Tips for an organic and healthy diet on any budget
Organic, it's an adjective that's thrown around constantly in the health food industry. There's a common misconception that organic is synonymous with other adjectives, such as overpriced and expensive. Well, it's not hard to dispel that myth and show you that it doesn't have to be that way.
What many people don't realize is that an organic diet is actually possible to do on a budget. You can easily find that healthy diet you're after without breaking the bank if you're aware of a few important tips on buying organically.
Listed below are some suggestions on how to go about finding affordable organic products, but I first want to answer the question, why should we go organic in the first place?
You may believe that organic foods are not beneficial enough for your health to be worth the extra cost. Organic foods have a wide variety of benefits; however, that should not be so easily brushed aside.
To start with, organic foods are great for avoiding those unnecessary and potentially harmful chemicals in your diet. There are nutrients to be found in organic foods because the soil in which they're grown is sustainably looked after. Many also believe that better soil leads to a better taste in the final product.
If you're buying organic, you can be assured that you're not buying GMO foods. If you consume organic animal products, you can breathe easy that you're not eating food contaminated with hormones, antibiotics, and other drugs.
Looking at it from a macro perspective, organic agriculture is a great way to preserve the ecosystem and to stop destroying habitats and endangering local species with destructive pesticides and unsavory practices. Organic agriculture is a way to counter high levels of pollution and to protect the water and soil in a sustainable way.
Lastly, shopping organic is a way to support local farmers instead of big corporations that tend to use pesticides and genetically modified foods.
Without a doubt, there are quite a few reasons why organic is a healthy option for your diet. As to affordability, here lie our top 7 suggestions on how to fund your organic meals on a small budget.
Plan Your Meals for the Week Ahead of Time
If you're not one to plan or organize, start making this a goal to work on before stepping into a supermarket, farmer's market, or health food store. Plan out your meals with simple recipes that don't have excessive or fancy ingredients, and don't be afraid to use substitutes with ingredients that you already have.
Plan your meals by which organic foods are on sale this week, or which ones you can find coupons for online or in-store. If you're making a green salad, for instance, use whatever organic greens are on special at your local store, instead of sticking to your usual choices.
Planning out your meals for the week also means planning out your budget. If your budget for food is $100 per week, stick to it and tweak your meal plan accordingly. Also, try to make recipes that will last for leftover lunches or dinners for the week, so you're not constantly cooking every night.
Be Picky With Where You Shop
Have you ever heard of the 100-mile diet? It's the concept of always eating locally and within 100 miles of where you live. Of course, this isn't always possible, but it's good to keep organic food as local as possible. Not only will your food be fresher, but you won't be paying for the additional shipping costs it takes for that food to get to where you live.
A good way to shop locally is by going to your local farmer's market or food co-op in your area. If you can't make it to a local market or co-op, or there's not one where you live, four of the cheapest stores for organic products include Trader Joe's, Costco, Wegmans, and Sprouts.
Farmer's Markets are generally cheaper for organic produce because you cut out the middle man with buying directly from the farmer. Even if some farmers don't advertise that they're organic, it's a good idea to still get to know the ones in your area. Many don't seek USDA certification to keep prices on their products down, and by getting to know the local farmers you're more likely to be able to negotiate prices with them.
If you head to a farmer's market towards the end of the day there is also more of a chance for products to be half price or severely discounted.
Because most online grocery sites usually offer specific weekly deals or discounts, shopping online is also a way to cut down on costs. Online stores tend to be less expensive than grocery stores because their business costs are less (i.e. fewer employees, don't have to pay rent for a storefront, and so on).
Prioritize What Type of Organic Food You Buy
Although it's great if you're eating mainly organic food, it's not necessary if you're on a tight budget. Think about why you're eating organic and why it is important to you.
If you're eating organic food for your health, try to focus on buying organic foods that tend to have the highest level of pesticide residue in their non-organic form. These include apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, and potatoes.
The cleanest types of fruit that have lower pesticide levels and are less important to buy organic are avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, cabbage, frozen peas, onions, asparagus, kiwi, eggplant, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes.
If you're eating organic products because you care about animal welfare, you'll want to focus on buying organic animal products such as meat, eggs, and dairy. Unfortunately, these are some of the highest priced organic foods out there, so it may be better to instead try and reduce your intake of animal products overall.
If you're more concerned about your budget, the cheapest organic foods are usually cream cheese, olive oil, and baby carrots.
And lastly, if it's sustainable agriculture that fuels your organic tendencies, your focus would be on organic coffee and beef, because they have been proven to be particularly eco-destructive foods in their non-organic forms.
Regardless of what your reasons are for eating organic, if you're on a budget, try to pick and choose depending on what you find important and what's on special for any given week.
Use Coupons and Shop Online
There are a vast array of coupon and online shopping sites that are easy to find with a quick Google search. As I mentioned before, these sites usually offer a weekly or daily discount because it generally doesn't cost as much to run an online business as it does to run a storefront.
We also offer a wide variety of organic options on our Herbal Goodness' website if you're looking for that extra organic and non-GMO kick in your daily life.
Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk is one of the best ways to save money on your groceries. Stores like Costco are some of the most cost-effective options, and many of the products sold in bulk at your local health food store are cheaper than the shelf equivalent because there's no extra packaging.
Find out what foods are in season and buy that in bulk to find the cheapest options, and try to always take advantage of buy one get one free type deals at your local store.
Use Your Freezer
Buying in bulk brings me to the next topic: don't be afraid to use your freezer! If you're buying animal or bread products in bulk, and you know that you won't use that much in a timely manner, freeze those items for a later date.
It's the same concept if you decide to make a big meal at the start of the week. Save the leftovers for however long you need in the freezer, and take them out for a quick and easy meal on a busy night.
Grow or Make Your Own Food From Scratch
Although this can be more time consuming, making food from scratch can be incredibly cheap. Try making your own bread or pasta, grow a small vegetable garden, or plant a few herbs that you use regularly.
You know exactly what's going into your food, and you can be content with knowing that you alone created or grew something that you can easily use in your daily diet. Self-sufficiency and sustainability can truly be a wonderful thing.
As you can see, there are a lot of ways to go about maintaining an organic diet on a budget. All it takes is a little creativity, patience, and awareness about the health food industry. You can bet your body will be happy with the small amount of effort it takes to eat organic and non-GMO foods.