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Penny pinching for organic living

Emily Nickles, Page Editor (Photo by Tammi Paul)
Emily Nickles, Page Editor (Photo by Tammi Paul)

Trying to cram all the food you need for a week in a $20 budget can seem like a cruel joke, especially if you want to eat healthy. Learning to look past the term “organic” is vital for saving pennies and fueling your body with the right kinds of foods. Sometimes the product without “all natural” written all over it has just as much value.

According to the Federal Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a natural product, or one that claims to be so, does not exactly mean what we think it does. Scientifically, all foods are natural and organic, but our government says otherwise. In the official Food Marketing Institute Backgrounder documenton the FDA site, information provided states, “…although organic foods are natural by definition, the term ‘natural’ applies broadly to foods that are minimally processed and free of synthetic preservatives… Most foods labeled natural are not subject to government controls beyond the regulations and health codes that apply to all foods.”

So thanks to deceptive advertising, many people are buying “natural” foods under the assumption that they are organic. Looking at the label and ingredient list is important for determining if it will work for your lifestyle. Be wary of advertisements, and do not obsess over the “organic.” 

The best advice out there, often overlooked, is to buy raw vegetables. Cans of mushy green beans may seem cheaper, but the long-term investment in your health may not be so cheap. Part of eating organic means that most likely the price tag may end up being a little larger for a smaller quantity, but the benefits of prevention from disease far outweigh the cost. 

Also, making dinner or lunch from scratch helps to protect the wallet. Instead of buying prepackaged foods, for example a Lunchable for $2.50, purchase a slab of Colby jack cheese, whole grain bread, and lettuce for approximately $7.18 at your local Walmart. The glorious thing about buying the ingredients separately is that they can provide a meal for every day of the week, and mixing ingredients up is easy.

Next, to save money, sometimes you have to pay a little more upfront. Once a month, buy a product you love and use frequently in bulk. Buying in bulk saves up to $1 per pound in some cases. Most grocery stores sell in bulk these days, but a few notable places would be Sam’s Club, Costco and WinCo. Although these stores are not known for their organic selection, a majority of stores have one nowadays. 

Some great places to shop for produce would be at a local Kroger, Tom Thumb, Sprouts or Natural Grocer’s. As I leave you to attempt your own grocery shopping trip, remember to think in three’s: labels, bulk and ingredients. Follow that pattern, and you’ll start saving money in increments, as with everything. Just give it time.

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