We’ve given you a few tips on how to stretch your food dollars (see Shop Sustainable – Money). This week, we’ll help you determine which local sustainable and/or organic foods you can incorporate into your food budget.
There’s no doubt about it – organic and sustainable food is often more expensive than , industrially raised and overly processed foods. And you are on a budget, so what can you do?
First, look at what you’re eating and consider cutting out some of the non-nutritious items you spend money on. No one is saying to cut out everything, but if you’re drinking soda, try tap water. Or try tap water in place of every other can of pop. You could also try cutting out meat one day a week, or be daring and go for two meatless days a week! Meat is usually the most expensive item you buy in the supermarket. Good food advocate Michael Pollan is now extolling the virtues of our sister program Meatless Monday, where you can find recipes for healthy, delicious and inexpensive meatless meals, along with information about the many benefits of reducing meat in your diet. Check out and download their Meatless Monday Recipe booklet.
Now that you’ve looked at your eating habits to see if you can cut back on some expensive items like meat, let’s look at shopping. You’ve decided you want to eat as much local, sustainable and/or organic food as you can, but you simply can’t afford it. We gave many suggestions in our previous post, but some other things you can do include:
Shop in season.
- I know I’ve mentioned this several times, but food is cheaper when it’s in season, so it’s a good thing to remember.
- The less food is processed, the more nutritious it is and it’s usually less expensive, unless you’re buying overly processed, really non-nutritious stuff. That kind of food might cost less, but it rarely has any significant nutritional value. In general, shop on the perimeter of the store, where you’ll find fruits, vegetables, and whole foods.
- This is a big one. Even I don’t eat 100 percent sustainable/organic all the time. I try to when cooking at home, but I still go out to restaurants that don’t serve sustainable or organic food. And when eating at home, I refuse to pay 6 dollars for 4.4 ounces of blueberries, so I usually go without until they come back into season. It can be hard if you really want the food, but it makes you enjoy it that much more when it’s finally available again in season and at a reasonable price!
Another choice you can make is with the fruits and vegetables you buy. I looked over three shoppers’ guides to pesticides on fruits and vegetables (Environmental Working Group – EWG, the Organic Center – OC and the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the Museum of Natural History – CfB) to find the best and worst choices you can make. The results:
Most Pesticides – buy these organic/sustainable if you can, because they tend to have the highest level of pesticide residues.
Broccoli (imported)* (OC)