8 Tips: how Real People on Real Budgets Can Afford Real Food. ~ Robyn O’Brien

Via elephant journal
on Jul 22, 2010
get elephant's newsletter

The Expenses of Eating

In a world in which we are constantly concerned about the health of our families, the stability of our jobs, paying the mortgage, and life’s responsibilities…the simple act of trying to eat healthy often becomes a challenge. Even for the savviest of eaters.

Not to mention that if your family is anything like mine, then you’ve most likely got some picky eaters, limited time and a limited budget with which to pull all of this off in a world of soaring food prices.

So here are a few tips for those Elephant Journal readers who want to buy organic food but don’t want to pay the high price:

> Go Orgo-Generic: Major grocery store chains like Safeway and Kroger, and big box food retailers like Costco and even Wal-Mart, now carry their own organic foods.  And all foods labeled “USDA organic” are created equal, no matter where you find them. No need to upscale your grocery store when Wal-Mart gets it done.

> Buy Frozen: Frozen foods (like strawberries and fish) are cheaper than those that are delivered fresh. So if the prices on fresh produce are eye-popping, cruise on over to the frozen food aisle for a discount.

> Eat with the Season: Retrain your taste buds to think like your grandmother did.  She didn’t eat strawberries in the middle of winter.  Locally grown foods are usually cheaper than those flown in from another hemisphere so if you eat with the season, you’ll be eating more affordably.

> Skip the Box, Embrace the Bulk: Food that comes in boxes costs more because of the packaging costs associated with designing those pretty pictures!  When you buy in bulk, you’re not paying for all of the packaging, you’re paying for the food which is what you want anyway! So slide on over to that bulk food aisle in Safeway and look for noodles, cereals, rice and beans in your local grocery store.

> Support the US economy and Buy Local: You can save money by becoming a member of a local farm (just like you became a member at Safeway or Costco!).  How do you find a local farm, you ask?  Well, thankfully, the USDA now has a list of online sites to help you find the closest farm near you, so click here to log onto the USDA site.

> Comparison Shop: You wouldn’t buy a car without comparison shopping, so before you even head out the door, you can compare the prices of organic foods at different retailers from the safety of your own computer at with the Eat Well Guide.

> My Plate: This page contains everything from technical understanding of My Plate, a historical comparison of past USDA recommended programs including the Food Pyramid, commentary and analysis of the programs, and we believe is the best starting point on the internet for research in this area.

> Grow One Thing: If you’re as busy as me, there’s not a chance in creation you’re going to be able to feed your family off of your home-grown harvest—but you may very well find that growing a tomato plant is not only easy, but incredibly inspiring. It’s not as intimidating as it seems. So pick one thing to grow—you can do it (we all grew lima beans in cups as kids, right?).

> Find a Friend: It is way more fun when you share this adventure with someone else. Be sure to find a friend, share this link and get back to us with your success stories (or any ideas we may have missed!).

Good luck!

Robyn O’Brien is the founder and director of the Allergy Kids Foundation, an organization whose mission is to restore the health of American children, especially the 1 in 3 American children with allergies, autism, ADHD and asthma, by protecting them from toxins now found in the food supply and environment.  Robyn also serves on the board of the Environmental Working Group, as an advisor to Hot Moms Club, and works as a contributing editor to SHAPE magazine, Martha Stewart’s Whole Living, the Huffington Post and other media.  She has been named by SHAPE Magazine as one of 2009’s “Women To Shape the World”, along with Michelle Obama, and has been called “food’s Erin Brockovich” by the New York Times.  Robyn was recently named by Forbes magazine as one of “20 Inspiring Women to Follow on Twitter” and by the Discovery Channel as one of 15 Visionaries. She earned a Fulbright Fellowship, an MBA on a full scholarship and served as an equity analyst before founding the Allergy Kids Foundation.  She was raised in Texas and now lives in Colorado with her husband and four children.

Her first book, published by Random House (May 2009) The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It highlights the role that chemicals in our food supply are having on our health.

Her work has been recognized by Ted Turner, Bonnie Raitt, Dr. Oz, Erin Brockovich, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and others as seen here.


About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive.


10 Responses to “8 Tips: how Real People on Real Budgets Can Afford Real Food. ~ Robyn O’Brien”

  1. Love this! One question: "soaring food prices"? Sounds like an assumption. I read recently that the average US family now spends the lowest percentage of our budget on food than at any time in US history—by a mile. Something like 8 or 12%. Would seem like a good deal to grow or buy more wholesome food with fewer side effects, long-term—the health care for which can be awfully expensive.

  2. Keith says:

    Its a sad fact that now I am trying to follow a natural diet, most of the road side farm shops that i used to drive past and ignore have now disappeared. Pushed out by the very supermarkets that supply all our toxins no doubt. A great post and a big thank you from the UK.

  3. Katie says:

    Useful article – actually practical advice. @Keith, yes, it's a sad fact that those same big stores that offer lower prices by buying in bulk have lead to the destruction of the individual farm and put in its place the factory farm. So there is some trade-off, for those wanting to buy organic. If you support the big box stores, chances are you are not supporting the small farms. Sad but true.

  4. […] will be announced by Robyn O’Brien at the Awards Ceremony at Vermilion on January 16th. Prizes include: 1st Place: $500.00 & […]

  5. As I web-site possessor I believe the content material here is rattling excellent , appreciate it for your efforts. You should keep it up forever! Good Luck.

  6. […] Robyn O’Brien, mother and founder of the AllergyKids Foundation shares her story on why she wants the FDA to label genetically engineered foods. […]

  7. […] Takeaway: let’s remember organic isn’t fancy. It’s simple, as God/Mother Nature and farmers intended food to be. We can shop in the bulk section (bring our own containers) and garden or get CSAs to save money. […]

  8. Ann says:

    Gotta disagree on buying organic from some of the bigger grocery chains. Safeway, for instance, has their "O" organics line, but contributed a huge amount of money to defeat the GMO labeling movement this past year in California. Sorry, but keep it real and buy from companies that you KNOW are doing the right thing!

  9. Cyndi says:

    With a tight budget I feel good that I shop almost all organic with minimal processed foods. I found this chart while going through the Ramsey seminar and find it on target. There are four tiers and we can do whole organic eating right close to at the 2nd lowest tier. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/USDAFoodCost-Home.htm

  10. Cyndi says:

    PS. It does take planning and scratch cooking.