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Monday, May 30, 2011

How To Eat Organically For Less

When my neighbor brought me a basket of tomatoes from her garden last year, I had no idea it was going to change my life.

The basket was full of dark purple tomatoes with yellow streaks. Gorgeous. And, as I was to find out, delicious. So delicious, in fact, that I went right back over to my neighbor’s house and asked her what the heck kind of tomatoes she’d given me, because I’d never tasted anything so good in my life.

Her response, that they were heirloom tomatoes, sent me on a quest to rediscover food the way it was meant to be; free from pesticides and the act of modifying a crop for perfect size, shape, color and durability (which often sacrifices taste and nutrition).

Making the commitment to feed my family as organically as possible was a costly one in the beginning. I quickly learned how to cut costs, though, so that I wasn’t paying an arm and a leg to feed my family healthy, nutritious and flavorful food. And you can, too!

Here are some tips that can help bring down the cost of eating organically.

Eat With the Seasons

Ever notice how grapes are three times the cost during the winter than they are in the summer? Foods that are in season are cheaper! They are more abundant, and often don’t have to be shipped as far, cutting down on fuel costs.

Something to note is that the organic season can be slightly different from the non-organic season, so even though an item may be in abundant supply on the shelf, you may need to wait a bit longer for the organic version to appear.

Join A CSA

A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program offers organic produce from a local source on a regular basis. You are basically cutting out the middle man, so overall costs are quite a bit lower than buying the same produce at the store. The variety is often large, and can sometimes even include meat, eggs and dairy.

When we belonged to a CSA, we got a large box every other week, and for $80/month it was more than enough to feed our family of three adults and one child. We also got things in our box that we’d never eaten before, and it was fun to learn to cook new things.

Buy Food at Farmer’s Markets

Farmer’s Markets also cut out the middle man and offer organic produce at huge savings! If you wait until the end of the market, many vendors are willing to sell their items at an even lower cost, and the more you buy of something, the more likely you are to get a better deal. Don’t be afraid to negotiate!

If you need to go during regular hours, you can also seek out vendors that are organic in practice, but just can’t afford the very expensive process of becoming organic certified. I was amazed at how many vendors practiced organic farming but couldn’t display the logo. Prices here tend to be a bit lower as the farmer doesn’t have to pass down certification costs to the buyer.

Buy Unprepared Food

You pay quite a bit more to have someone else cut your onions, carrots and celery into tiny pieces and call it Mirpoix. Buy your produce whole and dirty, and wash and cut it yourself to save some money.

Purchase at Food Warehouses

Buying certain items in bulk can save a bundle! While the Costcos in my area don’t sell fresh organic produce, they do sell large bags of organic fruits and vegetables in the frozen section. One large bag of organic green beans will last my family through three meals, coming out to a per meal cost of about $2.

Use Coupons

Coupons for organic items are few and far between, but they ARE out there. A Google search will bring up several sites that deal exclusively with organic, green and healthy living couponing and sales. When these sites don’t give you exactly what you need, writing to a company and telling them how much you like their product and would appreciate some coupons often gets great results.

Grow a Garden

Growing your own garden is the cheapest way to eat organically! Not only are seeds inexpensive, you have no doubt about how your food has been grown. Many nurseries are now carrying organic plants as well, if you prefer to start a bit ahead of the game.

Eat Less

While it may sound crazy, the more nutritious the food you put into your body, the less your body needs! Your body will naturally adjust its hunger signals based on the nutrients it’s receiving. Even if you spend more on organic food, you will spend less in the long term.


I do spend more on produce than I used to, but my monthly food budget hasn’t changed. By buying less processed food, and using the tips above, I’ve been able to break even. You don’t have to spend a fortune in order to eat healthy and support local and organically sourced food.

Resources

How To Plant an Organic Garden
Simply Organic In-Store Coupons
How Is Organic Farming Different?
Top 12 Fruits and Vegetables You Should Buy Organic

17 comments:

  1. This is so great! It's along the same vein as what I wrote about yesterday. I'm going to link to it in my entry. :D I wish my friends and family back home ate better.

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  2. So informative. I've known this, just never implemented this. The Springfield Farmer's Market is literally half a block from my office on Friday afternoons now. I am going to start picking Bug up from school and then bringing her back and shopping for fresh veggies and fruits there instead of the store. Plus, it's shopping locally and supporting the local economy, which is SO important these days.

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  3. I'm trying to eat more and more organic, and I have always tried to eat fruit in season. I'm thinking of trying out one of the produce delivery systems that we have here, I feel like that would encourage us to try new things.

    Great post!

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  4. This was so right on! I especially loved the "eat less" recommendation. In the last year I have cut out most processed foods, sugar, and gluten. I need very little to feel satisfied. We just joined a CSA and planted a garden. We get our first box on Fri and I can't wait to see what's in it! Great post!

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  5. seriously. awesome, great list!

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  6. Good job!!! We haven't gone organic here...but we are saving a BUNDLE by using Bountiful Baskets (a produce co-op.)

    We HAVE cut out LOADS of process foods from our diet, though. Granted, our pantry is still full of chips and cookies and WHATNOT, but those are snacks...and have been there for months. We raid the stash maybe once or twice a week. ;-)

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  7. Really great tips!

    Just found you via Top 25 Expat Mom Blogs - I'm an expat mom too :) XOL

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  8. I'm so with ya on this - but really? Your Costco doesn't have organic produce? We have organic spinach and other greens, organic carrots, and organic berries. And fortunately, they're at Costco prices (though obviously still more expensive than "regular" produce). Plus, check the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen to see what you even need to buy organic! :)

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  9. Great post, lots of useful and practical info. That is exactly how Andres and I do to keep on track and you are right the better you eat, the less you spend on junk and keep belly satisfied.
    Elisabeth-www.leanerandgreener.com

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  10. I need to get to the Farmer's Market more often. The great thing is, my dad grows a huge garden each summer. We did a tiny one last year and I'm behind on planting, but I'll probably plant some things this year.

    YUM!

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  11. We're growing heirlooms this year and I SO hope they turn out! We are big organic eaters in our house, too.

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  12. GREAT post! Lots of great info in here! I normally have my garden up and blooiming by now but I didn't even start yet. *frowny face*

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  13. Awesome, awesome, awesome tips.
    And I LOVE HEIRLOOM TOMATOES.
    Fresh grown tomatoes from the garden are the best things ever. It's what makes me realize how very different grocery store produce tastes from the "real thing."

    Also, looking forward to joining a CSA again.

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  14. Thanks for the reminder about CSAs - I looked into joining one a few months back but the locations near my house were booked. Which one do you use locally?

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  15. Hey Laural, are you going to disappear again? Please don't! :P

    beijos!

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  16. Helpful tips, especially links to resources!

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  17. that just reminded me of this npr article.
    http://www.npr.org/2011/06/14/137034621/oh-the-things-you-can-do-with-a-farm-share-box

    pretty interesting and a few recipes I will keep

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