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.