Thursday, October 13, 2011

Eating Organic on a Budget

I used to preach that if you were committed to eating organic and local foods, then you could do it no matter your budget. 
Your committment would MAKE it work.
Sure, it costs more than most processed crap, but the payoff is in the health benefits.
When your not constantly paying those copays & deductibles for you and your family (now & in the future), you have a lot more room for your grocery budget.
Recently, I've found it harder and harder to maintain our committment to buying organic and local. 
It's frustrating when the resources just are not there or when they're available, the price tag is far beyond our student household budget.
Still, I maintain my mantra, "Food is Medicine."

So, what's a gal to do when her budget is tighter than tight and availability of local and/or organic meats, dairy and produce is extremely limited?

We've tweaked and re-tweaked our diet over the summer months and coming into autumn, we've gotten into a good groove. 
Part of that change has been swapping to a quasi-primal diet. 
I say quasi because we still have (very) limited grains in our diet and for the most part, they're all gluten free. 
Since eliminating most of those carb loaded, insulin spiking, sugary foods (oh, yes even that homemade whole wheat bread is spiking your insulin levels comparable to eating a candy bar), I've found that my kids are eating massive quantities of vegetables and their moods are so much better.
None of us get that blood sugar crash and my kids aren't constantly whining that they're hungry.
We're eating less, craving less and it's because we're eating nutrient dense foods.
Eliminating these items from our diet has not only shown increased energy and health, but also made a huge dent in our food bills.
I'm buying all organic meat and produce and still spending less than before.

So. tip #1 is Cut the Crap.
Literally, you don't need it. I love Michael Pollan's advice... "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants."
Could it be any simpler?
Your body needs protein, plain & simple.
Eat your protein whether it's meat, eggs, nuts, etc.
Add in some veggies and voila! 
You're done. 
and that's all your body needs.

Oh, you don't think it's that simple? That you're so ingrained (ha! Pun intended) into your food routine that no one will eat if they don't have their pasta or bready whatever? 
Think again!
Tripp is 4. Trust me, he's had his moments with eating.
But guess what? 
When it's not there, it's.not.there.
They'll eat, eventually.
And then, it becomes habit.

Tip #2 Look Locally
We made quite the transition moving to Starkville over a year and half ago.
We had a HUGE garden. I didn't really realize it until we moved and were renters with no garden space other than containers last summer, but we literally didn't even have to buy much produce year round. 
Our garden provided it for us and when it didn't we were lucky to have a lot of options to buy from local farmers who grew sustainably and loved their dirt as much as we did.
This year, we have found ways to get back into gardening just in a more "urban" way.
We've turned a flower bed into a small garden at our house (and it can easily go back to the mulch & weeds our home's owner had growing ;) ) as well as renting a ridiculously cheap spot in our local community garden.
We were unsure of our plans this spring when local CSA's were filling up, so we missed that opportunity.
We did have the pleasure of supporting the local farmer's market all summer.
And luckily, we've found a CSA for the fall. 
I was surprised at how affordable the local CSA's are and currently, my lovely husband is helping work in exchange for our share. So, for few hours a couple days a week, we get a beautiful, Bountiful Harvest share and all it costs is a little time and digging in the dirt. 
You can't get more budget friendly than that!!

It's also taken a little work, but we've finally found a local grassfed beef farmer and gotten our own chickens again. Even in the most barren of places, there are resources for quality, healthy, real food.

There's nothing more local than your own yard. You can grow your own or with a little research & a field guide or 2, you can forage for lots of yummy wild edibles.

Tip #3 Make a Gradual Transistion
Start simple. 
Replace just a few of your basics at a time with an organic option. 
Although we're grain free for the most part, organic grains are cheap and cost practically the same as conventional ones. These items are also generally available in bulk or generic brand options, giving you even more bang for the buck.
If you want to replace the things first that have the heaviest pesticide load, choose meat and dairy. These have the highest concentration of chemicals. 

Next, consider your produce. 
Above all else, to trim your budget in the produce department, Eat Seasonally.
First, stop buying canned ANYthing! Besides the processing, those cans are lined with BPA. Make the move to fresh and frozen. When fresh veggies are expensive and/or out of season, frozen provides a budget friendly and healthier alternative.
Then, consider the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen & Clean 15 lists.
The dirty dozen have the highest concentration of pesticides and chemical residues and the clean 15 have the least. 
Eating organic produce on a budget can really benefit from this list! 
When you can't buy everything organic or from local farmers, this gives you the tools to avoid the most toxic fruits & veggies.
They have this handy dandy printable guide to keep in your wallet or you can download their app from the Apple store and have it on your iphone or ipod at all times.
Does it scare you that 98% of conventional apples are contaminated with high levels of pesticides??

Tip #4 Do It Yourself
 Whether this means making food from scratch, planting a garden or getting your own backyard chickens, there are ways to start taking control of your food & health that will make your budget smile.
No matter your setting or time constraints, there's always a way to make it work in a way that's doable for you and your family.
Get creative.
Meal plan.
Throw some seeds in the dirt.
Find one thing this fall to focus on and make the change to do it yourself!

Tip #5 Eat Nutrient Dense Foods
Remember that nutrient dense foods go a lot further than those that are devoid. 
Those whole wheat crackers might seem like a better alternative to their bleached white friends, but really there is very little nutritional value. 
Try replacing it with carrots or another favorite veggie that serves similar dipping, crunchy purposes.
Replace your spaghetti noodles with spaghetti squash. 
Try this divine cauliflower pizza crust or replace your rice with a Sanders' family favorite, cauliflower rice.
Try Kale chips for a kid-friendly snack.
There are tons of ways to make your old favorites into more nutrient dense recipes and plenty of new recipes out there to try! 
Be brave and get creative ;)

Above all else, don't sweat the small stuff.
Do what you can and make small changes at a time.
And if you think your budget can't handle it (and I promise, if ours can, yours can!), read this for a little inspiration!


  1. Who is your local grass-fed beef farmer? We're really interesting in finding some good, local beef but aren't sure where to look. I'd LOVE to see about buying some beef from them!

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