Living a healthy lifestyle has been a fulfilling, educating and joyful experience. There are no downsides to eating clean, local and organic food- except maybe that it costs more. I personally started eating only organic or locally uncertified organic food when I was 16. I managed to maintain this even through university as a “starving student” and as a young mother and now as a single mother. I pretty much consider myself living proof that no matter how much money you make, you can buy organic foods. It is all about what your priorities are. Restaurants, take out, clothes, shoes, vehicles and other expenses have had to become non-existent or lowest on my priority lists. High quality food is always the first thing that gets budgeted for after the major bills like rent and insurances have been taken care of. It has taken me 6 months to put enough away for a new sweater or pair of pants before but my family and I have always had a kitchen stocked with healthy food.
Most of us are now aware that non-organic foods can contain antibiotics, chemicals that cause cancer; disrupt normal hormone function, and pesticide and herbicide residues. Pesticides are poison, literally designed to kill. They have been shown to cause neurological problems, cancer, infertility, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, allergies and asthma and have been linked to auto-immune disorders as well as hundreds of other conditions from eczema to birth defects. This is why we need to avoid these chemically laden foods and consume only the most nutritious foods available to us so we can save big time down the road in medical costs, prescription drugs, doctor visits and lower quality of life. We can either pay the farmer or we can pay the hospital, but one of the two is going to get our money- the choice is ours. Here are some tips to eating organically on a budget:
GROW YOUR OWN FOOD
Plant herbs indoors in your kitchen or somewhere convenient so you can always have fresh herbs on hand.
Start urban farming at your home regardless of how much space you have.
Once you start growing produce, give herbs, fruits and vegetables as gifts to family and friends (saving money on other material objects they might otherwise not use or collect).
Remember to buy non-GMO seeds.
Check out Geoff Lawton’s free Permaculture design videos online.
Learn how to preserve your garden goodies by canning, fermenting and freezing.
Get a couple of chickens and hatch your own eggs. You can even trade them with neighbors for veggies they may grow that you don’t.
BUY IN BULK
When staple or favourite items are on sale for two for one; or buy one get the second cheaper- stock up.
Order beans and grains you used a lot of in 25lb bags. You will save a lot. We offer all of our members the ability to order co-ops for any of our bulk items in 25-50 lb bags.
Buy unpackaged foods like beans and grains from bulk dispensers instead of prepackaged.
Refill your spices and herbs in our bulk spice department. The cost to refill can be a fraction of what you pay for the little glass jar of it new.
Buy bulk dried beans instead of canned ones.
Bring measuring cups with you to the grocery store if you are buying from bulk containers. That way you can get exactly the amount you need for a specific recipe and you won’t be paying for extra.
Buy the whole animal and freeze the portions you don’t use. You can do this by contacting your local farmer and then splitting the cost with a group.
When craving candy buy a few pieces in the bulk section, or go for a few pieces of organic dried fruit or 10 chocolate covered almonds instead of a whole bag.
Keep track of what foods are in season and keep well (potatoes, apples, etc) and buy those in bulk, as they will be significantly cheaper.
FIND AND USE ORGANIC COUPONS/ KNOW YOUR SPECIALS
Check the websites of your favorite companies and stores for coupons and special promotions, almost all of them have some.
At the farm store we offer 20% off one item coupon cards to everyone who spends 75.00.
Join your favorite company’s social media pages for special coupons and deals. For example, if you join Nutiva’s facebook page, they will give you access to a $10 dollar off coupon. This is perfect for stocking up on chia seeds, coconut sugar, coconut oil, etc. (They also run huge discount specials every Tuesday.)
Check out various organic coupon sites.
The Community Farm Store offers seniors who are members 10% off.
Become a member at The Community Farm Store and receive 2% back on purchases.
Most big box stores take each others coupons, so don’t be afraid to use them all in one shopping trip at your most convenient or favorite store.
AT HOME AND IN THE KITCHEN
Plan out your meals for the week according to organic foods that are on sale and/or that you have coupons for. It really pays to be organized ahead of time.
Budget. Write out a weekly and monthly budget to help you keep track of both erratic spending and responsible spending. This will allow you to see your spending habits and help you prioritize purchasing organic food within your budget.
Do it yourself, rather than buy it. Make your own organic granola bars, kale chips, smoothies, and juices to replace store-bought.
Learn how to portion and prioritize – it is a necessity to always buy organic meats and dairy products, and, therefore, learn to portion your consumption of these products each week. In my house 1 steak feeds two or three people depending on its size. Ideally a portion of meat is about the size of a deck of cards (4 ounces)
Invest in a water filter directly under your sink to avoid having to buy bottled water. Unless you have Duncan water and then there’s no need! Also, check the Environmental Working Group guide on choosing the right water filter for you.
