Eating Organic on a Budget
Prepared by: Debora Palmieri, BASc, R.H.N. | myhealthychoices.ca
As a holistic nutritional practitioner, a common complaint I hear is that organic foods are too expensive. While I don’t disagree, I feel that the benefits of eating organic far outweigh the cost. However, the good thing is that there are plenty of ways you can still enjoy organic foods and save money, but first let’s discuss why making the switch to organic is best for you and your family.
Why Choose Organic?
Ideally, for our bodies to thrive and to reduce our risk of illness and disease, we need to minimize our exposure to toxins. Pesticides, including herbicides and insecticides, are chemicals used to kill living things, such as insects and weeds. Consequently, ingesting these toxic chemicals can have a negative effect on your health; so naturally, eating food that hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides is going to be better for you.
Keep in mind, eating organic doesn’t mean that you’ll be 100% safe from pesticides. Organic produce can still contain pesticide residue, but switching to organic will greatly reduce your intake. Children are extra sensitive to these harmful chemicals, since their bodies are smaller and they are still growing, so reducing their exposure is especially important.
How You Can Buy Organic Without Breaking the Bank
There are many ways you can begin to incorporate more organic foods into your diet, all while keeping your grocery bill low. Check out the 7 tips below to help get you and your family eating organic!
1. Meal Plan
You may be wondering how meal planning can help you save money on organics. Planning ahead not only helps you to stay on track with eating healthy, but it also turns you into a smart shopper. How? Well for one, it helps to reduce food waste. When we shop without a list, we often overbuy and we all know what happens to food that doesn’t get used up in time, it gets tossed out! Throwing food away is a problem for both your wallet and the environment. So next time, before heading to the grocery store, take a moment to plan your meals for the week. Don’t stress about creating an exact menu, simply having some meal ideas will help with compiling a grocery list of exactly what you’ll need. You’ll save money and reduce food waste. Plus, if you keep up-to-date with store specials, you will know when your favourite products are on sale and you can even stock up on those. As well, remember, to carefully store your groceries properly. Poor storage can lead to mouldy food and spoilage.
2. Try New Items from the Bulk Section
Buying from the bulk section of your grocery store is a convenient way to save money on organics. When trying new foods, rather than buying a big package of dried goods, purchase just a small amount from the bulk section. You can even pre-measure the exact amount of ingredients, like flour, beans, grains, spices etc. that you need for a new recipe.
3. Grow Your Own
It’s a great feeling to prepare dishes using veggies fresh from your organic garden and while we don’t all have a knack for gardening, there are easy ways to grow your own food. Start out with a simple indoor herb garden or try growing some veggies on your deck. For instance, lettuce and tomatoes grow well in pots. Rather than planting seeds, pick up some seedlings (most grocery stores carry these come springtime) and pot those; chances are you’ll have more success.
An alternative is to pick your own. We love picking fresh berries in the summer and apples in the fall. Don’t worry about picking too much; you can make some delicious goodies that will last through the colder months, such as applesauce or strawberry jam! You can also freeze fruit, like sliced apples and berries, to use in baked goods or smoothies, and veggies, like zucchini and tomatoes, to use for veggie stock.
4. Eat Seasonally & Locally
My favourite time of year is when my local farmer’s market opens up. Not only are you supporting local farmers and saving money by buying direct, but you also get to meet the people growing your food! Eating organic, seasonally and locally, means you’re getting the most bang-for-your-buck in nutrition terms as well! Produce travels only a short distance and it is often picked the day before, which means it’s super fresh and packed with nutrients. Not to mention, it tastes much better than produce that has travelled across the globe. Also, buying produce out of season, is often more expensive, and less nutritious, than organic foods in the freezer section. So you’ll want to shop in season at the grocery store for the best deal and nutritional value too!
5. Cook From Scratch
In today’s busy world, convenience is nice. However, if you’ve ever shopped for organic convenience foods, you’ll know they cost a pretty penny! Instead of buying kale chips, roasted chickpeas, prepared smoothies, or Kombucha try making them yourself. It will be much more cost-effective and it is easy to find recipes and “how to” videos online for just about anything food-related. If you’re not comfortable in the kitchen, connecting with a holistic nutritional practitioner who offers cooking classes is a great place to start.
Batch cooking is another easy way to save money and enjoy the convenience of convenience foods! It’ll take some extra time and effort in the beginning, but it’s worth it. Find some time where you can take a couple of hours to do your food prep and cooking. Making soups, stews, or your favourite casserole in advance, means you can freeze them for quick meals on those busy weeknights!
6. Go Plant-Based
I always say, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or a meat-eater, everyone can benefit from eating more plants! Not only is a plant-based diet healthiest for you, making plants the focus of each meal also helps you to save money. Meat is expensive, so reducing your consumption will put more money in your pocket! Instead, try incorporating more cost-effective plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, and fermented soy products.
7. Use the Dirty Dozen
Every year the Environmental Working Group comes out with an updated Dirty Dozen & Clean 15 List. The idea is to substitute the produce on the Dirty Dozen, which are highest in pesticides, with organic. While the fruits and veggies on the Clean 15 are lower in pesticides, I still suggest you purchase organic for the foods that you eat most often.
Eating organic isn’t as costly as one may think. Simply applying these tips to the way you shop and cook will help you to reap all of the health benefits organic foods have to offer.
-Posted April 2019-
Lu C, Toepel K, Irish R, Fenske RA, Barr DB, Bravo R. Organic diets significantly lower children’s dietary exposure to organophosphorus pesticides. Environ Health Perspect. 2005;114(2):260-3.
Bouchard MF, Bellinger DC, Wright RO, Weisskopf MG. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and urinary metabolites of organophosphate pesticides. Pediatrics. 2010;125(6):e1270-7.
Debora Palmieri is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist™ professional and also holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Food and Nutrition from Ryerson University. Debora graduated from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition in 2004 and has been inspiring individuals to achieve optimal health and wellness through a whole foods diet ever since. Read Debora’s full bio at csnn.ca/about/alumni-profiles/debora-palmieri/.