Transitioning your family’s diet to a predominantly organic one has all sorts of benefits: it greatly reduces your exposure to toxic chemicals, it ensures safer work conditions for farm workers and their families, and it can have a big positive impact on the planet.
If you know all this, but resist buying much organic food because of the cost, I have good news: going organic doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, with a little planning ahead, you can buy mostly organic food without spending much more than you do now. Here are some strategies to help keep your food budget in check:
1. Start with one food or food group.
Whether you choose to buy organic produce from the Dirty Dozen list, organic dairy, or organic meats, it’s easier and less overwhelming when you only have one category of food to focus on at a time. After you’ve mastered what you start with, add another food or group to your organic shopping list.
2. Shop with the seasons.
At any given time, some organic food will be on sale at your local grocery store, especially the in-season fruits and vegetables. So rather than heading to the store with a definitive list, write down something generic like “3 vegetables and 3 fruits” then look for whatever organic or locally grown produce is on special.
3. Make some meatless meals.
Organic and pasture-raised meats are pricier than conventional meats, so to avoid going over-budget, plan at least a few meatless meals each week. It’s easy to make meals around cheaper proteins like tofu, beans, lentils, or a fried egg – and these taste good too!
4. Buy in bulk.
When something’s on sale or in season, buy a lot and freeze some. You’ll love having a store of organic food at home for busy weeknights or last-minute snacks. Some of the big warehouse stores offer great prices on organic non-perishable foods like canned tomatoes, beans, pasta, oil, and dried fruit.
5. Shop at the farmer’s market.
Organic produce is often cheaper at your local farmer’s market than at the grocery store. Since the middleman is cut out when you buy directly from the farmer, you get the best price (and so do they).
6. Grow some food.
If you have a big yard, go to town! If you don’t (or don’t consider yourself a Green Thumb), plant some fresh herbs or tomatoes in large pots. Not only will your organic produce be essentially free, but it will taste better than you could have imagined. This is also a great way to teach kids about where their food comes from.
Remember, small steps really add up. You may be making only one small change now, but it’s setting you on the path to a healthier family, community, and planet.