Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Eating Organic on a Budget

Recently, my husband and I started the big switch to more organic and natural foods.  Why? Well, because I can't pronounce most of the stuff in my food and after watching Food, Inc and Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, I've decided that I'd like to know exactly what is in my food.

For example, I scrounged to find some remaining "regular" food items left in the pantry, and compared them side-by-side with their organic counterparts.


Why do I need corn in my ketchup?  While you may have seen the ads on tv saying corn syrup is no different than sugar, consider this: corn syrup is highly processed, requiring more energy to create.  If you are trying to reduce your carbon footprint, start by reducing your processed foods!

Can of beans:

Why do I need a chemical I can't pronounce to preserve the color of my beans?  Will it also preserve the color of my stomach?

And finally, the potato salad, vs Betty Crocker:
10 ingredients
more than 10 ingredients, including some I can't pronounce

So, why not go organic?  I usually hear two excuses. 1) is that food really regulated? and 2) it's too expensive.

-Organic food is regulated.  Anything with the USDA Organic symbol is regulated by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.  What is regulated?

Organic standards prohibit:
Synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fungicides
Antibiotics or added growth hormones
Bio-solids (sewage sludge) and synthetic fertilizers
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), seeds or ingredients
Animal by-products in animal feed

Organic practices require:
Inspections of all farm fields, processing facilities and production and sales records by agents accredited as USDA Certifiers
Periodic testing of soil and water used in production
Continual monitoring, maintenance and improvement of soil health
Crop rotation, mulching and other practices to prevent soil erosion and enhance soil health
Specific composting methods for both animal and plant waste
Outdoor access for livestock
Pasture for all ruminants
100 percent certified organic feed for organic animals

(This list was copied from my local co-op website)

Okay now to the second issue-how do you eat organic without breaking the budget?

1) Find a local co-op or natural food store, and become a member.  Our membership gets us special deals on staples like milk and eggs, as well as an extra 10% of one day a week.  Plus, at the end of the year, if the co-op makes a profit, we get dividends!

If your town doesn't have one of these, check your local supermarket for a "healthy living section." I know our local Kroger has a section with some organic items, and Wal-Mart sprinkles their organics in with the rest of the products.  Just beware: the "natural" label is not regulated; the "organic" label is.  Just read the ingredients to make sure you are getting what you hope to get.

2) Look at the sales flyer.  Organic food tends to be a little more expensive, but the sales on the products bring them down to regular prices.  Our store puts out an ad twice a month, and we plan our meals around what's on sale.  Yes, it takes more time to plan the meals ahead of time, but you save A LOT this way.

In addition, our co-op periodically hosts truckload tent sales, which offer items at around 30% off, and even better deals if you buy by the case.  We planned our weekend around the most recent sale, so we could stock up on a budget!

3) Add coupons.  Our co-op has two coupon books lying around the store, and they allow us to use multiple coupons on a purchase.  We stock up, and again, we plan our meals based on the coupons and the sales.  This week, I had two coupons for some tea that was on sale.  The sale price was $3.50, and the coupons totaled $3.50, so guess what?  I got organic fair trade tea for FREE.  

In addition, we look at the food companies featured in the flyer, and visit their websites for more coupons.  Almost every company offers some type of coupon, saving you even more!

The final assessment:
-Shopping organic takes a little more time than regular shopping, but it is time well-spent.  You take the time to exercise to stay healthy, so why not take the time for your diet?

-Shopping organic costs us, on average, $10-20 more per week.  But we consider it part of our health insurance policy.  $20 a week today will save us thousands in health care down the road.  (In case you didn't know, the latest research is showing that eating processed foods-even "healthy" ones-contributes to higher healthcare costs.  Think I'm kidding?  Look at the ingredients list on your nutri-grain bar.)

-We eat smaller portions, and fewer snacks now as well.  Not because we are forcing ourselves to, but because the organic food fills us up and keeps us fuller for longer. 

-Organic food simply tastes better.  Trust me, if you eat an organic strawberry, you will never go back!

I hope these tips help you make the switch!  It IS possible, and you will thank yourself for it later!

For more information about eating organic, check out these websites:

And I know we have been MIA lately, but no worries; we Krafting sisters are still at it, if a little slowly for a bit.  We have some great projects coming this summer, including a challenge!  Stick with us, and we'll be back soon!

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