Cygnet Brown currently lives in the Missouri Ozarks. She loves writing, researching history, and gardening.
Can I Eat Organically on a Budget?
Why Are Organic Foods so Popular?
Organic foods are popular because people are becoming more aware of the benefits of eating food organically. Foods grown organically are raised without chemical herbicides or pesticides and are non-GMO. They are grown using natural methods in ways that recycle wastes and preserve land and water resources.
The Dirty Baker's Dozen
Many of us are not able to buy all organic foods, but we can buy foods that contain fewer herbicides and pesticides and focus on buying organically grown foods from the “dirty dozen.” These foods are the most toxic when grown commercially. The foods on this list change every year, and here is the current list (2019): strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, and a 13—peppers. If you start buying these foods organically, you can greatly reduce your herbicide and pesticide exposure and better support the planet.
In addition to knowing the dirty dozen, in order to keep food costs down, here are a number of foods in which pesticides and herbicides are not ordinarily used or those foods do not readily absorb them. These foods are called clean foods and should be the last foods that you purchase with an organic label if your budget demands that you cut costs in organic food purchases. These foods include avocado, sweet corn, pineapple, sweet peas, onions, papayas, egg plant, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, cauliflower, cantaloupe, broccoli, mushrooms, and honeydew melons. Now that you know which fruits and vegetables that you know are dirty or clean, you can go shopping for what you want to get.
Buy from the Clearance Section of the Grocery Store
Another place that you can cut down on the cost of foods that you want from the grocery store are clearance items. Sometimes organic foods are included among those clearance items. Whether those foods are fresh, canned, boxed, or frozen, you can get organic foods at the same or lower costs of their commercially produced counterparts from these clearance racks. The only problem with this is that clearance items are near the end of their "Use by" dates and might not be at the quality of fresher organic products.
Although not all locally produced foods are organic, many locally produced foods are more naturally grown and fresher than certified organic produce in the grocery store. Plus you can actually go see how your food is grown and you're better able to judge whether how the food is grown is up to the standards you want for your family.
Among the ways to buy food locally are the CSA. A CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. In a CSA, customers pay the farmers at the beginning of the season a percentage (often 50%) at the beginning of the season so that the grower can buy necessary seed and equipment to grow the food. Then during the harvest season, the grower provides boxes of fresh produce harvested that week. Some weeks would be more and other weeks would have less depending on what was produced.
Another place you can go locally is to the farmer’s market. At farmer’s markets, you can pick up all kinds of different fruits, vegetables, honey, and depending on your state, fresh meat, jerky, and some farm produced jams, jellies, canned, and baked goods.
It is possible that even in states that do not allow you to buy fresh meat off the farm for you to purchase organically grown meats. To do this, purchase your animal “on the hoof,” in other words, while it is still alive. The grower will deliver your animal to the meat packer where it is processed and you pick it up there.
In addition, many farms have farm fruit and vegetable stands where you can pick out what you want. Some farm stands are not manned full time and use a form of honor system when you pay.
Another form of on farm sales of fruits and vegetables is the pick your own system. This is common in some areas for fruit producers like orchards or strawberry patches. I have been to several different types of pick your own operations. When I was a child, I picked grapes with my mother and we traded some of the work we did picking for the grapes we took home. I saw on YouTube where a man had an apple orchard where people picked apples at a price. I also have picked strawberries at a pick your own operation.
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Prepare Food From Scratch
Of course, for most of us, fruits vegetables and meat are not the only foods that we eat. We also eat grains. Many of these grains are organic and the good thing about organic grains is that they are certified non-GMO. A lot of these organic grains, along with fruits, vegetables, and meats, are available in ready to eat forms, However, it is far less expensive to purchase the organic ingredients than it is to purchase these finished products. Experiment with recipes that your family enjoys. Learn to use the crockpot effectively to produce food from scratch and you'll not only save, but your meals will be made from fresher ingredients.
In addition, we can begin growing our own organic nutrition.
One of the most nutritional ways to use organic grains and beans is to sprout them. I found that a package of lentils that you would normally cook can be sprouted and put in salads, but many seeds for sprouting exist.
Grow and Juice Your Own Wheat Grass Juice
Another way to use organic grain is to sprout it and use it for wheat grass juice. This increases the nutritional value of the grain and provides chlorophyll thus aiding the immune system.
Grow a Vegetable Garden
If you have any sort of outdoor sunlight at all, try growing at least some lettuces and other greens. Since spinach and kale are both on the dirty list, growing your own makes sense and they can produce in just a few short weeks after planting. If you have difficulty growing spinach or kale during the summer months, experiment by using New Zealand spinach or Swiss chard and other greens that can be used both in cooking and in salads.
If your backyard is too small or you don't have one, consider joining a community garden. In many areas of the country, individuals can rent a lot (also called allotment) and grow their own vegetable gardens. Many of them insist that members of the community use organic methods in their gardens. If growing more of your food is one of your goals, consider this viable option.
Your Options Are Limitless
In addition to gardening in a grow your own situation, you can plant fruit trees, berry bushes, perennial fruits, and vegetables. You can also grow your own small livestock and even large livestock on your quest for healthier organic food.
Cygnet Brown (author) from Springfield, Missouri on October 30, 2019:
I am so happy you found my article useful, Doris James MizBejabbers! I am going to try to update the dirty and clean lists annually.
Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on October 30, 2019:
Cygnet, this is a very useful article. I think I read an article several years ago that put bananas on the clean foods list, so I never buy organic bananas. We grow some of our vegetables, especially tomatoes and peppers, in a raised bed. We live on a half acre that is useless for gardening, so we located the bed on the roof of our underground house. We are on a very steep hillside overlooking the Arkansas River near Little Rock. We've tried fruit trees and berry vines, but only the wild ones seem successful here. Little Rock has a great Farmers Market, and we take advantage of it in season.
You mentioned sprouting lentils. I think I'll try that. I've been sprouting mung beans or alfalfa seeds since the 1970s, but lentils would be less expensive. Thanks for the idea.