Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How Not To Break The Bank & Save Money Buying Organic

Oh goodness... this is one of the most common questions I probably get asked in regards to living holistically and eating well. That's why we wanted to focus this week on fruits and vegetables. As I've said, I definitely have had my trials and errors with these things. I have found a few things that are very important and helpful to keep in mind as I eat organically (mostly) and also try to save money and pinch pennies for my little family of 3 (our dog Lucy being the third). Of course there are the obvious and overly talked about things such as meal planning. However, as much as I love the idea of meal planning it doesn't always work out for me as I would like it to in my perfect world of me being perfectly organized. Also, not only that, I shop at the farmer's market every week for my groceries and I never really know exactly what the weekly harvest will be. Thankfully, a lot of farmer's markets (like the wonderful Morning Side Farmer's Market in Atlanta and HollyGrove in New Orleans) will tell you and sometimes even post on Facebook before the weekend what they will have available and you can also guess pretty easily given what season it is and what produce is readily available in that season. I say that to say, meal planning doesn't always work out for me-- mostly due to my own lack of organizational planning. With or without meal planning below are the top three things that have helped me save money and not go beyond our normal budget for food. Any one of these three things might not seem to help you save hundreds of dollars from first glance. I can tell you from experience they do though. It's amazing how these little things add up and affect your grocery budget for the month. How you store fruits and vegetables also determines how long they last and if you have time to use them before they go bad-- which contributes to wasting and saving money. That really makes a huge difference in saving money while eating organic.

I would also like to add that I definitely see eating healthy as an investment in your health. As I have eaten healthy and clean and become a well person I have not had to visit the doctor once for any ailments. Now I'm not saying this should be the experience of everyone and I would not feel guilty in the least if I did get sick and need to visit a doctor. However, I find that you do save a lot of money (and time!) in the end by not wasting it on doctor's visit and those pricey prescriptions. 

The Dirty Dozen / Clean 15:             Picture VIA: JoyousHealth

So we have all heard of GMO's and pesticides. Many probably have wondered if pesticides and GMO's are the same thing. GMO's are the way the seed itself is biogenetically engineered and is not in it's original form. Pesticides are yucky chemicals covering the fruits and vegetables you buy from the grocery. They can lower immune system, cause you to gain weight due to the chemicals imposed on them, and a whole host of other negative side affects. They also contain toxic ingredients that are debilitating to the human nervous system. It says on the EWG website that "two-thirds of produce samples in recent government tests had pesticide residues." You definitely wouldn't want to drink or eat weed killers at a your local Home Depot and you also won't want to eat them on and in your produce. I know that buying completely organically can be very expensive though. I know that. That is where the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 come in. EWG is an amazing resource! They have done so much of the work for us and they are so very thorough in all the research and testing they do. You can go on their website and find all of their results. Part of what they have done is tested to see which vegetables and produce have the most amount of chemicals in them given different growing conditions and different years of growing. Each year they come out with a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that have the most amount of chemicals in them and then 15 fruits and vegetables that have the least. Their list is actually longer than that, so you should definitely look on their site at the full list as you think about what to get. This is so helpful because if you are concerned about chemicals and pesticides you can make sure to buy the ones that contain the most amount of chemicals in their organic and pure forms. And the ones that don't test to have any chemicals in them you can buy them conventionally which is often cheaper. For example, white potatoes have found to be one of the vegetables that contain the most amount of chemicals. So if I was going to buy those, I would buy organic white potatoes. On the other hand, avocados have been found to have the least amount of chemicals so it would be fine to buy those conventionally which would be cheaper. It doesn't seem this would cut down on your grocery bill immensely, but I can promise you that it does.

Buying in Season and Buying Locally:

Picture from http://www.d.umn.edu
This is a pretty self-explanatory concept, but I find it often gets forgotten or overlooked. For the majority of my life I just went to the grocery and bought whatever produce they had. I never cared about what state (or country for that matter) the produce was from. I never thought about how it was grown and what farming practices were used. Now I can't imagine not considering those things! I rarely buy produce from outside of the US not only because of lack of regulations in produce from other places, but also because of the expense. It is true that there are very few regulations for importing food from other countries, so it's very hard to know what exactly you are getting and what is in your food. Also, think about the price it costs to ship those cucumbers all the way from Mexico. You end up paying a price for buying food from anywhere that is not close to you, because of how much it cost the producer to send it and mail it. If you buy locally there is not that overhead cost of the farmer and distributor to transport materials. In the same way you can save money by buying locally, you can also save money by buying in season.  Certain foods grow best at different times of the year, and in different parts of the country. It's the way our body and the world was created-- to follow that sort of rhythm. It's also the cheapest to buy foods when it's their optimum season of growing while they are prevalent in your area. Kale and all types of leafy greens such as Rainbow Chard have been in season for a little while now. I've used these greens in so many different ways, including my not-boring-kale-salad. In the summer I will be making Laura's Watermelon and Avocado Salad and my herb dressing frequently. You won't have to look far to get local organic produce if it's in season and that will save you money being that it won't cost the farmer any money nor distributor to get it all of the way to you.

Local Co-op / CSA / Farmer's Market:

Laura has already talked about the local co-op and farmer's markets. As have I. You can definitely easily find amazing and unique organic produce at either of those. I don't think it's as common knowledge to realize how these can save you money. First off, it's amazing to actually go to a farmer's market and meet the people who grow the food you eat that colors your table and provides for wonderful moments and memories for your loved ones. It's such, such a gift. They're usually amazing, salt of the earth kind of people. They're also usually willing to give you a bargain on their fruits and vegetables. Often times I see sales for buy two bunches of kale for $3, and all kinds of deals. Not only is that a great option, but CSA's are really amazing. Do any of you do a CSA? This is where you pay upfront a certain amount to the farm for a set amount of freshly picked produce every week. All you have to do is pick up your box and in some cases they will deliver your box to your door. Sometimes boxes can even cost as little as $10 for an abundant box full of food to last you and your family and even your friends. Sometimes it's up to $25 for a box. Usually the box is piled high in my experience. It's definitely worth it! The farmer's usually gives really amazing prices for their box of produce. It's amazing what you can get! I especially love that it's still organic and naturally grown depending on which CSA you use, which is good for you and also for the environment.

Other Useful Tips: 

Aside from the lists above, there are a few practical tips I have found over the years that help me save money and be more economic in my kitchen. I have started making my own salad dressings, which has been wonderful in every way. I often find that making soups with vegetables I had leftover from other recipes that I didn't use all of, and bone broth from that I have stocked up on is a great way to save money and use up some of the glorious produce we get from all of the sources listed above. I usually will make a roasted chicken and use the leftover bones to make a whole supply of homemade chicken stock for all sorts of recipes. These three recipes alone save me countless money and provide for wonderful meals for my family.

Check back tomorrow where I will write about how to properly store fruits and vegetables so they stay good longer and you don't waste money on them going bad before you can use them. This really is key in saving money while eating organic, since you can get the most out of your produce.


You can look at LocalHarvest.org to find a list of farms and CSA's in your area.
Holly Grove Market in New Orleans is amazing. You can get a long list of gmo-free vegetables in a box just for $20.
Morningside Farmer's Market in Atlanta is wonderful and a wonderful resource.
Also, Growing Up Triplets has a wonderful post about this as well.
How To Store Fruits & Vegetables is key in saving money, because you want to be able to store your vegetables for as long as you need before they go bad.

Comment if you know of any local farmer's markets, CSA's, or other wonderful resources to help save money while wanting to feed your family well. 
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