Health, sustainable living

Eating Organic on a Budget

I frequently have people asking me “How do you shop so organic, isn’t that super expensive?”, and unfortunately the answer is complicated.

I, being eco-fabulous and fabulously broke, try as hard as possible to shop smart. I prefer to go to the grocery store at 7am on Saturday morning when no one is there so I can browse and make smart decisions without any rogue children finding themselves under my cart’s wheels. (as illustrated below)

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I also do not exclusively shop organic. I know, sue me. I push the whole eco-fabulous thing but I do not exclusively shop organic.

GASP!

But the fact of the matter is that when you’re young and eco-fabulous, shopping exclusively organic is just not in the budget. Maybe someday when I’m getting a paycheck that’s a little fatter, eating all organic will be in the cards. So what do we do in the meantime?

We decode this whole “organic” thing, figure out what to look for, and how to manage eating organic on a budget.

What does organic even mean?

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Eating organic foods is no longer a trend for uppity rich people or hipsters. The ability to buy organic food is now widely available to everyone. You can find organic produce in almost every grocery store, along with an organic foods section. The term “organic” carries a lot of weight in terms of what it means for the farmers. The government heavily regulates farmers being able to use the term organic on their foods. They must adhere to strict standards about the use of pesticides, additives, flavorings, hormones, etc. They also hold a responsibility to certain farming practices that are eco-friendly. So when you buy a product that is “organic”, it comes with a very highly regarded guarantee that the farmer is adhering to all of these practices.

Is Natural the same as Organic?

Not at all, there are no government regulations that say when a farmer can and cannot use the word “Natural”. Those chicken nuggets may have been “Natural” about 15 processing steps ago when it was still a chicken…

There are three ways to think about buying organic when you’re at the grocery store.

  1. Think price comparison. For example, non-organic romaine lettuce is $0.99 while organic romaine lettuce is $2.99; no dice. That is not a situation where I would buy organic because of the steep price comparison. However in the opposite situation where non-organic lemons are $0.99 and organic lemons are $1.19; that is a situation where I can spare an extra 20 cents. Do your due diligence at the store and you can start to buy organic on any budget!
  2. What issues are most important to you? Is it not consuming pesticides? Then buy organic produce. Is it not consuming excess hormones? Then buy organic meat and dairy products. Is it not consuming preservatives and/or added flavoring? Then buy organic pasta, chips, sauces, etc. (packaged goods). Narrow down what those eating goals are and make decisions accordingly, you’ll feel great about your organic buying choices!
  3. Shop at grocery stores that are committed to only providing options from the best companies. I’m not a huge whole foods advocated because I believe it’s insanely overpriced. However some other good alternatives are Sprouts or Fresh Thyme. They are both farmers’ market style stores that are committed to supplying organic food at a lower price.

As always, perfection is not required but effort is. You don’t have to go exclusively organic to start to get your feet wet with it. We live in a culture of extremes that needs some moderation. Try to start buying one or two organic products at a time and test them out. Choose a method above and invest in not only your health, but also being eco-fabulous.

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