In my quest to be more healthy over the past couple of years, I’ve been acutely aware of the imbalance between the cost of healthy, nutritious food, and the cost of unhealthy, food-like products (non foods).
Because it’s so cheap to manufacture these non-foods, as high fructose corn syrup is dirt cheap and so is cardboard or whatever else they add into that box of cereal, the cost of high processed “food” is much less expensive than a bag of apples.
This is unfortunate but it’s the truth.
Even more pronounced is the cost of organic produce. We all know that consuming pesticides is not good for our bodies, but organics are almost unaffordable.
Many people claim that you can just wash non-organic produce really well because pesticides are sprayed on the produce and can come off. In grade school, did you ever do the science experiment with flowers and food colouring? The flowers absorb the food colouring, making the blooms the colour you chose to put in the water. Fruit and vegetables do the same thing with chemicals. If chemicals are sprayed on them, they will absorb it.
I do think that eating produce, regardless of whether the produce is organic, is important, but if you are making changes for your health, organic is the way to go. I’ve discovered some ways to save on organics that I want to share with you:
Join a CSA
If you’e never heard of CSA systems (Community Supported Agriculture), now is the time to do some research.
CSAs cut out the middle man (the grocery store) between your family and the farms in your area. Many operate like harvest boxes, and offer organic options as well.
Because the distribution costs don’t exist for the farmer, the produce is much less expensive, as well as local (bonus) and in season.
Sometimes, a CSA will require the fee to be paid up front for the year, but you’ll find that it’s much less expensive than buying the produce that you would get in your bin from the CSA at the grocery store. You’re supporting local farms and, as a huge bonus, sometimes the farms support u-pick options as well, so you can visit the farm and see how the food is grown.
Don’t Shop at Organic Grocers
While I do like to support organic grocers, their produce is much more expensive than the organic options at your regular grocery store.
You may be able to find a wider range of produce at an all-organic grocer, but it will also be much more expensive. At your regular grocery store, sometimes you can spot sales or specials on organics.
Pay Attention to Regular vs. Organic Prices
I have always just assumed that organic is going to be much more expensive than non-organic, pesticide laden fruits and veg, so I’ve picked my battles. However, the other day I was at Safeway and noticed, by chance, that a 1 lb bag of organic carrots were slightly cheaper than the 1 lb bag of non-organic carrots. Score!
Depending on the produce, sometimes you can snag a deal on organics (especially if you are paying attention).
This is especially true for in-season or locally grown produce.
Pick Your Battles
Have you ever seen the “dirty dozen” or “clean fifteen” lists? If eating strictly organic is too expensive for you, limit your organic purchases to just those items that you regularly eat that are on the dirty dozen list.
The cleaner, less contaminated list tends to encompass heartier produce. These fruits and vegetables tend to have thicker, harder rinds or skins (ie watermelon), and are less attractive to, and susceptible to damage of pests than the delicate fruits and veggies (ie spinach). Farmers don’t need to use as many pesticides as a result.
Organics are never purely organic. The title of “certified organic” still allows for a small amount of pesticides to be used on the produce. However, you are better off eating organic produce for some things, as your body isn’t meant to consume the chemicals that are used to ward off pests in farms.
I follow a version of the ‘pick your battles’ approach. The more I eat of something, the more likely I am to buy organic. Plus I pay attention to cost per serving. For example, organic oats may cost 50% more than non-organic, but per serving that might translate to 10 cents more. That extra cost isn’t going to break me, so I buy only organic oats.
That’s a good philosophy, Kurt!
I love organic foods, but they do get costly. We keep an eye out for sales, discounts, coupons, and the like. Like Kurt said, if it’s something we eat a lot of and there is a great cost difference between organics and non organics, we will probably get the cheaper version. But thankfully the price discrepencies aren’t too great, or at least not as much as they used to be as organics have become en vogue.
I think stores will start to stock more organics at a lower price, as consumers demand them!
I don’t buy everything organic. But I’ll try to get organic apples, peppers – anything with a thin skin/peel. California has a ton of great farmers markets, so I feel lucky.
Farmers markets are great. I find that many farms at farmer’s markets don’t use pesticides but they can’t say they are organic because the “certified organic” certification is so expensive.