Is organic food really as expensive as we think?
People always comment: “Organic food is so dear!” But is it really so?
That’s a tough question to answer for a lot of reasons, particularly because “expensive” is such a relative term nowadays. My personal thoughts on the matter are that organic food is no more expensive than it has always been. If you look at it from the standpoint of a percentage of household income, we used to spend a much larger percent of money on food around 20-30 years ago.
Whether you agree with that line of reasoning or not, the fact remains that junk food is cheaper than organic one. What is junk food simply cannot be sold as dearly as organic or ‘real food’! So, food manufacturers figured out long ago that if they switched out ‘real food’, and replaced it with ingredients like fillers, artificial colors and flavors, costs would go way down. They did it and people didn’t care! They kept buying the surrogate food! As a matter of fact, the companies with the cheapest food-like products started selling much more than companies selling’real food’.
How to save money on organic food
We scoured the web sources to find some of the best hints and tricks placed out there and here they are:
Hint 1: Eat with the season
Retrain your cravings to “behave” like your grandmother did. She did not eat strawberries in the middle of winter, right? Locally grown foods are usually cheaper than those imported from the opposite hemisphere, so if you eat with the season, you will be eating more affordably.
Hint 2: Buy organic in the freezer section
A December 2013 study looked at the difference in the vitamin and mineral content of 8 different vegetables and fruits when they were fresh versus when they were frozen. Although the produce was not organic, the findings are still applicable. The researchers found that fresh produce degrades over time, resulting in a loss of certain valuable nutrients. Fresh produce stored for 5 days had lower values of vitamins A and C and folate compared with the frozen version. What’s more, you can use what you need and put the rest back in the freezer, rather than risking the food going bad and then having to discard it—along with the hard money you spent on it!
For instance, frozen berries are fantastic in summer smoothies. They make your smoothies cold without adding extra ice! Frozen fruit is also a great organic snack treat for kids on a hot day instead of a sugary Popsicle!
Hint 3: Look for “ripe” markdowns
Go to a local health food store where normally there is a section in which food that will go bad the next day is kept. Food that is fully ripe (like bananas with black blotches) is cheaper than the green one. So, very often markets mark down food that does not look as “pretty” or that is completely ripe and needs to be eaten real soon. Just look for food that is a good value for money and buy it at a reduced price, which is always possible.
Hint 4: Join a CSA
Joining a CSA, short for Community Supported Agriculture, is another way you can buy local and seasonal food directly from the source – the farmer. Each week you will receive a box of fruits and vegetables, and other farm products may be included. All depends on the package you decide to order. Essentially, it is a weekly subscription for the freshest produce that is in season. It is a great way to try new vegetables for new ways of cooking from scratch.
You can use available local food directories to find farms that readily offer CSA programs in your community.
Hint 5: Use more ground meats
Use ground beef, pork, mutton, veal, game and poultry as much as you can. You can make all sorts of delicious bites: burgers, chili, meat loafs, spaghetti, tacos, etc… you name it. Using ground meats is one of the best ways to make your budget stretch much further- for instance, pairing ground beef for tacos with homemade pinto beans and Spanish rice will easily feed an average size family for multiple dinners, and probably some lunches, too.
And seasoning is your friend here! With just a few “drizzles” of spices you can easily make a great Mexican one night and a Thai curry the very next. Also, a little meat can go long way when mixed in a salad or sautéed with some “super veggies”.
Hint 6: Time is money
It is much cheaper and more nutritious to “make your own bread” even though it takes more time and effort. It will leave much more room in your budget for buying “expensive” organic produce. If you go for preserving food in season by canning, freezing and dehydrating it, you can save a good bundle!
Hint 7: Always buy in bulk
We are not talking about those huge bundles of toilet paper people buy at box stores. Your local organic Co-ops and health food stores have bulk sections, as well! Buy beans, legumes, grains, spices, etc. in large quantities and save them. If you buy in bulk, though, be smart. Before you go on a shopping spree in bulk, learn how to properly store your food before you buy all those hearty grains to ensure they do not go bad quickly!
Rice and beans are a no-brainer here. You can consistently save 20-30% on the exact same product when buying the 10 pound package vs a 1 pound package.
Just find good deals on your favorite organic treats!