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Old 01-13-2008, 05:37 PM   #8
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Post Re: Eating organic/All natural on a budget?

I could write a book on this topic. Believe me, I know how difficult it can be to live on a budget & eat 100% organic & I'll go even further and say LOCAL. Why local? It's because by purchasing an eating food that has been trucked into your area, you are not only paying for the food but you are also paying for the petroleum fuel that got it there. I was reading about this topic in an amazing book called "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver. There is a section where there is a little side bar about how in the past families spent on average, 40% of their income on food & now it has dwindled down to roughly 10%. I can't help wonder if that is why we are seeing so much illness & cancer. It clearly has to be environmental if you ask me. Enough of that soap box.

Here are 5 tips on how we keep a family of FIVE organically well fed 100% of the time on a single not for profit teacher salary.

Tip #1:
First, log onto (maybe com) & locate the farmers markets & farms close to your home. Aside from buying our staples from the co-op once a month (suggestion two), we buy absolutely everything from the farmers market. Once you develop a relationship with the farmers & vendors, you will get better & better deals on local organic food that is in season & tastes great! This supports the farmer since there is no middle man so they can sell to you more cheaply. I've even been able to trade some services or items with farmers for food. Be friendly & creative. It goes a long way. I leave most farmer tables with double the food at half the price as the average person.

(One of the reasons I don't shop at TJ's is because the food is mostly not local or in season, sometimes shipped across the country or further. If it is already processed (cleaned, cut, etc.) or not in season & therefore shipped, you ultimately pay for this. They are also getting more and more into volume and less & less into quality. They don't necessarily care about farmers or their workers. They are only interested in the bottom line. (Their organic tomatoes look terrible as well. I want organic but I also want ripe and flavorful.)

Tip #2:
Locate & join a natural food buying coop or club (Costco does not count). If there is not a natural foods coop in your area, I can guarantee you that there is a food buying coop of families looking to save $$$ on natural foods too. Natural food distributors have warehouses in each region of the US & deliver to the doorsteps of natural food stores & food buying homes. I have arranged my life to visit my local co op (40 miles away) to buy all of my staples monthly.

Tip #3:
When shopping at your local coop or food buying club, purchase NOTHING in packages. Buy bulk food ONLY & paper products (bulk sizes). Since you will be buying things that are likely not local to your area & therefore paying for the product & the fuel to get it to you, avoid the processed stuff. The more processing, the more packaging. The more packaging, the more cost. It is so liberating to walk down the bulk food section with my own bags, bottles, & containers in hand to purchase oil, honey, soap, pasta, nut butters, rice, beans, granola, etc. I don't get charged for packaging since I supplied it and only get charged for product whose costs are reduced since we all own the co op together. Look through your pantry & find your families favorite foods & snacks. Then do a little online investigation to find out how to make them & make them yourself. My kids have become expert cookie, cake, corn bread & cinnamon roll makers.

Tip #4:
Plant a garden & raise some chickens. I know this can seem out there at first but believe me it can be fun! I have a black thumb but am still successful growing the few things I can't get regularly at the market or are super easy fast growers. Anyone, & I mean anyone can grow garlic & potatoes even in pots or tires. This year I planted 42 bulbs of garlic. There is a great book called the "Suburban Gardener". This guy makes it easy. I also like the book "The Container Garden". (PM me for author names if you need them.) If you grow your own "cut & come again" winter greens & salad greens in a few half wine barrels, you always have the makings for a meal that will grow back quickly. I have the kids help me water & cut herbs or greens from the garden. They've grown to like it. Now the chickens, I know how unrealistic this can seem especially in an urban area but believe me it is possible & LEGAL. Most cities have ordinances that allow each household to keep 2 to 6 chickens per household in an urban area as long as there are no roosters (****-a-doodle-do) & are 30 feet from your neighbors. Do the math, approx. one egg per chicken per day. The eggs are yummy with tall golden yolks & cheap. Feed them your kitchen scraps & recycle your waste. Check out the following books & websites for urban chicken keeping. "The Urban Flock" or "Keeping Chickens" or (I think.) Eggs keep my family in organic protein all year long. I get eggs from farmers at the market if I don't have enough from home.

