I believe we need a paradigm shift: we need to INVEST in healthy, organic foods because it means investing in a healthier body for ourselves, as well as a healthy future. Quality food should be prioritised in our budgets above a Foxtel or Netflix subscription or the next iPhone upgrade… it’s a paradigm shift, right?
But Organic Food Is So Much More Expensive!
One of the most common concerns about choosing organic food is the cost. Organic foods can be more expensive because you’re paying for more than the food product itself. Farming organically is generally a more labour intensive effort (hello manual weeding!) and organic food needs to be produced in specific conditions so it can take a lot of money for the farmers to maintain their high quality standards (which by the way is better for the environment, animal welfare and our health). But why shouldn’t these farmers be compensated fairly like any other employee or business?
In some cases though, depending on the product, the price can be pretty competitive. Purchasing fresh organic and/ or spray-free produce directly from the farmers at your local farmers market can save you quite a bit of money. And knowing that more of your dollar is going into their hands is priceless. As a result, you as the consumer know exactly what you’re getting, what has gone into it and from whom.
Here’s another way to think of it: When eating healthy on a budget feels hard, remember the biggest advantage to eating a real food diet: saving on doctor bills! We’re either paying for it now or later. We can pay the cheaper prices for conventional food and pay higher premiums for our healthcare later. For me, the moderate price difference between a conventional and organic produce over the course of my lifetime will hopefully be less than what I might have to pay for the health issues I might develop from eating all conventional meat and veggies my whole life. There is no denying that organic is food is better for you so I’d rather invest in preventative medicine than treatment protocols. You don’t have to choose sides. But you do get the opportunity to make a decision, each and every single day, as to what you put in your body and what kind of world you’re creating for yourself, and future generations.
Do I Need To Eat All Organic?
In an ideal world, yes. We should support sustainable farming methods so that we have a planet that will continue to nourish us. That being said, it’s not always affordable or accessible to a lot of people. So my main piece of advice is this: start with what you can. The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen is a great place to start.
The Dirty Dozen are the fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide contamination (aka buy organic when you can!)
Sweet Bell Peppers
The Clean Fifteen are the fruits and vegetables with the least pesticide contamination (aka ok to buy conventional).
Frozen Sweet Peas
MY TIPS ON HOW-TO EAT ORGANIC ON A BUDGET
It’s about progress, not perfection. Eating organic should be seen as a long-term investment in your health, it’s not a fad or a quick fix. This is why we i’ve put together some tips on how you can eat organic on a budget and even save some money!
Embrace Simple Real Food Meals
Convenience foods or even luxury health foods are almost always pricier to buy, and the best way to cut costs while eating real food is to avoid them and learn to enjoy simple, real food from nature. If you haven’t always eaten the healthiest food (I certainly didn’t once upon a time), you may need to redefine how you think about meals. Slow cooked lamb and roasted veggies or chicken soup with all your leftover veggies or even an omelette with garlic, herbs, spring onion, tomato and avocado are all quick, simple and incredibly nourishing meals. Simple, real food meals do not have to be bland, boring or hard to make. We’re so lucky we have access to the internet because you literally have access to hundreds and thousands of FREE recipes. You can even search for different options depending on your dietary needs (gluten, dairy, egg, nut free etc).
Buy Seasonal, Inexpensive Vegetables
Buy straight from your local farmers markets as they’re a great source of fresh, local produce. Not only do they limit the transport time of food, but it also tastes better, it’s fresher, it has more nutritional value and it’s cheaper because you don’t have to pay higher prices for out of season produce. Vegetables like cabbage, onions, garlic, carrots, pumpkin, potatoes and sweet potatoes are inexpensive year-round and can be great fillers and substitutes in recipes.
Buy In Bulk
Though there is a bit more upfront costs involved, ordering in bulk can usually save money in the long run. Here are my tips on buying bulk;
Take advantage of the ‘buy one get one free’ sales at health food shops. Discounted prices (usually for members) are offered in my local area every second Saturday of the month. So I’ll often wait to buy my nuts, seeds, spices, almond flour etc so I can take advantage of the sale, buy a slightly larger amount and store it for later use. (This trick only works if you really love the product and it is a staple at your home – otherwise this could lead to food wastage).
Or why not bring measuring cups with you to your health food store if you’re buying from bulk containers. That way you can get exactly the amount you need for a specific recipe and you won’t be paying for extra. This is also a great idea if you don’t have the space to store larger amounts.
We purchased a Costco membership – you pay a yearly membership fee to get the wholesale prices. You save so much that you’ll likely make back your membership fee in just one or two orders… well we did! We now go to Costco 2-3x a year to stock up on items that are significantly cheaper such as; AYAM coconut cream (a huge staple for me), Mary’s Gone Crackers, cacao nibs, organic dried apricots, tomato paste, olive oil, frozen organic berries and more.
