Going Organic in a Tough Economy

People often tell me that they’d like to eat organic, but that it’s too expensive, especially in these tough economic times. I understand – trust me. Money is definitely tight for me lately, as I know it is for many, many people. However, I think it comes down to priorities. You – yes, you! – can afford organic if you want to. It’s a matter of how you choose to spend your money. My sister, who I really admire and look up to (despite her being younger than me. She is taller, though, so it still works!), is currently looking for work, and money is very, very tight, but she will absolutely not sacrifice the quality of the food she buys, for environmental, health, and other reasons, such as supporting local farmers. I feel the same way – what I put into my body is very important, and I am not willing to sacrifice that, or deal with the environmental impacts that go along with eating foods ridden with pesticides and grown in unnatural and scary ways. There are other ways I can cut back, such as cooking more at home, bringing my lunch, not buying a ton of stuff I don’t really need, etc. Conveniently, many of these are the more eco-friendly way to go as well! Though I spend more on groceries than many of my friends, cooking a lot of my own food, even organic food, is definitely cheaper than eating out most of the time.

I just read a statistic in Eating Well that said choosing organic foods can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 68%. I’ll have to do a little more research as I don’t like blindly reporting statistics without knowing where they came from (though I guess I kind of just did, heh), but really, there is nothing to lose by going organic, not even money. It’s better for the environment, it’s better for your body, and it can even be better for your local economy. One note: pay attention to where the food is from! I would never suggest eating organic if the only food you can find is imported from very far away. I definitely plan on doing a local vs. organic post in the near future, but paying attention to food labels and information is key.

Here are some tips to help you eat organic, on a budget!

1. Shop Farmers Markets! This tip is given often for a reason – it’s a good one! Farmers Markets have a bounty of delicious, affordable, local, in-season produce. Plus, you often get to interact with the people who actually grew your food – how cool is that? You’re putting money into your local economy, directly to the people who give you the food that will nourish you. Win-win. Something to note: just because a farm stand at the Market is not listed as organic does not necessarily mean they are not organic, or grow their products with pesticides. Often the process of becoming Certified Organic is far too expensive for small farms, but you can absolutely ask them how they grow their products. Also, I just read about an organization called Certified Naturally Grown which was created to “provide an alternative way to assure their customers that they observed strict growing practices. CNG strives to strengthen the organic movement by removing financial barriers to certification that tend to exclude smaller direct-market farms, while preserving high standards for natural production methods.” Very cool.

Find your local Farmers Market using Local Harvest

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(Farmers Market in summer)

2. Join a CSA. Similar to a Farmers Market, CSAs allow you to get produce directly from Farmers. Mine is super affordable – I believe I pay $17.50 a week for an Extra Small bag, which has 6 items (one item could be a bunch of carrots, 5 apples, a head of broccoli, a bag of Brussels sprouts, etc). I like to pay by the season so the Farmers know they have money coming in!

3. Grow your own. This is an option I would like to explore, but have not yet. I really want to attempt to grow some herbs and easy vegetables up on my rooftop. I need to do a little more research on what grows well in this foggy climate!

4. Buy in bulk. I would like to do a further post on this as well, after I go to a great local co-op in the next few days. Most natural foods stores, and even some larger chain grocery stores, if that’s all you have nearby, sell all kinds of food in bulk. My favorite co-op, Rainbow Grocery, sells everything from nuts and oats to shampoo and laundry detergent in bulk. You can save money and save plastic and other packaging at the same time, by bringing your own containers to refill. Sweet!

5. Buy what’s in on sale season, and freeze it yourself. Produce that is in season often goes on sale when it is abundant – think berries in the summer, etc. I had the “Extra Strawberry Package” from my CSA over the summer, and got 3 containers of strawberries a week. Next summer, I plan on freezing what I can’t eat so I can have delicious organic fruit-year round. Eating by the season is wonderful, and we have seasons for a reason. Down with off-season berries from Mexico! I plan to do some posts on how to freeze fruits and veggies in the future.

Those are just a few tips to get you started! Let me know if you have any questions or need any help getting started on eating organic/local – I obviously love to talk about it!

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Going Organic in a Tough Economy

  1. Pingback: Don’t Sulk, Buy in Bulk! « pretty green girl

  2. These are great tips. I’ve also been ruminating about “priorities” and have definitely decided that good food is not something I’m willing to sacrifice. Thanks!

  3. Chris

    Good post! I know that organic food has traditionally cost more – I assume due to the cost of alternative pest control and higher rates of crop loss. However, I also wonder if organic prices were higher becasue they could be, given the income of those typically buying. So, any evidence that organic prices are coming down, since there’s no wiggle room to charge that premium anymore? That would definitely help with increasing access to healthier food…

  4. janeterin

    Chris, I’m not sure about organic prices as a whole, but I’ve noticed Whole Foods has been having a lot of sales!

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