Tip #5:
Only eat at at home & eat everything before it goes bad. This takes menu planning mama. After I go to my local farmers market on Thursday with my set budget cash in hand, I sit down & meal plan around all of the fresh fruits & veggies I just picked up. Fresh & local means tasty so I don't have to do much to dress this stuff up. I love Jamie Oliver's "Family Dinners" cookbook & Alice Waters' "The Art of Simple Foods". I also like the "Unplugged Kitchen" & any of the "Moosewood" cookbooks. I take some of their basic recipes & make substitutions for what I have on hand. I also make double twice a week so that I have a frozen "fast food" dinner ready in case I'm too tired or need to tend to something other than cooking. Since fish & cheese are available at my local market & I can get fresh organic chicken from a local farm, I add that into our menu periodically sparingly due to cost. I make sure that we get 2 ounces of protein per day ("Healthy at One Hundred" by John Robbin's suggestion) in the form of eggs, nuts, fish, chicken, legumes, etc. Eating the organic meat & fish sparingly cuts down on costs as well. Freeze leftovers for quick meals which we call "fast food". Don't let anything go bad. Leftovers are lunch material that just need some dressing up!

Stay firm in your commitment to eating organic. Remember that the "country way" of making everything is cheaper than the "city way" of trucking and fast food. Eating organic & local makes healthy bodies & families, supports local farmers & agriculture., and heals the planet. It also instills value and consciousness in your children about food, where it comes from, how it grows & who makes it. Those are wonderful life lessons.

I can go on and on. I'm so passionate about this issue. Just pm me if you want more suggestions or recipes.

All right, I guess Iím not done. My dh read the above and liked it but asked why I didn't write anything about the FREE FOOD. So here it goes,

FREE FOOD DOES GROW ON TREES, well sometimes bushes too.

Here are the remaining five ways to eat ALL organic on a budget.

Tip #6:
Locate your local organic or pesticide free farms. Many farms don't go through the process of organic certification since it is so expensive. The only way to know that they aren't using spray, is to visit which is what got us started using this tip. Most farms offer one day a month for families to visit & help on the farm. We've gotten to know many farmers & have been invited to visit when it works for us. What do you get in exchange for a short days work on the farm (which the kids LOVE)? You guessed it free food. You may have to pay a little for the "high dollar in season stuff" like oyster mushrooms, but make it a point to go into the rows which they consider "out of season". It's like that with the tomatoes in our area right now. Farmers don't want to waste precious labor to have harvesters work in rows where MOSTLY everything has been harvested or is at the end of its season. Send your children down the aisles for bushels of end of season tomatoes or strawberries & leave with enough food to get you through next season. Freeze or can your harvest. Canning or making freezer jam is pretty easy & doesn't require much equipment.

Tip #7:
Search the internet, phone book, & talk to the co op manager to locate organic / natural food manufacturers in your area. Once you find them, drop by or call them up to see if they open themselves to the public to sell "day olds" or "seconds". Seconds means that they weren't shaped perfectly or the package printing was defective. It's too labor intensive for them to repackage these kinds of things so they sell them at rock bottom prices, give them away, or THROW them away. We have a local organic bakery in our area that we visit weekly or biweekly. We sometimes buy their day olds or have offered to deliver the excess to the local shelters housing fire victims or food banks. For my extra efforts, the owner lets me take as many $5 (value) loaves of organic bread as I want, for my household. I freeze many of these and make our fast favorites like egg-in-the-hole or fast broiled garlic toast regularly. Aside from this bread, I only make cornbread once a week. Free, wholesome, inexpensive, eats!

Tip #8:
Find another mama to swap dinners or potluck with. Anytime we go to a potluck I bring trays of my quick broiled garlic bread or braised cut & come again greens. Inexpensive & easy for me and then I get to enjoy everyone else's organic cuisine. My parents come over quite a bit or often call around dinner time (much to dh's dismay especially when he sees them leave with a skillet half full of fresh corn bread). I like to feed them too since there is always plenty (if not too much) & it's not good to be stingy with the food. We used to dinner swap with another mama that moved and she just loved my split lentils (one of my least expensive meals).

Tip #9:
Two words: edible landscape. Dh and I decided that since we spend time & $$$ watering and maintaining plants we ought to get something from them besides beautiful foliage. We are now working to replace older, water thirsty yard plants with edible plants and add edibles to our home as house plants. This is more than kitchen herbs (which I also highly recommend, to flavor all of that fresh, local, & in season food, which graces your table). Another mama turned me onto Raintree Nursery. Log onto and order a catalog TODAY. They offer bushes, tree, hedges, dwarf fruiting trees and ornamentals that will grow in every zone in the US & many indoors. There are some exotics that produce interesting fruits & berries that we've grown to love. There are some little Chilean guava which, we plan to install as a hedge and I already make use of the cactus apples for jam. Have fun with this! Tea grows well as a house plant and a few freshly cut logs can become an oyster or shiitake mushroom plantation.

