How I Buy Organic

Several weeks back Valerie made the case (quite well, we thought) for eating organic. We asked her to elaborate on her techniques for making an organic diet affordable – not just for herself, but her family. Here’s what she came back with:

I am dedicated to eating organic food, for my health, my family’s health, and the planet’s health. But I do have a mortgage and other expenses. There’s always more ways to spend than there is money. But because I think organic is that important, I have made it a priority in my budgeting and shop wisely to stretch my dollar. Here are a few methods I’ve come to rely on:

  • Manage your money first, before start paying for anything. When my paycheck comes in, it’s already allotted out, including obligations and choices. I trade my life for those dollars, and I don’t want a single one going to anything I don’t get value from.
  • Cook from scratch. I learned how to use new foods, and cook a variety of dishes. It is so much cheaper to cook at home, and you have absolute control over what goes in – and what doesn’t, like sodium and corn syrup. You can maximize fresh vegetables, whole grains and legumes to make healthy, inexpensive and organic meals.
  • Follow prices carefully. By keeping a price book or just from practice, I know when a sale is good, and I stock up. When what I want is at its price peak, I wait. I get the co-op flyers emailed to me weekly, and I read them every time. Co-op membership  has really been worth it, and I get many times my membership fee back every year.
  • Use the $2/Pound Rule. Items under $2/pound and are organic, I just use the organic. Think about it; how many people really can’t afford organic dry beans? It’s an incredibly cheap food, high in protein, dietary fiber and magnesium. So I pass on the organic sausage in favor of the beans. Onions, carrots, rice, popcorn and oatmeal, to name a few, are all regularly priced under $2/pound. Bulk spices are a great deal too, and though they’re priced higher, a little goes a long way.
  • Prioritize your kids’ diets, and the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen.” The EWG’s most pesticide-contaminated foods list is critical, and surprising. Because pesticides affect neurological processes in children, I work to reduce my son’s load most of all. If it’s on the list and I can’t find or afford it organic, we go without.
  • Be flexible. I use what’s on sale, even if that’s only one brand. I might want walnuts, but sunflower seeds will do. I can use broccoli instead of asparagus.
  • Grow some of it. My garden is young and just starting to produce, but I can grow lettuce, herbs and tomatoes pretty cheaply. It’s also very relaxing.

It’s true that not every bite we eat is organic; unfortunately, that’s just not practical in our super-agricultural world. But it’s a pleasure to say that many of those bites are organic. And doing right by Co-op while doing right by the planet, and my family, is an extra pleasure I get every time I shop.



One Comment

  1. mel wrote:

    Some other hints I have:

    1.) (for Grow some of it) Grow sprouts. Fast and reasonably easy. They grow best in hemp bags. Freeze unused seed. Good for about 2 portions of vegetables per day.

    2.) (for be Flexible) At various times canned or frozen may be cheaper than fresh.

    3.) (for Prioritize your diet) Limit your diet to whole grains,beans,fresh fruit and vegetables. Spend $3 on kale rather than ice cream.

    4.) (for follow prices carefully) When on sale, buy grains and beans in bulk for a year. Gets a 10% case discount, and store in a cool dry place.