How to Eat Organically on Modest Means

Organically grown food tends to cost more than conventional, or chemically grown, food because growing it is more labor intensive, the industry is not subsidized by our government, and because the market will bear it. Is it possible to thrive organically on modest means? Yes it is; you can do your very best by following these steps and by taking a sensible overall approach.


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    Buy food items in their raw, unprocessed form. While there are many processed organic products available on the market, purchasing processed organic products is the most expensive way to buy organic. If you have the financial freedom, go ahead. For everyone else, it is about getting back to basics and buying staple foods in their minimally processed form and turning them into other food through the means of your own cooking, brewing and baking.
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    Cook from scratch. Not only frugal, but healthier for you. Cooking from scratch means that you know exactly what is going into your food and you avoid the unknown additives, preservatives, and origins of mixed foods.
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    Buy in bulk. Items purchased in bulk tend to be less costly than those packaged in smaller amounts with brand names and this is the same for organic produce. While this won't always be the case (for example, when there are specials, so do your sums), on the whole, bulk is cheaper. Research your area to find health food stores, markets, specialty grocery stores and supermarkets that carry bulk organic basics such as beans, legumes, TVP, dried herbs, spices, etc. If they don't carry organic versions in bulk yet, ask them to consider it; the more they know there is a market for something, the greater the likelihood it will appear.
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    Buy in season. Seasonal produce will always be more affordable. With the wonder of the internet now, even if you can't work out what's in season right now, your search engine can do it for you. Moreover, your search engine can find recipes using whatever is in season too. Even if you don't like the offerings, doing a search can inspire you to know where to look in your own cookbooks! Keep in mind that what's in season varies around the country.
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    Shop locally. The benefits of eating food that is grown close include reduced costs, increased freshness and a plentiful supply. If you're lucky, it might also mean a faster shop if you have narrowed down your shopping options to a few key, ideal places near you. For more tips, see How to Save Money at a Farmers' Market.
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    Befriend a gardener or farmer. Knowing someone who is growing food organically can help to reduce the costs, especially where you can set up regular purchases and you do the collecting and perhaps even the harvesting. You might even get produce for free if you barter something in return, such as your services to weed or harvest, or your professional services.
    • If there are any Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in your area, consider joining one. For a fee that varies by location and amount of food, you "subscribe" to the season's harvest, and pick up your portion once a week at the farm or a farmers' market (some CSAs also deliver). These groups are often able to buy other goods in bulk and pass on the savings to members. Most are volunteer-based, with modest perks for helping out with boxing up orders and other tasks, so you get the additional benefit of knowing that 1) you're supporting local agriculture; 2) purchasing the very freshest goods and 3) saving money and the secondary environmental costs of not shipping produce from halfway around the world!
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    Choose the foods that it is advisable to only ever eat organically. There are some foods that are considered so contaminated by pesticides when grown that they should always be eaten in their organic version. If you cannot afford to buy all of your food organically, at least follow this list and mix with (modern) conventionally grown foods to help the budget stretch further. For an idea of the foods to eat organically only, see wikiHow's article on how to choose the most important organic foods. Keep in mind that organic has little to do with what you ingest and very much to do with a sustainable form of agriculture that does not pollute our air, land, and water. Your own reason for eating organically grown food will help you decide what chemically grown food you will and won't allow yourself to eat.
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    Grow your own. There is nothing more satisfying and tasty than growing your own food. It is quite possible to hold down a full-time job and grow a decent veggie garden at the same time - weekend effort will result in brilliant garden produce.


  • Another benefit of buying in bulk is the reduced packaging involved. Less waste means less time spent dealing with disposal and paying for disposal.
  • Cooking is not drudgery; that is what the advertisers of convenience, packaged meals would like you to feel. This marketing induces a sense of deprivation, of "missing out on something cool". What you're missing out on by not cooking yourself is nutrition, an enormous natural flavor range, the therapeutic and artistic benefits of cooking, and the knowledge of what is really in your food. If you start catching yourself putting cooking in the "hated chores" list, think "chef". Chefs love cooking precisely because it is an art form that feeds not only the stomach, but also the soul.

Things You'll Need

  • List of items that must be organic
  • Carry bags or basket to avoid using new plastic bags
  • Internet for research
  • Good cooking equipment

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