Monday, April 19, 2010

Eating Organic Foods on a Budget

Happy Earth Week to everyone! As this is the week (and Thursday, the day) we celebrate our beautiful earth, I'm going to use this blog to propose some things we can do to make the earth a healthier place for everyone.
One of the arguments I get from people all the time is that all the things we can do to protect the earth and ourselves--eating organic foods, using safe cleaning products, using less fossil fuels, etc.--are too expensive. Who can afford to live this way? Well, I'm going to give you all some ideas that I hope will motivate you to at least try some of these things. Because, as I have learned from my own and others' experiences, it really is cheaper in the long run to go earth-friendly.

To start off with, let's talk about eating organic foods, which protect the earth and our health by not using poisonous chemicals in the growing process. I will admit that if you walk into your local Safeway store you will find that a pound of organic bananas costs more than a pound of the inorganic ones (about 30 to 40 cents more sometimes), but there are some things you can do to save money and still eat healthy. Here are some suggestions I found on

1) Buy food items in their raw, unprocessed form and cook from scratch. Processed organic foods (like crackers and bread) are really expensive, but buying the ingredients (organic, of course) and making your own from scratch is often cheaper than buying the same item in processed inorganic form. And, believe me, once you've made the same recipe a half dozen times, you'll be able to do it so quickly, you'll hardly notice the difference in the convenience. I always make a full batch of muffins, biscuits, etc. and freeze them individually for eating on the run (not a good way to eat, but inevitable sometimes).

2) Buy in bulk. Every health food store and many chain stores (like Safeway) have organic food in bulk bins. And don't forget Costco and other discount stores, which sell organic rice, beans and even raisins in bulk packages at prices equivalent to the non-organic.

3) Buy in season. Apples are harvested in the fall, oranges in the winter months and summer squash by mid-July, so it makes sense that these items are going to be at their least expensive when they are at their most plentiful. They are even more inexpensive at the end of the growing season. I bought organic oranges last week for 79 cents a pound and in December I was buying organic apples for even less than that.

4) Buy locally. Some of the cheapest organic produce I buy is at our local farmer's market every Saturday from May through October, and most health food stores sell local produce and meats as well. Local is almost always cheaper when it comes to organic.

5) Befriend an organic gardener or farmer. Come to my house in August and you can have all the zucchini you want.

6) Choose the foods that it is advisable to only ever eat organically, which include the following:
beef, chicken and pork
dairy products
strawberries, raspberries & cherries
apples & pears
spinach & salad greens
peaches, nectarines & apricots
peppers, green & red

7) Grow your own. If you have the time and space, this can be the best way for you to have organic vegetables. If you plant a large garden, this can require a significant outlay of cash at the beginning of the season for seeds, organic fertilizer and gardening equipment, but the payoff at harvest time can be phenomenal. You will also have to have some way to preserve the food if you want to save some for the winter months, but a good freezer or several dozen quart jars and a pressure canner will provide food storage for many years.

8) Remember that Rome was not built in a day. Most of us come to healthy eating one step at a time. The important thing is to make that step. Maybe this year you start with shopping at your farmer's market or growing some herbs in pots on the back porch. Every healthy food you eat is one less unhealthy food you eat, maybe more, because, at least for me, healthy food tastes better and makes me feel better, so I'm not as inclined to overeat. Plus, I have less desire for the really expensive snack foods, like chips and ice cream (well, maybe ice cream sometimes).

Happy organic eating!

No comments: