that!
- Buy local. Get to know the farmers in your area. This will allow you to determine if their farming standards meet yours, and if they do, you may be able to negotiate prices. But even if you can’t, chances are local organic food right from the farm will cost less than food at a fancy organic market that has been trucked or flown in from hundreds of miles away. Another trick is to go to the farmer’s market late in the day, or very near closing time. Farmers may be more apt to slash their prices rather than take it all back to the farm.
- Grow your own. Perhaps you can’t raise organic beef and pork in your backyard, but you can grow organic vegetables and herbs – even in pots if you don’t have a lot of space. Think carefully about what you’re going to plant in order to maximize your yield. For example, if you plant raspberry canes you can make jam to last you through the winter. If you plant cucumbers you can make pickles and relish. If you plant tomatoes you can make sauce. Check out Organic Consumers Association for tips on how to grow organic food inside your home all year round.
- Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk is almost always cheaper, and if you split your haul with like-minded friends it’s even better. For instance, if you see a two-for-one deal and split the cost with a friend, you each end up only paying for half of one of the two items! Splitting is also a useful tactic if you don’t have a lot of storage space in your cupboards or freezer.
- Make good use of your freezer. Frozen organic items tend to be less expensive than fresh, but they’re every bit as healthy, so scan the freezer section thoroughly. You can also prep and freeze the produce you grow or purchase fresh from your local farmer. Check out All Recipes guide to freezing fresh produce for tips and how-tos.
- Cut down on your meat consumption. Meat tends to be the most expensive organic food, so reduce the amount you eat to save money. Fill in the protein gap by eating grains like quinoa and oats, as well as tofu, chickpeas, beans, and lentils. Check out these 15 bean recipes from The Kitchn and these high-protein vegetarian meals from The Spruce.
- Watch your waste. Shop for food based on weekly sales and a menu you’ve planned for the week. Only buy what you need or what you know you can store or process and freeze for later. Keep track of the food in your fridge and pantry, paying close attention to best before dates, and use everything up before it spoils. If you can see that you’re not going to be able to consume something before it goes bad, freeze it or bake with it, if possible. Overripe bananas are perfect for banana bread, for example.
- Clip coupons. Because organic food isn’t as common or plentiful as non-organic, it may be more difficult to find coupons. Scour online sources for organic coupons and other deals you might not otherwise see in your grocery store flyers. Sites like All Natural Savings (US), The Healthy Shopper (CAN), and Voucher Gains (UK) are a good start.