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Organic on a Budget: It’s Possible

organic on a budget

I’m at BlogHer Food this weekend in Seattle.  It’s been a learning-filled few days, and one of the most amazing parts so far was a picnic focusing on honey bees and their recent disappearance as a result of climate change, forced migration, and commercial pesticide use.  Listening to a group of beekeepers, farmers, and environmental experts was enlightening and frightening, and above all did one thing: reaffirmed my devotion to organic food.  Organic farming is important for a whole host of reasons (see here why I choose organic), and while it may seem complicated or expensive, it’s really not.

Affording organic food is possible for most of us, especially if we do a little planning ahead.  Here are my tips for eating organic on a budget:

  1. Pick one food or food group to start with.  Whether you choose to buy organic produce from the Dirty Dozen list, organic dairy, or organic meats, it’s easier and less overwhelming when you only have one category of food to focus on at a time.  After you’ve mastered what you start with, add another food or group to your organic shopping list.
  2. Buy what’s in season.  If you buy what’s on sale or in season, organic food costs are comparable to the cost of conventional food.  Rather than heading to the store with a definitive list, write down something generic like  “3 vegetables and 3 fruits”  then look for whatever organic, or locally grown produce is on special.
  3. Make some meatless meals.  Organic and pasture-raised meats are pricier than conventional meats, so to avoid going over-budget, plan at least a few meatless meals each week.  It’s easy to make meals around cheaper proteins like tofu, beans, lentils, or a fried egg -and these taste good too!
  4. Buy in bulk.  When something’s on sale or in season, buy a lot and freeze some!   You’ll love having a store of organic food at home for busy weeknights or last-minute snacks.
  5. Shop at the farmer’s market.  Organic produce is often cheaper at your local farmer’s market than at the grocery store.  Since the middleman is cut out when you buy directly from the farmer, you get the best price (and so do they!).
  6. Grow some food.  If you have a big yard, go to town!  If you don’t (or don’t consider yourself a Green Thumb), plant some fresh herbs or tomatoes in some large pots.  Not only will your organic produce be essentially free, but it will taste better than you could have imagined.

Remember, small steps really add up.  You may be making only one small change now, but it’s setting you on the path to a healthier family, community, and planet.

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