How to Eat Organic On A Budget
When people ask me how they can eat healthier without spending countless hours researching food like I do, I tell them to start switching the products they already buy for organic ones. You will avoid most of the harmful additives in our food supply by adopting this one practice.
So what exactly does organic mean? Is it the same as “natural”? Why do organic products usually cost more than non-organic? Is it worth the extra cost? How can we eat healthy on a budget? Read on to find out!
The standards for a product to bear the USDA Organic seal are strict. The product may not contain ingredients from crops that used irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, or were genetically modified. A USDA Organic seal on animal products ensures that the health and welfare standards for the animals were met, that antibiotics and growth hormones were not used, that the animals were fed 100% organic feed and that the animals had access to the outdoors. (1)
So what does the term “natural” mean?
Absolutely nothing! There are no FDA requirements for a product to be labeled “natural.” It can contain any number of harmful ingredients. So the next time you see the word “natural” on a food or skin care product, make sure to read the ingredients and determine for yourself if it is natural!
So why does organic food cost more?
I think a better question is this: why are processed foods so cheap? It is inexpensive because cheap food uses cheap ingredients, and because genetically modified corn and soy crops (which are used heavily in processed foods) are subsidized by the government. Food companies are constantly looking for new ways to make food taste better, last longer, and cost less. This is the reason there are so many food chemicals in our food supply. I love the saying “real food doesn’t have ingredients. Real food IS ingredients!”
I personally had to increase my family’s food budget once I learned how toxic many of the items I was buying were. I would rather pay more now for quality, clean food that will help my body stay healthy, rather than pay more for doctors visits and medications that may be avoided later on. I would encourage you to see the food you buy as a long term investment. I believe organic food should be a higher priority than an expensive cell phone plan or cable TV! Your health is a precious commodity that once lost, can be difficult and expensive to regain.
That being said, I am very budget aware and am always looking for ways to keep our expenses low. I know that some families would like to eat healthier but cannot afford to buy everything organic. Here is a list of the top ways I have found to keep costs low while still eating for health!
1. Buy in bulk.
This is the number one way I save money on organic food. I purchase my coconut oil, chia seeds, pure maple syrup, quinoa, almond flour, frozen fruit and veggies, raw nuts, and many other products at Costco. They are organic and often half the cost per unit. This sometimes requires more expense upfront, but saves you in the long run. Most of the things I buy in bulk naturally have a long shelf life or can be frozen.
2. Know which items are MOST important to eat organic.
Believe it or not, not everything you buy has to be organic. The most important items to buy organic are dairy, meat, baby food, produce on the “Dirty Dozen” list (2), coffee and tea.
3. Buy locally.
When I saw how expensive organic, grass fed steak was at my grocery store, I about fainted! The solution was to find a rancher near where I live and buy my meat directly from him. It was less than half the cost and I felt so much better buying it from someone I could talk to directly about how his cattle are treated, what they are fed, etc. Again this can be a bit expensive up front (we purchased 60 lbs of beef all at once) but if you can save up and buy locally, it is worth it in the long run. Local farmers markets are also a great option.
A great website for finding organic meat and produce in your area is:
4. Buy in season.
Have you ever purchased organic strawberries in January? They cost a fortune! Buying produce when it is in season will cost less because it traveled a much shorter distance (which also means it retains more of its nutrients!) Purchasing produce that is in season and preserving it through methods such as freezing is a great option that will save you money.
5. Use your kitchen.
Cooking meals yourself will not only ensure that you have control over the ingredients used, but it will save you a lot of money. Going out to eat or even purchasing premade healthy food items can really add up. So rather than buying those organic waffles, make your own! I personally don’t love cooking, but I do it because it is the best thing for my family’s health and our budget.
6. Use your freezer.
This sounds strange, but your freezer can be used for much more than just the foods you find in the freezer section of your grocery store. You can freeze just about anything! I like to bake or cook in bulk and then freeze individual portions. You can also stock up on healthy items when they go on sale and keep them in your freezer.
7. Cook in bulk.
This saves you time because you get more food out of one kitchen mess, and saves you money because it reduces the amount of food wasted. I will make a few dozen healthy muffins all at once and then freeze them for quick and easy breakfasts, or make a large crock pot meal and freeze individual portions for quick grab-and-go work lunches. If you put in the time and effort ahead of time, you will be less tempted to grab a Pop-Tart for breakfast or drive through Wendy’s for lunch!
8. Grow your own!
Starting a vegetable garden or raising your own chickens for eggs is another great way to cut the cost of healthy food and to ensure that the food is clean. There is nothing as good as home grown! Even if you live in the city and cannot have chickens or a garden, even planting a few herbs in a window box will make a difference!