Sunday, December 4, 2011

7 ways to buy organic with out breaking the bank

I wrote a post last week about how important eating quality, healthy food is for our family.  We place an emphasis on organic food that some may find unrealistic, so I thought it may be helpful to post some tips for eating organically in a way that is sustainable for one's wallet.  Here goes:

~Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)  Our family joined Creeksong Farm's CSA this year for the first time.  With a CSA, you pay money at the beginning of the season to support the farm's initial costs, then you receive weekly food boxes through out the season.  For us this meant $300 up front in exchange for a box valued at $15 a week of the freshest produce (picked that day!), eggs and ground beef, from June - October.  Our CSA offered a farm tour and potluck mid-season to go see how our food ways grown and raised.  Being a CSA member was a community building experience as much as a way to save on organic food.  In different cities, I know these can look a bit different; My mom goes through Papa Spud's in Raleigh and gets food all year long from a variety of farms in the area.  Local Harvest has great info on finding a CSA near you.

~Know which foods are most important to buy organically  If buying all your groceries organic seems unrealistic, here's how I determine where to splurge.  If I'm eating the skin of my produce (this applies mostly to fruits - think apples, tomatoes, peaches, berries), go organic.  This also applies to salad, greens and peppers.  For thick peels, like melons, it is questionable how much pesticides are able to come through the skin, so I don't always organic on those.  Root veggies are in the soil, soaking up what ever else is in there with them - potentially chemicals - so be careful with these. With animal products, I look for Certified Humane labels or small farm producers, over organic.  It's easy to find dairy that is free of human growth hormones and raised with out antibiotics - just look at the packaging, it will say if the dairy is hormone and antibiotic free.  For crops that are often genetically modified (wheat, corn, and soy for example), the organic standard lets me know I'm getting a GMO free product.

~Frequent your Farmer's Market  To me, knowing your farmer and their methods can trump organic standards most days.  It is expensive and extensive for a farm to become Certified Organic.  Many farms practice organic growing with out the standard, or are working towards certification.  Just ask - you'll make a friend and learn about your food!  Farmer's Market's are the place to shop for seasonal foods, which brings us to:

~Eat in Season  This is a huge way to save money and ensure that your produce is at it's tastiest.  Organic tomatoes are going to be very expensive in the middle of winter, but sweet potatoes, cabbage and kale will be at their prime, and affordable.  I find that when I go without something if it is out of season, it tastes that much better when I get to enjoy it in season.

~Shop at your Health Food Store  This one may seem a bit counter-intuitive, as Health Food Stores often have the reputation of being more expensive (I've heard of a certain chain commonly referred to as "Whole Paycheck").  Here's my reasoning, though:  Health Food Stores buy large quantities of organic, certified humane, and sometimes local produce, therefor they get a better deal on the food.  When a store can buy a product for cheaper, the customer can too.

~Take time to read labels and shop around  Make a grocery list, and then allow yourself to take time in the aisles.  Read labels so you know what you are really getting.  Be willing to go to the produce department, then the freezer section, and possibly back to produce before you leave.  If an item is too expensive at the time, check another store for it.  This is not a time saving list, but a money saving list.  Reading labels and shopping around can save money as well as reveal ingredients in a product that may have otherwise been over looked (and quite possibly unwanted).

~Grow your own or find a friend who does!  Even with the smallest of spaces one could grow a pot of herbs if desired.  And I bet we all know someone who grows or raises something.  Your neighbor raising chickens is probably happy to sell you a dozen each week.  Your friend may need help at harvest season with all those veggies, and will happily trade you food for your assistance.  I woman you meet at the farmer's market may have a brother that raises cattle.  Ask around, expand community, and local food abounds.  Again, when you know the farmer and their personal ethics for growing, buying local can stomp organic standards and make healthy eating much more affordable.

Happy exploring, and happy eating to you all!  Please share any tips or thoughts you may have in the comments below!

For more grand Green ideas, check out Your Green Resource over at SortaCrunchy.  Each Thursday many readers link up to share ideas on how to help the world me a healthier, happier place!

1 comment:

  1. I work with the High Country CSA, the local multi-farm CSA. it is similar to Lis' Find a CSA that fits you!


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