Sometimes the thought of transitioning to an organic lifestyle is overwhelming, to say the least! As a single, bread-winning, homeschooling mom, I must say I have a lot on my plate, and yet I can offer living proof that it’s possible. Though there may be some sacrifices and trade-offs along the way, these are minor to me when I factor in the health and spiritual benefits of an organic lifestyle. It has been a journey to get where I am today; I would say my food, body and living products are at least 95% organic and wild. Today I would like to share some of my top tips and tricks for living organic on a budget.
Let me start by saying, I know that writing “organic” on a package does not automatically make it healthy, sustainable or even “organic”. Whenever possible, I seek out products that go beyond organic. I look for products that are produced without any toxic pesticides or fertilizers, but other important factors are the ethics of the company, their sustainability practices and the humane treatment of the plants and animals which sustain us. I also look at ingredients to avoid chemicals, including synthetic chemical vitamins and “natural” flavors.
Additionally, I do not consider organically farmed food to be the epitome of healthy living, but a step in the right direction. Ultimately, for me, making the full transition to wild foods which have grown free of chemical pollution will bring me full circle. However, I understand firsthand that in a modern city dwelling lifestyle, this is not easily accomplished. I will write a post in the future going into depth on why a wild food diet is favorable to a conventional organic one. For today’s purposes, I will focus on what is much more within reach for the average person. And now for the tips!
ALWAYS CHECK CLEARANCE!
I find many people have the misconception that the clearance sections are full of broken, spoiled or otherwise undesirable products. This is not the case at all! Sure, some stores are better than others, but overall clearance items are good quality at amazing prices! Often times products make it to the clearance well before their expiration dates, simply because they are not selling fast enough, or are being discontinued. Some of the best organic food and body bargains I have found are from major retailers like Kroger, Tom Thumb, Target, and Sprouts. I make it part of my regular shopping routine to stop by the clearance section before I leave. It is often hit or miss, but when you find something great for pennies, it makes it worthwhile! I recently stumbled across a great score at Sprouts. Organic, Fair Trade full size chocolate bars for only $1, and various organic super-food snacks for $1-2 each! Everything I bought was months away from expiring, and a great inexpensive way to give healthy snacks (and occasional healthy treats) to my two little healthy eaters!
I will admit, sometimes I go overboard with this one. But it is definitely one of the best ways to afford organic on a budget. If you come across something that is a staple in your home or kitchen, and it is at a deeply discounted sale price or on clearance, stock up! You can save money both by buying multiple items, or simply by buying a larger-sized package of a specific item, as the price per ounce generally goes down as the package size increases. I do this with things like organic oils, snacks, meat, spices and frozen goods. It is also a great way of stocking up on household products, like dish soap, herbal medicines, body care products etc… I will give an example: I found several bottles of Seventh Generation dish soap on clearance for about $1 each. Much cheaper or at least comparable to conventional highly toxic ones. So I stocked up on about a year (*ahem* or two) supply. If you consider the typical price of this soap to be about $4 per bottle, you have a 75% price cut! If you do the math over the course of a year, assuming one bottle of dish soap per month, that means spending only $12 per year vs. $48. While this extra $36 in the bank is not going to fund your next vacation, when combined with lots of similar savings, it adds up nicely! And if you are not at a point to be thinking of a long term savings account, at least you are getting a product for a year which is much better for the earth and its inhabitants for the same price as the highly toxic alternatives.
EAT THE WHOLE ANIMAL!
My African roots run deep, and despite what anyone says, the most delicious part of an [red meat bearing] animal is its stomach and intestines! It is especially important to find clean sources of meat; if not wild caught, at least grass-fed, humanely-raised and organic. The modern diseases so commonly attributed to meat consumption are due not to eating meat (which kept our ancestors healthy and strong for virtually all recorded history) but to the deplorable methods used by modern meat “farmers”. There are several local, humane, grass-fed and organic ranches here in Texas and throughout the states. You can link up with them at farmers markets, through Edible Magazine or through online searches. Often times their prices are competitive to or better than the “cleaner” meats you might find at a mass merchandiser. In general, organs, heads (barbecoa anyone?) bones (for bone broth), fat (to render tallow) and other less mainstream parts are practically given away! So not only are you getting extra nutrition in your diet, you are saving money and stretching your culinary experience all at the same time!
COOK FROM SCRATCH
This one takes up more time for sure, but if your primary priority is the health of your family and staying on budget, it is a great trade-off. Virtually anything that comes from a restaurant or the ready made or freezer sections at the store can be made organically at home for a fraction of the price. I have one friend who has challenged herself to recreate every restaurant food she loves, at home. This makes it somewhat less of a sacrifice to eat out less, if you can have the same delicious foods, organic and relatively cheap!
WILL WORK FOR ORGANIC FOOD!
Volunteer! Reach out to local Co-ops and farms who are often happy to have helping hands in exchange for fresh, local organic produce and foods! Currently we volunteer for 2 hours per week for a local Co-op in exchange for a generous week’s supply of fresh, seasonal, local, organic and ever-changing produce! The picture of the table overflowing with free organic produce at the beginning of the post is a typical week’s worth of free produce for our family. It is definitely worth it to call around to find opportunities such as this, as we typically receive roughly $60 per week of fresh, free organic food. We currently volunteer at Urban Acres Co-op, but there are many others to inquire with also.
LOOK FOR SALES
Often times you can find some great deals on organic food and body care items just by checking the weekly ads. The weekly ads offer good leads on what and when to stock up on items. Most stores seem to run sales on the same items, but at times the prices will be lower. So once you get an idea of the lowest sale price you have seen, you can stock up. For example right now Sprouts has organic coconut oil at an advertised sale price of $5.99 each. From becoming familiar with this store over the years, I know that the price at least once a year will get down to $3.99 each, so I know to wait to stock up on coconut oil until then. There are lots of coupon apps and websites, with more and more organic options as well. And network and share sales with friends: It can be fun and pay off for all of you!
KNOW WHERE TO SHOP
I generally have go-to stores for specific items. These are stores that after shopping around at multiple stores, I have found to have the best price for a given item. For example, the cheapest cage-free, organic chicken I have found is at Trader Joe’s. It is $1.99/lb for drumsticks, and $2.69/lb for the whole chicken. So if I need chicken, I go to Trader Joe’s. I typically have 3-4 different stores in my go-to rotation for any given item. It may be a little more time-consuming, but you can get creative by combining trips, to save on gas and it works out great!
I hope that my tips offered some fresh ideas that might help someone out there down the road to organic living. What did I miss, do you have any other tips to share? If you enjoyed the post, please subscribe so that you never miss a post! Also, sharing is caring, and I truly appreciate any and all post shares, comments, and likes!