Hi all! First of all I want to say I am going to encompass not only eating organic on a budget, but eating non GMO on a budget, and eating healthy on a budget, in this post. All of the information in this post can be applied to any of these categories. So if organic is not your main concern I’m sure there is some information here that will help you out. So here we go…
I am not going to pretend like I know it all about eating organic on a budget. Especially since I live in Southern California. The reality is that here it is just going to be expensive to eat organic no matter which way you look at it. I know what you’re thinking, farmers market right? Farmers market here is actually MORE expensive. I’m talking up to $8 a dozen for pastured eggs… (Side note- If you are in the North San Diego county area and know of a killer farmers market please LET ME KNOW! Meaning affordable.)
I do know a lot about eating organic on a budget though, since I have been feeding our family about 80% organic/non GMO now for about 5 years. I will be sharing the main points of what I have learned through that time.
So let’s to cut to the chase…
SHOP AROUND. Know your prices on the items you always buy so you can identify a bargain.
MEAL PLAN. This is by far the tip that has made the biggest impact on our grocery bill. Knowing exactly what you need to buy, having a list, and sticking to it. Game changer if you are not already doing this.
STAY AWAY FROM SNACK FOODS. Eating whole foods is more expensive than eating processed food and convenience foods. But eating whole foods and then buying healthy versions of snack foods (packaged snack foods, like crackers, bars, etc.) on top of that is an extra expense. Not to mention the fact that snack foods are almost always processed foods, yes even organic ones. So unless you absolutely need it don’t buy it. What I do is pick a few snack foods that we will all eat and have those on hand, but they are a “treat”. So we are not plowing through large quantities of snack food everyday. To save more I try to make as much as I can myself, which leads into my next tip…
MAKE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN FROM SCRATCH. Things you would normally buy pre-made, snacks, treats, as well as meals, so it actually takes a dent out of your bill. Just a few examples for us are: I make our own hemp milk, kombucha, ferments, oatmeal instead of buying cereals, treats like jello, muffins, bars, jerky, and we make 95% of all the meals we eat. You do have to weigh the time it takes to do all of this. Obviously time is money, but also it probably won’t be nearly as healthy as you making it yourself.
GROW YOUR OWN. This is something I have not done. So I am not educated on this in the least. We live in a condo with a tiny back garden area, so not much growing going on. We do grow a few things in containers, but it’s more for the fun and the educational experience for the boys. I do have friends and family that have big thriving gardens that supply a large bounty for themselves that lasts throughout the year. So it is definitely something to look into if time and space allows. If we ever move for sure one of the first things we will be doing is starting a garden.
STOCK UP WHEN YOU FIND A DEAL. Pretty self explanatory here. Just don’t go buying things you don’t usually use just because they are a great deal. Unless you know FOR SURE you will be using it.
COOK FRUGAL. Take advantage of lower priced meats and learn to stretch food. We make lots of ground beef dishes, dishes made with chicken drumsticks, dishes made with lentils. (Beans work as well, just not in our house. Hubby hates beans.) We try to do a meatless night at least once a week and I make a lot of soups. Stretch ground beef with lentils. I save all bones, and meat and veggie trimmings for making broth. Sometimes I can even do a second batch of broth with the same bones. (Usually beef and lamb bones work best for this.)
BARTER, ASK AROUND. We used to get our eggs from a friend. You probably know a lot of people that have backyard hens that would be willing to sell at a good price or trade. You may even get them for free. I’ve traded for other things as well, like raw milk, citrus, eggs, and tomatoes. If you have a bunch of extra tomatoes you from your garden and a friend has a bunch of extra citrus, trade!
KNOW THE DIRTY DOZEN AND TOP GMO FOODS. This is a definite. Know what the worst items are. Items you for sure want to buy organic or non GMO and buy the rest conventional. This can save you a pretty penny. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a great resource for learning which foods are most highly contaminated. Top GMO foods takes a little more research but you will probably find some of the best info on it through sites like Non GMO Project.
LASTLY, RELAX A LITTLE. You can only do what you can do. Know how much you have to spend and stick to that. Buy the best you can get for what you’ve got and trust that it will all work out.
I know it can really be a burden if you are dealing with special needs in your home. I get it. I have children with special dietary needs. It is worrying sometimes. If you have time I suggest you read this article. It will help to bring perspective.
Of course we must take care of those special needs. They need to come first. But once you have taken care of it to the best of your ability, try not to sweat the rest. If you have covered those needs and there is really not much left for organic or non GMO, do the best you can. Stick to whole unprocessed foods as much as possible and you will still be far ahead.
I’m hoping this has helped some of you. Please leave your personal tips to eating organic on a budget in the comments. We can all learn from each other. I am hoping to pick up some tips from all of you as well! Cheers!