“It’s great you eat organically, I’d love to as well but it’s way too expensive”
Ok, I’ll let you in on a little secret….. we’re not high income earners.
The truth is I’m a stay at home Mum of two children and my husband runs his own business. We clear about 63,000pa. In fact when we looked it up, accounting for children, we are in the bottom 25% of Australians when it comes to our combined salary.
We’re just your average lower middle class family, yet we still eat a predominately organic diet.
How we do it?
Eating cheaply and organically is a little bit of work. You have to be willing to do your research and give up a few of your standard meal plans to make them fit in with cheaper organic alternatives.
I won’t lie, most of the time it still works out slightly more expensive than conventional produce, but never twice the price(which is what you would expect to pay in your average nicely fitted organic store). Plus I have, at times, had it work out cheaper…and that’s when it starts to get really exciting!
So lets start the year off with some basics, beating the system and learning how to eat organic produce on a budget!
Rule #1 Shun Boutique organic stores
You’ve just walked into to your local organic store to buy some groceries. You love this place! it’s cute and everything’s nicely displayed. It’s got that cool, semi hipster feel and the staff just know sooo much about maqui!….
Boutique organic stores will suck your money out of you faster than a pokie machine does to a chronic gambler. With $8 capsicums and their vast arrays of nicely branded super foods, you’ll be leaving that store with nothing more than a small box of obscure powders, and a very hungry tummy for the rest of the week.
I like to do a fortnightly shop at our closest cheap bulk organic store. It’s 40mins away from us and is a warehouse full of big vats of brand less nuts, flours, and dried fruit. There is not much staff, half opened boxes everywhere and it takes a really long time to find anything – this is where you want to be.
Our bulk organic store is where I buy all our dry goods, organic butter and sometimes meat. If you don’t have one locally there are some good online bulk stores, just remember you’ll be paying for postage.
Another good way to buy cheap dry goods is through your local organic vegetable co op if you are lucky enough to have one. which bring us to our next rule.
Rule #2 Join a vegetable co op!
If you don’t know if your area has an organic co-op ask your local organic store(even if it is boutique:)
Organic vegetable co ops basically work like this: You’ll be able to purchase a weekly or fortnightly vegetable box at a reasonable price in exchange for working for the co op. This work could be weekly, fortnightly or monthly depending on the coop. Most likely you’ll be asked to go in and pack veges for a few hours at a particular time. If you can’t go in and help out, you can’t join the co op. Your stuck with $8 capsicums.
but have no fear!
Usually people the people who run the coops are generally pretty nice, they believe in organic produce and want you to eat it too. If you can’t physically go in and pack vegetables ask if you can help out in other areas. You may be able to help with the roster, or accounts? When i had a newborn and a two year old I was able to do the ordering for my co op until it was easier for me to do a more physical task.
A word of caution
Get used to eating seasonally. Most co ops don’t let you choose what gets put into your box. One person orders for the whole group, choosing the cheapest organic produce that is available. I personally struggled with this at the start. My advice is to not make a meal plan until you’ve gotten your vegetable box, and just learn to become more creative with your meals.
Rule #3 Eat what’s in your fridge
Yes, all of it. You may think you do, but how many wilting half dead vegetables languish in the bottom of your crisper because you’re not in the mood to eat them? When your eating organically there is no room for waste.
Try to learn to eat things because your hungry, not because that’s what you feel like. It does take a bit of practise but I promise you, take the emotion out of eating and you’ll eat a more healthy well rounded diet. Another pay off is coming up with some beautiful dishes that you may would never have previously thought of!
A great way to get used to eating everything in your fridge/pantry is to only plan for five meals instead of seven. The other two nights become “creation meals” where you forage through your kitchen trying to create meals.
Rule #4 Grow a garden
This is our vegetable garden a few weeks after planting.
This vegetable garden is our first and has so far produced a net worth of $80 of vegetables in three months. This is taking into account our start up cost of $200 with which we had to buy seeds, soil, netting, extra compost, bamboo poles, soil, lucern and wood chips.
In theory now that we are better at composting, have most of the equipment and our garden is established we should see a greater yield of vegetables and more of a return.
Even though we did only gain a net worth of $80 of vegetables in three months we still had a surplus this summer, and we certainly noticed the difference to our grocery bill.
We’ve been taking our extra vegetable down to our local cafe Pachamama, which we’ve been able to exchange for coffee and meals.
You could also ferment, freeze or swap with friends any extra fruits or vegetables you may have.
Oh did I mention….. we are also absolutely hopeless gardeners?
I’m not kidding, we let our whole crop of cucumbers rot because we thought they were butternut pumpkins. We thought pineapples came from trees and mustard was chemically synthesised. If we can grow vegetables with a surplus, it’s pretty safe to say anyone can!
We used the food for wealth system which you can find out about here. The basic premise is planting your garden densely and randomly. This naturally retains the moisture in the soil and helps to keep out unwanted pests.
Short on space?
There are some really clever option for people with small or no backyards. Even if you plant a few herbs it’ll still save you on groceries.
Here’s a few links to get you inspired
Rule #5 Eat parts of the animal other people don’t want
Liver, chicken drumsticks, animal carcasses, fat offcuts – these are all parts of the animal that are ridiculously cheap to buy organically. They are also nutritionally dense!
Make bone broth from the animal carcasses, render your own fat to make organic tallow or lard to fry with, or make your own organic chicken liver pate. Eating the parts of the animal that take longer to prepare, or other people don’t want means you can eat some delicious organic meat at a very affordable price.
We also buy organic grass fed mince from Aldi. 1kg is $14. We bulk it up with vegetables and it lasts two dinners with some left overs for lunches.
Rule #6 Buy a deep freezer
This is one rule we haven’t implemented yet, but I do think it will be a big saver.
When you own a deep freezer you can really take buying bulk to the next level and buy extra big in bulk
Order a whole animal from your nearest organic wholesaler and ask them to cut it up for you. You won’t have to buy meat for a year and will save massively.
Rule #6 Beware of the dirty dozen
Ok so this is not going to make your shopping any less expensive but it will make your choices easier when it comes to buying organic fruit and vegetables.
For those of you that haven’t heard of it, the dirty dozen is a list of twelve fruits and vegetable which contain the highest amounts of pesticide residue. If you can’t afford to buy %100 organic at least buy these organically.
The dirty dozen
- Cherry tomato
(I added a few more because there seems to be a slight variance between what makes it onto the dirty dozen list).
On the other end of the pesticide scale is the clean fifteen. These and the fruits and vegetables that contain the least amount of pesticides. It’s not so much of a big deal if you buy these conventionally.
The clean fifteen
- Kiwi fruit
- Sweet potato
What if you are in a co op and are unable to choose your produce?
Bring it up with whoever runs the co op and let them know about the dirty dozen (if they already don’t know). Suggest whoever orders start with ordering from the dirty dozen list, that way you’re not forced into buying produce which may have one of the highest residues of pesticides.
The most important thing to remember about buying organically
The choices you make are important!
By choosing organic you are supporting producers that farm in an ecologically sound and sustainable way. As consumers we the drive change we’d like to see in these industries, if we buy more organic fair trade food, more companies and farmers will produce it.
I hoped you got some food miles out of my post this week. Is there anything I missed?
How do you save money on organic food?