Tip #10:
Don't just take stock, make stock. I used to buy several of those Pacific Organic Veggie or Organic Free Range Chicken Stock. True, they are convenient but they are expensive & once you make your own, you will see just how tasteless they really are. Don't compost or throw away those broccoli trunks, greens stems, beet tops, wilting celery or potatoes. Take all of your veggies that are too tough to eat or on the edge & simmer them overnight with a halved onion, three cloves of garlic, some peppercorns & some good quality spring water. The pepper corns, water, onion and garlic are your only cost. Once your stock has simmered, remove all of the veggies and compost them. I freeze small containers of this stock for pasta, soups, etc. You can do the same thing with any turkey or chicken carcass you have. Just throw it in the pot with the veggies overnight. We have just now finally gotten through all of the stock made from our Thanksgiving Heritage Turkey. It was a perfect remedy for those winter colds & the turkey noodle soup (cooked with some organic egg noodles & fresh carrots, celery, & onions) was just what the doctor ordered & inexpensive to boot.

WHY EAT ORGANIC 100% of the time?

Let's start with you. It just makes sense to avoid eating man made chemicals and fertilizers. The organic farmer easily spends more time in the fields working by hand which I think also adds more "love" to the food grown. Is this thought "out there"? I don't think so. My mom is a trained chef. She often says that every chefs know that food needs to be cooked with L O V E and presented beautifully. Ask any chefs you know if this is true. It naturally follows that food should be grown with love as well. So if it's healthy and full of love that should make your body healthy right? I think that's true but that's not all. And remember not all organic is the same. I don't think mass quantity organic monoculture is very love filled and you can taste it. See the reference to "Traitor Joe's" tomatoes above.

By supporting local organic & pesticide free agriculture, you support farmers that are committed to maintaining the quality & diversity of their land by avoiding known & potentially hazardous toxins & monocultures that deplete the local soils & leech into the local water. Remember DDT? It used to be legal & widely used. We don't use it here anymore, so now we just ship it off to third world countries for them to use. I hate to think of all of the traveling farm workers that are exposed to chemicals & harmful particulate matter just so that we can have "cheap" food. There is always a cost. We just have to decide who pays it. I actually think that eating 100% organic being incredibly expensive is a myth perpetuated by the mainstream consciousness to keep America's agribusiness flourishing with Monsanto leading the way. Believe it or not, many of those so called organic packaged foods that are currently available are made by the same mainstream food manufacturers whose products you can find in your local grocery store or Walmart. This is why we often see organic standards being challenged by the "agriculture industrial food complex". For more information about this topic see, "The Future of Food" documentary or visit (i think). You may also want to join and the www.truefoodnetwork.

Lastly, consider the planet and agriculture worldwide. By choosing to eat local & organic 100% of the time; you help to ensure biodiversity, help to create healthy local economics, create community by your participation at farm days and markets, & you educate the next generation of the fact that their only sure vote in our world is with their actions & their dollars. This in turn also assures that we are not adding to the pollution of the earth & its waters.

Mamas, I hope that you will be inspired by our year long journey to find a way to eat local & organic on a budget. I've made a career of it. My family & I have made a pact not to eat anything we can't buy locally, grow, or make on our own for one year (except for free trade coffee for hf, some spices & ft coco). I sincerely hope that you will visit www.animalvegetablemiracle to read about others who do this even better than I. But with all of this said (and I know it's alot!), the proof is really in the pudding (organic of course), wouldn't you say? Here is what we spend a month for three boys, my dh, my parents a few times a week, & guests twice monthly, & more importantly me a nursing mom.....(drum roll please) $425 per month maybe $455 if you count the fish taco I get weekly at the farmers market (hold the gmo chips please) & lunch at the co op for dh, a son, & me when shopping monthly. Remember this includes paper goods, spring water, vitamins & a back up package of g diaper inserts. We are nowhere near what we hope to cut back to spending next year.

In closing, a borrowed line from Barbara Kingsolver, "by choosing to eat local & organic, we stick it to the man (whoever that is)". Although after seeing the Future of Food, I think you will agree that it's Monsanto. PM me if you can't get a copy of the video. I may have one you can borrow.

Gotta go cook! I hope to post some of our inexpensive organic eats later on during the week. Please send me yours as well.
Binkydl - Mom to Davey (11), and Micah 2 yrs old

See my preschool program for children 0-4
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