Check out the book “Wildly Affordable Organic” for organic menu planning on $5 a day or less.
USE YOUR FREEZER
9 times out of 10 the organic frozen produce at the store is cheaper than fresh, especially if the fruit or vegetable is out of season.
Freeze all leftovers using inexpensive mason glass jars or silicone ice molds for smaller portions.
Freeze homemade cookie dough and other treats so you can have a treat ready to go in the appropriate portion size.
Buy local produce when in season and freeze to save for out of season, for example in the spring and summer spread berries on a sheet pan and freeze overnight and then store in jars for the fall and winter.
Double recipes and freeze leftovers, this works great with soups and stews.
Freeze core kitchen staples like butter, cheese and bread scraps for bread crumbs or homemade croutons.
Meat & dairy (animals products like chicken, eggs, cheese, butter, yogurt, milk, etc.) are the most important to buy organic because of the combined risk of pesticide, antibiotic and cancer causing growth hormone exposure. Make these priorities.
Reduce meat and dairy consumption if you cannot afford organic. When I have been the most strapped for cash, I will stretch an organic chicken breast or steak into many meals by chopping it up into small pieces for use in many different meals from casseroles, to wraps, to salads.
Reduce amount of organic meat used by substituting half the portion with organic beans.
Buy a whole organic chicken for less per pound, vs. just the breast, legs or wings which are more expensive per pound. Cook it whole and use leftovers all week or quarter it and freeze the cuts you want to cook later. The carcass is used to make your own chicken broth.
Use the “Clean 15” and “Dirty Dozen” lists available on ewg.org to help you navigate which products to buy organic (or take with you when you travel). For example, if you have a choice between more expensive organic red peppers and less expensive conventional asparagus – choose the asparagus. Asparagus naturally repel pests allowing it to be grown with minimal pesticides.
Do not buy pre-washed and ready to eat fruits and veggies, as they can cost twice as much.
Make your own organic coffee and tea instead of buying premade at Starbucks etc.
Eat at home- it is significantly less expensive than eating at restaurants.
Local food can be significantly cheaper than food shipped from miles away.
Find a farmers market near you through and get to know your local farmers, create a personal relationship and negotiate prices. The Cowichan Green Community puts out a local food guide every year. I put it right up on my kitchen wall beside the phone.
Ask your farmer about his farming practices. Some farmers do not spray pesticides on their crops but do not seek organic certification to keep prices lower.
Be the last person to leave the farmer’s market. Farmers will likely cut their prices at the end of the day, so they do not have to take their produce back to the farm.
Buy a share in a community-supported agriculture CSA program. It’s nice to contribute to a local farm’s operating expenses while getting a weekly box of fresh fruits and vegetables.
TRAVEL WITH ORGANIC FOOD
On a road trip use EatWellGuide.org to find out where to buy local, organic and sustainable foods from point to the other.
Go to a grocery store and buy ingredients to make your own easy healthy meal on the road instead of going to a restaurant. This will save you a lot of money.
Bring your food with you in a cooler.
Bring organic tea bags with you and ask for hot water.
Bring filtered water with you wherever you go in one of our awesome stainless steel or glass reusable water bottles so you never have to buy expensive bottled water.
Always carry snacks like homemade trail mix in your purse or bag for emergencies.
At the movies, bring your own organic popcorn and snacks if they do not offer them. There is no reason to pay a premium for conventional food.
STOP WASTING FOOD
Raw nuts and flours should be kept in the refrigerator to last longer without going rancid.
To repel bugs, place a bay leaf in containers of rice, flour and pastas.
Buy and keep bananas separated from one another, they spoil slower.
Turn almond butter, yogurt, sour cream, tahini and cottage cheese containers upside down when stored in the fridge – this creates a vacuum seal, keeping them fresh longer
Freeze or dry the pulp from homemade nut mylk– use it for smoothies, baked goods like biscotti or to make nut flours.
Repurpose vegetable pulp from juicing to add fiber to soups, smoothies or make crackers or bread.
Placed limp celery and radishes in water with a slice of potato to make them crunchy again.
Keep all organic citrus fruits in the fridge – they will last up to 1-2 weeks longer.
Do not wash organic dark leafy greens or berries until they are ready to consume.
Store herbs, spring onions, asparagus upright in a large glass filled with an inch of water
Freeze overripe bananas for use in banana bread later on.
If you know you will not have a chance to eat it, freeze food before it goes bad.
Choose to eat less, use a smaller plate to help you control the amount of food you might eat or end up wasting.
Compost all food waste to put nutrients back in your garden and out of the landfill.