Don’t buy large packets of herbs and spices as they lose their medicinal qualities, so it’s smarter to buy them in smaller quantities. I personally love the Simply Organic range as they come in glass jars (which I’ll often re-use when empty), but it seems to be the perfect size for the amount of cooking I do. Plus you can get them all from iHerb here.
If you have the freezer space buy a whole or half animal and freeze the portions you don’t use. If you don’t have a large enough freezer for the meat cuts then split the cost with a group of people. This will save you a lot of money. Also when you buy meat, make sure you utilise the organ meats and use the bones to make bone broth with which can then be used as a very healing and nourishing base for soups, stews, curries and other meals.
You can also buy items in bulk from some online stores and divide it up with friends or family or become a member of a co-op group which is another great way to save money.
I’ve got even more tips on how to reduce plastic waste in my blog ‘Whats Inside My Pantry + Staples I Always Have on Hand’.
Stop Wasting Food
Quick fact: Aussies throw out $8 billion of edible food every year. This equates to 523kg per household, which is the same weight as just over 5 average sized fridges!
These are some of the things I personally do to prevent food waste;
Keep nuts, seeds and flours in your fridge or freezer, this will extend the shelf-life and prevent them from going rancid.
Turn almond butter, tomato paste, sour cream, tahini and cottage cheese containers upside down when stored in the fridge – this creates a vacuum seal, keeping them fresher for longer. No more mouldy tomato paste!
Line your fridge crisper drawer with a hand towel or paper towels to absorb any excess moisture, this will help to keep your produce fresher for longer.
Repurpose vegetable pulp from juicing by making it into crackers or bread.
Don’t throw away nut meal from homemade nut milk – use it in smoothies, baked goods or to make nut flours by placing the pulp on a baking sheet and drying it out in the oven or dehydrator.
Keep all organic citrus fruits in the fridge, they’ll last up to 1-2 weeks longer.
Buy and keep bananas separated from one another, they ripen slower this way.
Don’t wash organic dark leafy greens or berries until you’re ready to eat them.
Store herbs, spring onions, asparagus upright in a large glass filled with a few cm’s of filtered water.
Learn tips and recipes on how to use over ripe food. For example; use old and limp celery, spring onions, carrots and other veggies to make soup or add them to bone broth when cooking. Use overripe bananas to make banana bread or try fermented bananas.
If you know you won’t have the chance to eat it, freeze it before it goes bad. For example my mum often gives me tonnes of ginger and lemons from her garden. So I’ll juice them and freeze the juice in ice-cube trays. That way they won’t spoil!
Try using smaller plates to help you control the amount of food you might eat or end up wasting.
9/10 times frozen organic fruit and veggies are cheaper than fresh. So utilise them, especially when money is tight, as they can be added to soups or stews, made into shepherd’s pie, used in stir fries and so on. When you have leftovers, don’t throw them out, have it for the next day’s lunch or freeze it for another time.
Find a friend who has chickens! This has seriously made me feel so much better about the amount of food waste we have. I do loads of cooking, I also juice a lot of celery and the pulp from that can’t be used because it’s so dry and stringy. So I keep a large bucket on my kitchen bench that I throw all of my food scraps in Once it’s full I give it to my friend to give to her chickens!
Ferment When Possible
Fermenting is another great way to cut down on your food bill and reduce food waste. You can use some of the most common fruits and vegetables for most of your fermenting projects. A large head of cabbage will make a great big jar of sauerkraut, and what does that cost? A few dollars? You really don’t need much at all. But if you’re like me and just a little impatient with waiting a few weeks until it’s super tangy and yummy then you can get a little more creative and try some of my super easy fermented food recipes. I have a whole gallery of fermented foods here you can look through or you can read more information about how to make fermented foods here and how to ferment fruits here.
Grow Your Own Food
I know what you’re probably thinking… “Yeah right, I don’t have the time to grow anything to feed myself or my family with! I’m busy enough trying to find the time to go and shop for groceries.” I’m not saying that you need to start a greenhouse, but you may have fun and save money by growing some of your own fresh produce. Your first step could be as simple as planting an herb pot in your kitchen or on the balcony so you can always have fresh herbs on hand. Herbs are some of the most overpriced ingredients you can purchase at supermarkets and it won’t take long before they are flourishing. Being able to plant, grow & harvest your own fresh, organic whole foods is truly life changing and it’s something that everyone should be able to experience and access. Because being able to create simple, delicious & nutrient dense meals from your own homegrown food and then providing your family and your body with all that loving goodness is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself & your body!
I would also suggest you start by checking out this amazing step-by-step guide that Anth & Crystal from The Healthy Patch Formula have created. They’ve taken everything you need to know about how to grow your own nutrient dense whole foods & put it into an easy to follow, step-by-step 6 week online program that you can follow along with at your own pace.
Do you have any other money saving tips for eating organic, real food on a budget?