There is no doubt that organic food costs more. Now that the times are tough, you are probably watching your budget more carefully. Even if you have not completely switched to buying conventional foods, you are already thinking about making some trade-offs. In this post, I want to offer some ideas that can help you maintain a high proportion of “organic” in your shopping.
But why does it cost so much more?
It is quite normal to get a sticker shock in the organic aisles because organic food can cost anywhere from 20 to 100% more than a similar non-organic conventional food. The main reasons are that organic farming is more labor intensive, yields are low and there has not been any increase in the acreage used for organic farming, therefore, supplies are low. Conventional farming, on the other hand, benefits from subsidies and high yields from the use of agrochemicals and pesticides.
So what can you do? Here are five ideas.
Go organic for fresh produce
Fresh produce such as vegetables and fruits is probably the best return on your organic dollars. You can be sure that they are grown using organic methods and are free of chemicals and pesticides. They retain most of their natural flavor and vitamins. Not only will you save money by not buying processed foods, you will also control what you make out of them using your favorite recipes. You can keep them fresh longer by using this product (called E.G.G, I have not tried it, but it should work), or by following some simple advice on this website.
Cut down on package food and snacks
Food processors must buy expensive organic raw materials to make products that can be certified organic. Add to that high energy and transportation costs, and the net result is that these products are more costly to produce. The manufacturers need to maintain their profit margin, so they pass on the added cost to you, usually by decreasing the package weight. So you get less for your money.
You can find creative ways of making healthy snacks yourself without having to buy packaged foods. Use fruits, yogurt, nuts, peanut butter, crackers or other stuff lying around in your pantry. You can get many ideas from the web; one that I found interesting was a list of ten healthy sustainable snacks . And here is another.
Invest in a breadmaker
A loaf of organic wheat bread can cost you an extra dollar, if not more, over regular bread. The price of organic bread has gone up quite a lot in recent days mainly due to the rise in the price of organic grain. And as with other processed foods, breadmaking takes up energy, packaging and transportation. You can get a decent breadmaker from Amazon.com for less than $100. On a rough estimate, it can pay itself back in less than one year for a family of four (2 loaves of bread per week). Plus you can try out different grains and flavors.
Cut down on animal products and frozen foods
Milk, eggs and yogurt aside, you may consider taking a closer look at meats, frozen foods, and meat-containing processed foods, and limit their purchase. Animals need to be fed organic feed before foods based on animal products can be certified organic. Supply of such feed – organic soy and corn mostly – is very tight and demand very high; so they are very expensive. You could buy fresh or farm-raised fish rather than poultry, beef or pork. Fish can be expensive; however it has much better nutritional value compared to other meats anyway. There is some confusion whether fish is organic or not , so do your research before you make up your mind. You may also look for vegetarian sources of protein if you decide to cut down on meat.
I have never been a fan of frozen food. I don’t experience the same flavor and taste as a freshly prepared meal, however, I do understand the convenience factor. Still, all the processing, storage, transportation and stocking up in a freezer consumes a lot of expensive energy. Organic or not, frozen food is an expensive proposition.
Buy in bulk, buy store brands
Shopping at Sam’s Club, Costco or your local warehouse store can help you save money since you buy in bulk. All you have to do is to figure out your storage problem! Wal-Mart is another option; you can now find Gerber’s organic foods in many varieties in the baby section. Store brands at Whole Foods or similar stores can also help you save money. You can get a list of other not-so-well-known private label companies offering organic food on The Organic Pages Online. You can probably order online from their websites.
What do you think? Have you tried something else that has worked for you better? I welcome your comments!