If you’re like me, you believe that health is our most precious asset. Those of us who have suffered through serious illnesses can attest to the fact that there is nothing more important than your health. It doesn’t matter what you have: you can’t buy, trade, talk, or negotiate yourself out of illness, disease, and overall poor health. You’re the only YOU you’ve got, and if you want to maintain the best quality of life, you’ve got to take care of yourself – body, mind, and spirit.
But, as I’m sure you’ve noticed…food is getting very expensive! If you buy quality, chances are you’re spending a lot more at the grocery store than you did a couple of years ago. When you’re committed to buying organic, healthy, nutritious food, your grocery bills soar even higher.
So what do you do, especially if you’re on a budget? Here are five tips to help you navigate through the crowded and often confusing food marketplace:
1. Buy farm direct. If you live rurally, you’re in great shape. Many farmers sell directly to the public at significantly reduced prices. You can get farm fresh, cage free eggs from local hens as well as many different types of produce (depending upon where you live and the time of the year, of course). Dairy is also great to source locally, and if you’re fortunate enough to live in a state that allows raw milk, go for it. I was delighted on a recent visit to Utah to find an ample—and local—supply of this highly nutritious food at a local health-focused market and deli. You may even be able to source your meats locally. On another recent trip, this one to the Hawaiian island of Kauai, I was excited to see local fishermen selling their fresh daily catch all around the island.
If you live in a city, find your local farmers market. Chances are your city has many. Local Harvest has a great tool for locating farmers markets in your area.
2. If you have Trader Joe’s markets in your area, give them a shot. Trader Joe’s offers GMO free foods, many of which are organic, with a focus on healthy, natural foods. That’s not to say that every one of their offerings is a pure health food, but they certainly are a cut above the average grocery store. And you may not know this, but their prices are lower than national chains for comparable items. When I lived in southern California, my local Trader Joe’s posted a receipt from a very large national chain next to a Trader Joe’s receipt. The two receipts contained the same (or equivalent) items. The difference was that Trader Joe’s boasted a price that was more than 30% lower than the national chain! Woohoo!
3. Costco. Yes, I said Costco. Believe it or not, this huge warehouse chain is now carrying a substantial amount of organic food. My local store has even made the organic products easier to identify by using a green plastic sheath around the shelf descriptor/price tag (as opposed to the clear ones they use for non-organic products). You may have to buy in bulk, but you’ll save a bundle. If you don’t have a large household, consider Costco organics for your items with a longer shelf life. For example, I’ve been using their cartons of organic chicken stock for a few months now with great results.
4. Use the web! I just learned about a new online store that offers a truly unique format. It’s called Thrive Market. Thrive offers only GMO free products, many of which are organic. Like Costco, Thrive is a membership based model. But the cool thing is that whenever you buy a membership, Thrive donates another membership to an underprivileged American family. If you are truly committed to organics, the annual fee will pay for itself within the first month, and you can feel good about the fact that you helped another family go organic.
5. Try growing your own food – from organic (preferably heirloom) seeds. While I realize this is a big step for many people, I always suggest starting out with some small pots of herbs in your kitchen or other windowsill. Try herbs that you use often, like rosemary or basil. Herbs are fun and easy to grow! Once you get the hang of it, maybe you’ll try growing a tomato plant in a small pot on your patio or in your living room. If you can produce even a small portion of your own food, you’ll notice the difference in your monthly grocery bill.
If you have other suggestions, please write in and let me know! Or simply comment on this post. We can all use as much help as we can get when it comes to frugal organic shopping!