How to Eat Organic on a Budget

For most people, the idea of buying groceries on a budget conjures up images of a Walmart cart filled with Ramen noodles and Spam. Organic fruits and vegetables are probably the last things to pop into the mind. And for good reason. Grocery stores consider organic produce a premium and gouge customers accordingly. Many feel guilty that they can’t afford to eat organic and promise themselves that whenever they arrive financially, they’ll make the switch. But eating organic doesn’t have to break the bank. With the following tips, eating organic, healthy produce can be worked into just about any budget.

Buy Locally

When you buy from a local farm, transportation and packaging costs are nearly eliminated, and those savings are passed directly on to you. One of the cheapest ways to buy locally is to participate in Community Supported Agriculture or CSA. Many, such as Farm Fresh To You and Full Circle Farm offer the convenience of delivery straight to your home and office. This saves you trips to the grocery store where you are often tempted to indulge in impulse buys. Also, having a box of produce on hand makes meal planning easier. When I peer into the box and see a pile of peppers, I suddenly think fajitas. Having fresh ingredients on hand and a meal idea will make you less likely to pick up fast food or carryout, both budget breakers. Furthermore, local produce is always much fresher. This means that when you buy local, you throw less produce away from spoilage.

Eat Less Meat

Meat is probably your single most expensive line item. But I often find myself overusing meat simply because I don’t have enough vegetables on hand. When you have a large box of CSA vegetables sitting on your counter that you have to figure out how to use, a basic beef stir-fry can be utterly transformed. Think crispy peppers, fresh carrots, finely chopped broccoli, and just a tad of tasty beef. This adds variety, flavor, and interest to a meal that could otherwise get boring. The same thing goes for a meal like shish-ca-bobs. Instead of having one piece of meat for every vegetable, you can stuff the skewers with onions, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, anything really. But this only works when you have lots of vegetables on hand.

Clean Eating Made Easy


Correctly prioritize Your Grocery List

Buy your healthy produce first and then spend whatever money’s left on soda, chips, and ice cream. This way, your limited budget becomes a tool that turns you into a healthy eater rather than an obstacle to right eating. Signing up for a regular produce delivery from a CSA ensures that you follow through on your good intentions to put nutrition first. You may be afraid that this strategy will leave you feeling deprived. But keep in mind that often when we crave junk food, we do so out of a nutritional deficiency. For instance, when you are low on vitamin C, your body may send out a signal for you to eat some fruit. But you misinterpret the message as saying you should eat anything sweet and grab a cookie. Fruits and veggies are full of nutrients and fiber that leave us feeling content. In contrast, the snack foods are engineered to make us crave more. “Bet you can’t eat just one,” is perhaps the most honest ad campaign ever. But when we prioritize eating healthy produce, our tastes change and we soon wonder what we saw in those Lays.

Go Homemade

Using frozen meals and other convenience foods adds significantly to the cost of eating at home. But why do we end up buying them so often? It’s easy to fall into the mindset that making meals from scratch means endless hours in the kitchen. The truth is, a little bit of planning can go a long way. Take dried beans for instance. They are significantly cheaper than canned beans and can be popped in a pressure cooker for 35 minutes, no soaking. Other options are to soak overnight and then simmer in the crockpot or stove top. All those methods take mere minutes of actual work time. For dinner, I often accompany my black beans with a tasty array of whatever fresh toppings are available: diced heirloom tomatoes, avocados, cilantro, peppers, finely chopped lettuce.  Frozen chicken breasts can be dumped into the crock pot with a jar of salsa as you head out the door for a busy day. When you arrive home, steam some CSA vegetables for 5 minutes and you are well on your way to healthy, homemade, and organic.

Stock up on Bulk Items

Buying a bulk bag of premium rice such as Basmati is significantly cheaper per pound than buying a small bag of bland rice. But when we are having to make frequent trips to the grocery store to get fresh produce, we find ourselves also grabbing small packages of staples. However, when the produce starts becoming delivered to us, we have the option to completely rethink the way we do shopping. We can move to larger trips only every other week, or maybe even monthly. This new way of viewing grocery shopping encourages us to stock up on staples and save money in the long run.

Eating organic, healthy food on a budget is probably not an idea that comes naturally for most people. But with a little effort, and some help from your local farmer, it’s possible for it to become a way of life for just about anyone.

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