Five years ago when I became savvy to the what & why of choosing to eat organically for health & morality, it became clear that there was quite a bit in my cupboards & fridge that needed to be changed out. When shopping for organic products at the grocery store the price difference was a shock, and the switch seemed out of my family’s limited budget. Nonetheless, I was firmly convinced of the imperative importance of the transition away from the conventional. Movies like Food Inc., Seeds of Death, & The World According to Monsanto, alongside my own research on poverty & social inequality led me down this path. Over the years I have learned how to make my budget stretch & have confidence in the products my family uses all of which are now 100% organic. These are some tips & tricks I have discovered to be able to maintain this lifestyle as a member of the lower middle class.
Start the transition slowly – Unless you can afford it, throwing away everything in your house to buy organic is unrealistic. However, you can change one product at a time as things are used up or expire.
Buy what is on sale in bulk – Whenever you are lucky enough to find a staple that is jarred, canned, or has an expiration date far enough into the future that it will both last & your family will use it before it expires, buy it in bulk. I’m not ashamed to clear shelves when a good sale is afoot. Recently a local natural food grocery store near me had an amazing sale with many organic products buy one get one free. I filled up my cart with all I could & then went back for more, stocking up on items that last like cereal, bread, jellies/jams, coconut milk, fresh freezable fruit, & bacon. Sure I got a few odd looks and comments on how big my family must be, but who cares when I’m saving 50%!
Frequent local wholesale grocers – A surprising number of local wholesale grocers offer a large number of organic products. While many of these stores charge a fee to join, the amount you save from their discounts & buying in bulk from them is fantastic. To save even more share your membership with a friend!
Go to farmers markets or join CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) – These are excellent for saving when choosing organic. Often they have incomparable deals on produce, especially when you buy in quantity. My local organic CSA will often give away the extra or odd produce they don’t have time to deal with or can’t sell. Nothing beats free! Last year I was able to get tons of free hot peppers & about 10 lbs or more of odd shaped, small potatoes!
Freeze or can - Buying produce in season is often much cheaper than waiting until the middle of winter to get things like strawberries & tomatoes. Whether you buy from the grocery, farmers market, or CSA, get as much as you can while it is in season & take the time to freeze or can it to save a ton.
Make your own – When you have an abundance of extra seasonal produce or have a large number of processed foods you buy from the grocer, a great way to make your dollars last is to make your own. Buying things like cookies, chips, bread, sauces, jams, condiments, et cetera at the grocery can add up quick. Making your own is infinitely cheaper, not to mention fun & exciting because of all the custom combinations you can create!
Start a garden – Seeds and a little elbow grease go a long way to generate grocery budget savings. If you have limited experience start small, mastering one type of vegetable or fruit at a time. As you gain experience it will become much easier. Eventually you can even save your seeds reducing cost even more!
For the meat /egg lovers – If you eat meat/ eggs there are savings to be had for you too. Many farmers markets and CSAs offer packages with eggs, or meat, or a combo. In addition, buying your grassfed beef or pork as a half or whole then freezing makes a big price cut as compared to purchasing one or two pounds at a time at the grocery store.
Sure it takes some work, passion, and culinary skill, but the rewards are infinite. You are securing your family’s health for the future, heading off potentially costly medical bills (so long as you eat a balanced diet, but being organic & cooking for yourself sure does help). You are supporting ethical agriculture that fosters and encourages environmental health & small business. Lastly, you are also storing up a bank of food that can act as an insurance policy in case of emergency. Hope these tips help you along your path & thank you for joining the organic movement!
Much Love & Good Karma, Mamanature