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Organic Lifestyle the Thrifty Way
by Patricia Ross
Editor's Note from Susan Lutz: Organic or not, we all need to watch our budgets. Every organic shopper knows it can get pretty expensive keeping up with an organic lifestyle. Patricia Ross gives some basic tips on how to keep more change in our pocket in the short run so the long run benefit of living organic can take hold.
Organic food can get expensive. There, I've said it. Can, get expensive, if, you're the type who likes everything gourmet, or who doesn't really want to have to do a lot of preparatory work in the kitchen.
There are some assumptions that are made right from the beginning if you are seeking a way to save money and still buy organic food. The first, is that you have a limited amount of money for your food budget. The second is that you are an informed consumer and have done a good deal of investigating and reading to come to the realistic conclusion that there actually is a difference between regular and organic foods. Third, you are committed to making the change work. And the last is that you understand you are going to have to do some preparation and planning for meals.
If you are looking for the box that says easy-breezy pour me in a pan and eat me, maybe organic on a budget isn't going to be for you. Don't get me wrong, you can find food like that, even organic and natural food like that, some of it quite good in fact, but you are not going to want to eat it all the time, and you are not going to be able to afford to eat it on a budget.
You do have to make some sacrifices if this is what you want for your health and welfare, possibly that of your family as well. In the long-run however, you are going to be saving money (on medications, doctors and hospitals at first, and yes, even food before you know it), you will be sending a clear message to food providers and growers that you will not accept less than the highest quality food for you or your family, you will be supporting a vital process in preserving what is left of the Planet's fragile environment and eco-system, and you are going to feel and be 100% healthier; which may quite easily be the best reason of all.
The first step to going organic, is getting informed. There is simply no other way to approach this, because even some of the items that say they are organic or natural, are made by companies that do not use natural or organic ingredients. There are resources for this all over the web, but for your packaged foods, simply start reading labels and paying attention to what you are buying. It takes 30 seconds to scan a label, and if it takes longer than that, you're not holding food in your hand and you'll want to put down the package and walk away. Seriously.
The labeled food you buy should not have more than 5 or 6 ingredients in it. They need to all be ingredients that you recognize as having been alive at some point, and you do not want there to be any preservatives or chemicals listed.
All of your grains, that means pasta, rice, corn, soy, bulgar, quinoa, anything that is a grain must be organic. The pesticides that are used in growing traditional crops are nothing compared to the pesticides that are used once they get to the warehouse. Additionally, with a few of these items, corn and soy in particular, you really need to be careful because they are mostly coming from GMO (genetically modified organism) crops, and they, are, in, everything. Right now, organics are regulated so that GM crops are not acceptable if the product is labeled organic.
Saving money on grains and legumes is fairly simple if you can find an organic online merchant who will sell to you in bulk, or even some larger markets now have bulk areas where you can purchase organic grains very inexpensively.
Fresh food can be a bit trickier, because even locally grown produce can be exposed to significant pesticide use. Eventually you'll want to locate as many local farmers markets as you can and start getting used to not getting all your food in one place. An alternative to doing this however, is to join a local farm-share or co-op. These are great money saving opportunities for you, and great for the farmers because they have a steady customer base. You pay a set amount for a period of time, and receive a box of food on a schedule. You have to take what you get, but it's organic, fresh, and very inexpensive.
You are also going to need to break out your cookbooks and try some new things. My kids were all excited about eating Ratatouille after seeing the movie, until they learned it was all vegetables. They tried it however, and with some nice homemade biscuits or garlic bread, the meal was an instant hit that they ask for all the time now.
These are country dishes that were created by families who didn't have a lot to live on. In most cases, they lived on that year's harvest. They knew what they were doing when it came to eating well and staying healthy. Take some of their advice and tailor it to your own life.
I know this might not be easy for lots of people, believe me, I feel your pain, but you'll get so used to this that eventually you'll start to look forward to going to the farmer's market, and chatting with the people who are growing your food. Imagine? Having an actual conversation with someone who has grown you something to eat. May be a life-changing experience yes?
If you have to shop for your produce at the market, and in the winter you'll have to, buy only those items that are on the Dirty Dozen list as organics and get everything else either locally grown if you can, or if not, as close as possible with the least amount of pesticides from a conventional farmer.
Start small, replace a few items a week with organics, and only those that are paramount like the 12 fruits and veggies that are laden with pesticides, meat (if you eat it, and if you do, do so sparingly), and your grains. See if your market has a day old organic produce area. You'd be amazed at the bargains you can find here, and you can freeze all kinds of veggies. I learned how to can and we make our own pickles, jar carrots, green beans, and of course, tomatoes and jams.
Learn the art of eating less, interact with and chew your food slowly, savor every bite, and drink water with every meal. Eat apples if you're hungry between meals, or even better, carrots. These are the things that have to change. If you are happy and okay with it, getting your family on board may not be as tough. And if you work together, it will happen, and they won't miss anything because they'll be eating better, and you'll be trying all kinds of new things together.
When I'm at the end of my budget, I will get really creative and bake my own bread, english muffins or bagels, make my own pasta, and some of the most wonderful soups come from whatever is left in the fridge. Now that my family has been exposed to all of this, they don't want to go back to the way we used to eat. We are all involved in meal preparation, we are all involved in working out what we can make with what we have, and let's face it, a great soup and homemade bread from the oven will make just about anyone happy.
This article was originally posted on EzineArticles.com.
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About the Author
Patricia Ross is the creator of Organic Product Reviews, an online information portal for organic products and the companies that produce and distribute them. She lives in New England with her fiance, three children, and Felix the cat.