How can I push my family to eat organic when money is tight?

Eating organically is all about making smart choices.  Organic produce typically carries a higher price tag, but there are definitely ways to source less expensive organic produce.  Here are some tips to help you fulfill your desire to eat organic without spending a fortune:

  1. Grow your own.  When it comes to fresh produce, the most inexpensive way to eat organically is to grow your own food.  Gardening is a fun family activity—just ask any HealthBarn kid!— and it’s the surest way to know how your food was grown.
  2. Prioritize which organics to buy by following the Dirty Dozen list

    Shop local and seasonal.  It may be unrealistic to grow all of your own produce, so you’ll want to supplement that by shopping at grocery stores and farmers’ markets. One trick to paying less at the checkout is to shop for organic produce when it’s in season in your region.  It’s more likely to be locally farmed, which means fewer transportation costs, which ultimately means you pay less!  Not to mention, the food will be fresher.

  3. Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Typically to join a CSA, you buy a share at a local organic farm before the season begins, which helps the farmer with the upfront costs of seeds, labor, etc.  Every week you pick up your share of the harvest (or there is a designated drop-off).  You can check with the CSA organizer to find out what crops will be grown, but keep in mind you take home whatever’s in season at that moment, so you may end up with a variety of produce, or you may end up with a lot of radishes one week!  It’s a great way to reduce your organic produce bill, explore seasonal produce, and help out your local farmers.
  4. Prioritize.  You can also streamline your organic produce purchases by buying only the top sprayed items from the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen list, and buying non-organic when fewer pesticides are used.  Since berries are heavily sprayed, you may want to consider frozen organic berries, which are less expensive but still nutrient packed.
  5. Look for deals on meat. Organic, humanely-raised meats can be expensive too, but many store brands such as Stop n’ Shop’s Nature’s Promise offers natural selections at affordable prices.  Plus, Wal-Mart, BJs and Costco’s carry more organic meats and other branded items in bulk at wholesale prices.  Fish should be wild and if it’s organic than it means it’s farmed-raised which is not the best choice.

Hopefully these tips will help you find a happy balance in shopping for organic foods.  But, don’t stress about it.  It’s still better to eat an apple whether it’s organic or not than choosing processed snacks for you and your family.  It may take some strategizing, but eating organically and money-consciously can definitely be done.

– Stacey Antine, MS, RD, author, Appetite for Life, founder, HealthBarn USA, co-host, Family Food Expert Internet Radio Show, and recognized as top 10 dietitians nationally by Today’s Dietitian magazine for her work with HealthBarn USA

What puzzles you about keeping your family healthy?  Tell us what’s on your mind by emailing [email protected].  Stacey will answer those questions here weekly.

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