Organic and Affordable?  Our Attempt To Eat Organic And Not Break The BankUpdated Sept 18, 2012 by Andrea
Healthy Child Healthy World‘s feature topic this week is “GMO FREE/ ORGANIC ALL THE WAY”, so I’m re-posting this piece from earlier this year.  Be sure to visit their site for other ideas as well. I know I will.

When I tell people that we try to eat local, sustainable and organic, the first response is often the same: ”Good for you.  I couldn’t afford that.”  My response is usually the same: “Sure you can.”

Let me assure you, we are not sitting on a hidden fortune that subsidizes our monthly grocery expenses.  Like everyone else, we budget.  There is a way to eat organic and cheap.

For us, eating organic sort of crept up on us.  We made one small change at a time.  Each time we committed to something more expensive, it was typically offset by giving up something also expensive.  In this way, we completely changed our eating habits.  We did not really set out to do so.

So, for those of you contemplating changing the way you eat – whether for health, environmental or societal reasons, here are a few suggestions.  We hope this will make the task seem somehow less daunting.

1.  Focus on avoiding Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).  From where I stand (which is admittedly just off the starters block), not all organic is created equal.  There are some items that I won’t buy non-organic because the industries are incented to genetically modify their food.  Mainly, these include anything that contains corn, soy or dairy.  (I live in Canada, so I buy non-organic milk because it is not genetically modified; however, I do not buy non-organic yogurt or cheese where the ingredients are not clearly labelled as “100% Canadian Milk”.  Some companies import genetically modified milk from the United States.)

Other than that, I try to focus on the ethics of the company more than the organics.  I GoodGuide my groceries to determine if the company’s practices are in line with my ideals.  (For more information, check out our Spend Responsibly: GoodGuide Your Groceries challenge.)  Of course, soil erosion isn’t on the top of my “support list”, so organic often scores best.  Still, if the company is generally good from a health, environmental and societal standpoint, I don’t sweat the non-organic so much.

2.  Focus on avoiding pesticides.  For produce, I focus my organic efforts on avoiding the fruits and vegetables that most absorb pesticides.  Environmental Working Group maintains a list of these foods.  (You can find it here: The List)  As such, I try to buy these things organic.  For all other items, I buy whatever is local, which brings me to my next point…

3.  Research local farmers.  You might be surprised at how many of your local farmers are actually growing (or raising) pesticide-free, chemical fertilizer-free and GMO-free food, but are not advertising it.  Many smaller farmers cannot afford to go through the organic certification process.  Ask around.  You may be very surprised how many local, cost-effective options you have.  I know I was.  (For more details on our journey, check out Go Local.)

4.  Cut back on the meat.  Last summer, Carl and I became flexitarians.  Flexi-what-ians, you ask?  Flexitarians are basically weekday vegetarians.  It’s a way to cut back on meat without becoming a full-blown vegetarian.  I admit, it’s somewhat hypocritical, but it works for us.  (You can read all about this challenge at Good All Around: Become A Flexitarian.)

Our personal adaptation of flexitarianism is to also eat eggs and fish during the week – Monday through Friday.  On the weekends, we still eat what we want.  This one activity combined with the shopping strategies mentioned above has essentially financed our organic purchases. Seriously, I can’t say enough good things about this lifestyle change.  We feel better, help the planet and we save loads of money.

5.  Grow your own.  Want to find the cheapest, most fresh and local vegetables possible?  Grow them.  We planted 3 giant pots in our back yard this year and they yielded all of the carrots, beans and tomatoes we could want (and then some).  It’s hard to believe such a small space could provide so much food – and for only pennies.  Now we’re hooked.

6.  Just try it.  This is the crunchy blogger’s equivalent of a money-back guarantee.  Alright, maybe not as I won’t be refunding anyone’s money.  But still, the best way to see if you can afford eating organic is to try it.

For us, going organic happened gradually.  We took on The Goodness Challenge not having any idea what would come from it.  We just knew something had to change.  From there, things just happened.  The changes just felt right.  They just flowed.  (And believe me, we were far from vegetable-growing, GoodGuiding, flexitarians when we started.)  We hope this helps set you on your own path to goodness.

Image: graur razvan ionut /

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Just a small town mom trying to make the world a better place for my kids. One small change at a time.

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