I often encounter people who say that they can't afford organic foods. This is certainly an understandable view considering the state of the economy and the high cost of food. However, I strongly feel that we can't afford NOT to go organic. There's no doubt that organically grown foods are healthier for people and the planet than conventional foods, and they taste better to boot! They can also be surprisingly affordable. I'd like to offer some simple suggestions for incorporating organic foods into our budgets, but first, a conversation about what's perceived as "affordable" is, in my opinion, even more important than offering suggestions on how to save money.
It's really about priorities. We often think we can't afford something, but if that something is important enough to us we find a way to make it work, don't we? I had a friend who used a $300 Coach wallet and often stated that she couldn't afford organic food because she had a family to feed. She found a way to pay for that $300 wallet because it was something that she wanted. I see this scenario all the time. We ALL spend money on things that we don't actually need. I have plenty of earrings that I don't need myself! Taking a good, hard look at our priorities is a good start to balancing our budgets.
Our health should be our number one priority. I always say that it's important to think of going organic as an investment in our own long term health, and also in the health of the plant. Are we really willing to pay LESS for something that's been sprayed with deadly neurotoxins and hormone disruptors countless times? Genetically Modified Foods, irradiated produce, artificially dyed fruits and vegetables; that's conventional food in a nutshell. Unbelievable! We're so disconnected form our food sources that most of us don't even know how or where our food is produced, what was sprayed on or injected into it, who touched it, how long ago it grew, and so on.... That's scary! We must love ourselves and care for the environment more than that or we're seriously doomed. We deserve better. Our kids and grand kids deserve better. This is so far beyond an issue of simple affordability, but once we start to care, economics can take care of the rest.
Economic principles tell us that the more produce and the more we buy something, the more affordable it becomes as prices go down due to more volume sold. If we continue to believe that organics aren't affordable and steer clear of them, the less we'll see of organics! The market is controlled by us, the consumers. Our dollar is our vote, and that's a fact. If we continue to buy organics, they'll become mainstream and we'll all be better off in the long run.
Below are a few suggestions to help us start eating more organic foods affordably so that we can create positive change in the food system for our health and the health of our children and their children....
1) Many big name grocery stores now offer their own store brands of organic foods that are more affordable than name brand organics and are often comparable in price to name brand non-organic foods (Nature's Promise, 365, and Full Circle brands, for example).
2) Farmer's Markets are great places for local foods and are very, very affordable compared to grocery stores. Much of the stuff is seasonal but there are winter markets around, too! You can easily make friends with farmers to learn their methods of producing. Many aren't certified organic simply because they don't want to spend the large sum on certification, but still use organic/sustainable farming methods and are usually amazing stewards of the land. Plus there's the added bonus of buying LOCAL foods.
3) Joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a great way to get organic and local foods as well, and is surprisingly affordable! One pays a sum of money to a local farm, and in return gets a portion of the farmer's yeild, usually in a weekly delivery. Again, getting to know the farmer is important, and creating a CSA relationship helps keep local farmers in business and keeps healthy foods on your table. www.LocalHarvest.org is a great resource for finding CSAs and Farmer's Markets.
4) Growing your own food is easier than you might think! Start a garden, grow in containers on a sunny porch, or go for the easiest method - bag gardening! For those who are unfamiliar with bag gardening, all you need is a couple bags of garden soil at a couple bucks each, and six packs of vegetable plants for not much more than that. All supplies (and free advice) are available at your local farm, garden center, or home improvement store. Simply lay the bags down in a sunny spot, slice holes in the top, and plant the veggie plants right into the holes in the bag, according the the planting instructions that came with the veggie plants. Voilà, instant garden! Bags can stay put and be reused year after year as long as you supplement with a little organic fertilizer and/or compost.
Here's to our health!!!