Go Organic on a Shoe String

One of the biggest obstacles for most families trying to go organic is finding a way to go organic on a shoestring budget.  Recently, I have gotten a lot of questions about how to do it without breaking the bank.  Here are my Top 10 Tips for making organic work for you.

1.       Make a Game Plan.

If you are new to the organic foods scene, make a plan to gradually transform your shopping, cooking, and eating habits.  I always recommend when you start out to focus on transforming your dirty dozen purchases to organic purchases.  If you are a milk drinker that’s an equally good place to begin!

2.       D.I.Y.

Do It Yourself!  While it may take a bit more planning to execute, try to stay away from ready-made items.  This is true on your organic aisle just like non-organic options.  You pay for the convenient package and the already sauced frozen veggies.  One of the most surprising places I found this was with oatmeal.  The difference per serving on my organic oatmeal in the instant vs. the regular oats equates to almost 14 cents per serving.  The difference in prep time: 6 minutes;  I’ll keep my 14 cents thank you!

3.       Shop Locally.

Shopping locally is getting easier and easier.  Green Markets are sprouting up everywhere.  If you have local farms, find out when their crops come in and head out to the farm for some delicious veggies.  U-Pick farms are my favorite!  It’s fun and cost-saving.

4.       Shop in Season.

This is a big shift for a lot of us who became reliant on the processed food world.  We learned about them in school; and, yes;  there are, in fact, different seasons that produce different crops.   Familiarize yourself with what is in season.  The crops will be more plentiful and thus less expensive during their peak season.  (Especially if you are buying locally.)

5.       Buy in Bulk and Shop with Buddies.

If you are heading out to the farm, buy in bulk at peak season.  Why not make a day of it out with your friends and family?  If you bundle your order, you might just see even steeper savings.  With your dried grains, nuts, and minimally processed organic food options (i.e. cereals, puffs, and the like), buy in bulk online. Online retailers now offer a wide selection of organics (usually more selection than in stores) and often have specials that offer bulk purchase discounts and free shipping.  Stock up!  One of my favorites is Amazon.com's Organics

6.       Your freezer is your friend!
Plan to use your freezer to keep fresh food items available to you longer.  You could do this a couple of ways.   Make your own TV dinners; cook some favorite seasonal soup, casseroles, and other dishes to freeze.  Another great and easy option is to simply seal and freeze your produce until you are ready to cook with it.  Regardless of how you go about it, freeze the fresh foods you intend to eat later quickly.  Fresh-frozen is best.  Also, your freezer aisle at the grocery store can offer significant savings depending on the season with fresh frozen organic veggies and fruits straight from the farm.

7.       Hunt for Coupons!

Organic coupons do exist!  One of the best ways to find them is to head to your favorite organic brand websites and request coupons directly from the company.  Also, you can use organic couponing websites.  One that I love is http://www.mambosprouts.com/.

8.       Waste Not!

When you are buying fresh, local produce, one of the harshest realities can be food spoilage.  So be sure to eat, cook, or store your produce as quickly as possible.  It’s best to have a plan for what you are going to do with the produce before you bring it home.  It’s a good idea to set aside time to prep and manage your food as you bring it in to your house.

9.       Legume Me.
Legumes of various varieties are a great and affordable source of protein.  Nothing beats a farm-fresh bean for my money; but I find dried and frozen to be a wonderful resource as well.  Dried beans have earned an important place in my pantry beside my organic grains and pastas.  They have a reasonably long shelf life and are easy to cook with.  Frozen legumes are also a good pick from my perspective because they are minimally processed and also keep well.  Fresh, dried, and frozen legumes provide nearly the same nutritional content.  A brief word of caution:  Be sure to read your labels if you are purchasing canned legumes.  Typically, canned items have higher sodium and some interesting ingredients included as preservatives.  As an allergy mom, I’m always on the look-out for those hidden ingredients!

10.   Grow Your Own Garden.
Okay, you knew it would have to be on the list!  Growing your own seasonal vegetables and fruits isn’t as challenging as it seems.  I’m not talking about converting your entire yard to an edible masterpiece that houses every ingredient an Iron Chef would require.  (At least, not right away.)   Start small.  Whether you have vast acreage or live in a studio apartment, a container garden is a great place to begin!  Yes, there is an expense upfront and some maintenance costs; but a small productive garden can yield great results and significant savings, not to mention a fertile learning ground for you and your little ones.

Above all else, be honest and patient with yourself.  Going organic is a lifestyle shift.  It will take time and commitment.  While I firmly believe it’s not as hard as it is often portrayed to be, it is a change.  Believe me, it is a change you can manage!!

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The Wasting Nothing Philosophy

Playing, cooking, reading, exploring, loving, laughing, and making a mess with your little one is NEVER a waste of time! It is priority one! It's not just about getting to know your little one. It's about letting your little one get to know you!