I have a few confessions to make. Firstly I haven’t always held the opinion that organic food was tastier. Secondly I was hesitant to buy organic food given the cost (especially when comparing the cost of organic vs non organic kale and avocados). As long as I was eating a good amount of fruits and vegetables, I thought what’s the big deal if it is organic or not.
Over time I heard and read bits and pieces about organic food, particularly around how organic food is grown but also how the soil and crops and tended to, which has a significant impact on the quality, taste and nutritional value of the food.
Here are some basics I picked up about organic farming:
+ Farmers see it as integral to the quality of the food to replenish and maintain soil fertility
+ Organic farming eliminates the use of toxic and persistent chemical pesticides and fertilizers
+ Restoring, maintaining, and enhancing ecological harmony is core
+ Farming aims to build and support biologically diverse agriculture
The penny dropped when I moved to Singapore from Sydney, Australia. One of the first things I noticed was how far some of the fruits and vegetables had travelled. China, Malaysia, Australia, Philippines. My head started spinning. Surely food traveling miles across the world is losing its freshness and therefore nutritional value? I learned this was in fact correct. Food milage matters. If you’re pulling an ‘I’m unsure face, Sarah’ go and eat a strawberry picked straight from the farm, or apples bought by the side of the road. The taste is truly magical, the closer the ingredients are sourced from their home.
I leaned into eating organic food. Even if it was still traveling to Singapore from neighbouring countries (the climate in Singapore sadly limits the variety of fruit and vegetables able to be grown), I made the decision that I would prioritise the nutrient value by eating organic food.
I believe that eating food which is as close to having grown it yourself, in your own backyard, is worth all the money in the world.
But for many buying organic food just isn’t affordable. And I hear you! There are times where I just simply can’t afford to splash out on that organic celery or bunch of kale. During these times I have been making a mental note of my most practical and affordable ways to eat organic food on a budget.
6 ways to eat organic food on a budget:
1. The Clean Fifteen and the Dirty Dozen. This is a lifesaver. Sometimes I might not be able to find an organic vegetable or fruit or might be feeling a little financial strain. Insert these lists. I recommend you save the images below to your phone to help you weigh up organic vs non organic options when shopping.
2. Buy in bulk. I love it when vegetables are on special especially cherry tomatoes and sweet potatoes. I buy them in bulk and spend part of my weekend doing some of the following:
+ Par-cook vegetables by steaming them until they are 3/4 cooked. Pop them into containers and freeze them, ready for quick re-cooking during the week (saving time on weeknights is my middle name!).
+ Make a big soup, stew or curry with a lot of vegetables and freeze these for fast weeknight meals.
+ My personal favourite is to steam sweet potatoes and make a puree. I use then add this to a pancake mix to make sweet potato pancakes or stir a few tablespoons through a porridge made with quinoa, wholegrain or steel cut oats. In this recipe here simply substitute the carrots with 2-3 heaped tablespoons of sweet potato puree.
3. Get more ‘bang for your buck’ by reducing waste. I am slowly exploring the concept of reducing waste by using whatever I can of the food I buy. For example using broccoli stalks and encouraging my partner to use the chicken carcass to make a stock, rather than throwing it out. It’s an ongoing intention of mine to reduce and re-use waste.
+ When buying a chicken use the bones to make a stock. Often buying a whole chicken is cheaper than buying smaller amounts of pre cut meat. Most butchers will cut the chicken for you. The same applies to fish. Try to buy a whole fish and freeze portions rather than purchase individual fillets.
+ Use broccoli stems for broths or as cruidetes to dip into hummus or even nut butter. They are delicious steamed and then pureed into pasta sauces, pesto sauces etc. I personally love adding broccoli to my green smoothies!
+ We are all victims of having a few leftover herbs laying around. If you find you have a bunch on its way out put the herbs into an ice cube tray with some stock, water or olive oil and freeze. When needed you can readily add these to green smoothies, stews, curries, a pasta sauce or soup. Endless options.
+ Whatever you don’t use, get into the habit of doing a ‘sunday stock take’. Put the ‘almost on the way out’ food into the freezer so you can extend it that little bit further.
4. Buy online. I stock up on a lot of my pantry staples through online stores. My favourite site is iherb. From cashew butter to organic beauty products, iherb has it all, and the price difference saves me a considerbale amount of money. My workplace places a quarterly iherb purchase. This not only saves on postage cost but is a great way to get talking about new products to buy and try.
5. Visit the freezer section. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often great choices because they have been picked and frozen in a relatively short amount of time, which maximises the nutrients and freshness. You will often find some great specials in the freezer section of your supermarket. An added bonus is that the fruits and vegetables are already cut up and washed, which for many people is a time saver and therefore a great way for them to include more vegetables and more often with their meals.
6. Find a farmers market and grab a friend. Most people associate a farmers market with eye wateringly high prices. This is certainly not the case. You can grab some incredibly good specials going towards the later end of the day and it does pay to buddy up with a local grocer. They will advise you where the food has been grown, how it was grown and what is seasonal. I also encourage you to find a local organic store where pulses, whole grains, nuts and seeds etc are sold in a ‘help yourself’ fashion. Often the prices are lower than supermarkets and markets because the food is not pre-packaged. So grab a bag or better yet, bring your own container and start searching for one of these stores.
Have you got any more ideas about how to eat organic food on a budget? We would love you to share your comments below.
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