In a world in which we are constantly worried about the health of our families, the stability of our jobs, paying the mortgage and all of life’s responsibilities, the simple act of trying to eat healthy often becomes a challenge.
I just received an email from a reader over the weekend with this question:
“QUESTION—Do you have any tips on how to keep costs down when trying to transition to organic? Feeding a family of 6 on a budget is a huge challenge and when I shop organic—sadly I have to make hard choices about which foods I can afford to buy organic and which I cannot.”
Not to mention that if your family is anything like mine, then you’ve most likely got some picky eaters, limited time and a limited budget with which to pull all of this off in a world of soaring food prices.
Thankfully, companies across the food spectrum are waking up to the fact that more and more Americans want organic food. Kroger launched a private label line, Simple Truth Organic, Campbell’s released an organic line, while Nestle said that genetically engineered foods, crops that have been engineered using biotechnology to withstand increasing doses of chemicals sold by the chemical industry, may not be “the answer” that the food industry needs to feeding the world. Those are big moves.
But it can leave a parent, an eater, a mom asking: where to start?
And what’s an eater to do?
Thankfully, there is a lot. And these tips are for everyone, not just words for the “well-nourished who can afford to shop at Whole Foods,” because clean and safe food should not be a function of zip code or socioeconomic status, it is a fundamental human right.
Today, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women in the U.S. are expected to get cancer in their lifetime. Those are jaw-dropping statistics, and the rates of cancer, food allergies, autism and other conditions are driving a food awakening.
Access to food, labeled to disclose allergens, additives, genetically engineered ingredients & chemicals used on them, is a human right that should be afforded all Americans as it is to eaters in other countries, especially in light of cancer statistics that suggest 41% of Americans are expected to get cancer in our lifetimes.
So here are a few tips for those who want to start buying organic food but don’t want to pay the high price:
- Go Orgo-Generic. Major grocery store chains like Safeway and Kroger, and big box food retailers like Costco and even Wal-Mart, now carry their own organic foods. And all foods labeled “USDA organic” are created equal, no matter where you find them. No need to upscale your grocery store when Wal-Mart gets it done.
- Buy Frozen. Frozen foods (like strawberries and fish) are cheaper than those that are delivered fresh. So if the prices on fresh produce are eye-popping, cruise on over to the frozen food aisle for a discount.
- Eat with the Season. Retrain your taste buds to think like your grandmother did. She didn’t eat strawberries in the middle of winter. Locally grown foods are usually cheaper than those flown in from another hemisphere so if you eat with the season, you’ll be eating more affordably.
- Skip the Box, Embrace the Bulk. Food that comes in boxes costs more because of the packaging costs associated with designing those pretty pictures! When you buy in bulk, you’re not paying for all of the packaging, you’re paying for the food which is what you want anyway. So slide on over to that bulk food aisle in Safeway and look for noodles, cereals, rice and beans in your local grocery store.
- Support the US economy and Buy Local. You can save money by becoming a member of a local farm (just like you became a member at Safeway or Costco!). How do you find a local farm, you ask? Well, thankfully, the USDA now has a list of online sites to help you find the closest farm near you.
- Comparison Shop. You wouldn’t buy a car without comparison shopping, so before you even head out the door you can compare the prices of organic foods at different retailers from the safety of your own computer.
- Coupons, coupons, coupons: Organic bargains are everywhere so click on RetailMeNot.com, Organic Deals, or just Google for them.
- Grow One Thing. If you’re as busy as we are, there’s not a chance in creation that you are going to be able to feed your family off of your home-grown harvest, but you will find that growing a tomato plant can be incredibly inspiring. And it’s not as intimidating as it seems. So pick one thing to grow — you can do it (we all grew lima beans in cups as kids, right?).
- Find a Friend.It is way more fun when you share this adventure with someone else, so be sure to find a friend, share this link and get back to us with your success stories (and if you have a tip that you want to add, please post it in the comment section below!).
Good luck! And keep us posted on your success stories, because as a national family sitting down to our national dinner table, together, we can inspire, create and restore the health of our country.