If you’ve read our previous article, then you’ll know why spending that little bit extra to buy organic produce is so important. If you haven’t read it yet, you really should! You can read it here: Here’s Convincing Evidence Why You Should Start Eating Organic Right Now
The only problem? Eating organic can be a little bit more expensive. In this article we reveal how you can easily trim the cost so you can switch to organic without it hurting your bank balance.
Why is Organic So Expensive?
There is no denying that certified organic food is more expensive than its conventional equivalent. In fact, on average it costs 47% more!
According to the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United States, this difference is because:
- Organic food supply is limited when compared with demand
- Organic food costs more to produce as it requires more labor, and farms tend to be small in size meaning they can’t reap the costs associated with economies of scale
- Organic and conventional produce need to be kept separate during processing and transport
- Marketing and distribution for organic products have higher costs due to smaller volume
The catch-22 is that, as demand for organic food rises, economies of scale will reduce all these costs for organic farmers, which should push down the price.
Until then, those that want to buy organic will have to become savvy shoppers, cutting down on what they don’t need and getting the best value for their dollar.
How to Buy Organic on a Budget
Many families are like the one shown in the ‘Organic Effect’ YouTube video – they find it difficult to eat organic, due to the high cost of organic foods and the size of their family.
However, the old saying ‘pay now, or pay later’ springs to mind when discussing the merits of organic living.
With a little planning and a few tricks, eating organic on a budget can be done. Sure, there will be a period of adjustment and a lot of learning along the way – but look at it as a long term goal to get you and your family on the path to good health.
Reassess Your Priorities
If you’re struggling to afford organic foods, you may need to look at ways you can cut back in other areas, in order to afford the health benefits organic eating can bring.
For example, do you value health over entertainment? If so, find less expensive or free ways to spend your downtime. Try some gardening, walking or invest in a bike (it will pay off in the long run).
Can you cut down on your TV subscription, change to a cheaper phone plan or carpool to work? It all adds up.
Save even more money (and cut down on toxic skincare ingredients) by making beauty and personal care products in your own kitchen. There are homemade versions of everything from natural teeth whitening products to hair treatments.
The couponing craze also extends to organic products.
Many organic companies offer special coupons and discounts through their website or social media pages. Local stores also offer coupons which can sometimes be for organic products – Whole Foods is always a good bet as they feature new coupons every week.
Learn to Plan Ahead
Plan your meals in advance to minimize wastage. Use leftovers for lunch the next day and don’t buy more than you need. This will also help you when it comes to shopping as you can base your meals around what coupons you have.
In the supermarket, stick to your list to make sure you don’t make any impulse purchases, taking you off the organic path and sending you over-budget.
Start from Scratch
Learn to make your meals from whole foods. For example, store bought organic pasta sauce can be pretty pricey – make your own with organic tomatoes instead.
The same goes for nut butters, nut milks, soups and stocks, energy bars, granola, curry pastes, spice rubs and mixes, brownies and anything else you can think of.
Remember: Quality over Quantity
Accept that you won’t be able to eat the same amount of meat or dairy products as before, unless you completely blow your budget. Here’s why: organic chicken is 134% more than regular chicken according to ConsumerReports.org, while organic beef is 47% more expensive.
However, it’s always better to eat antibiotic free meat a few times a week, than hormone-filled ones every day! And, cutting down or eliminating animal products is healthier. A National Cancer Institute study of 500,000 people found that those who ate the most red meat were 30% more likely to die of any cause during a 10-year period than those who ate the least.
Try bulking up stews and lasagnas with some protein-rich beans or lentils added into your meat mix, or even in place of it.
Fresh vs Frozen
Make sure to compare fresh, frozen, dried and canned across organic foods…it pays to do your homework, especially in the beginning.
For example, dried beans are usually less expensive than canned ones and frozen spinach can be cheaper than fresh.
Shop at grocery chains that sell their own organic brands like Trader Joe’s, Earth Fare, ShopRite and Kroger. If they feature the USDA organic seal they must comply with organic standards.
And, research in the UK found that supermarket own brands are not just cheaper than the big-names, but they’re often more nutritious.
Become a Bargain Hunter
If you see organic fruit or vegetables (or any other organic product for that matter) in the sale bin, snap it up. Even if you have no immediate use for it, you can freeze it, make your own frozen soups or ready-meals, can it or ferment it.
For example, bananas that are going brown can be peeled and frozen making them ideal to use in smoothies. Overripe bananas are also a great sugar substitute in cakes, muffins or oatmeal.
Likewise, stale bread works in a Tuscan Panzanella salad, or can be processed into breadcrumbs and frozen until needed.
Meet the Farmers
USDA organic certification can be expensive, especially for small set-ups – which organic farms typically are. Many farmers don’t get certified because they can’t afford the cost, or want to keep the price low for their customers.
Why not head to your local farmers’ market, talk to those that produce your food and find out how they grow their crops. If you’re still hanging around by the time the market is closing, you might even snap up some last-minute bargains!
Grow Your Own
Growing your own food can be thrifty, rewarding, nutritious and a virtually free way to spend a weekend. By choosing organic seeds, using organic fertilizer and using organic pest control methods, you’ll save yourself from a whole host of disease-causing toxins.
Check out our Gardening section for some great tips to get you started. You could also consider keeping your own chickens for organic eggs, and goats for milk and cheese. The possibilities are endless!
Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen
If you really feel you can’t afford to eat organic, or don’t have the time right now to do some research, at least follow the Environmental Working Group’s advice and avoid the top 12 most pesticide laden fruits and vegetables.
For 2015, the Dirty Dozen are: apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes.
Foods which have the least pesticides (although they still have some) are known as the Clean Fifteen. 2015’s cleanest produce are: avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papaya, kiwi, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe melon, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.
Let’s spread the word that organic is affordable and worth it. It’s the only way to drive down the price of organic foods and make them convenient and accessible to all!