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November 23, 2014

Eating Local & Organic without Breaking the Bank.

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Six ways to eat well on a budget.

Local. Organic. These two words are big in the food world.

But is it possible to eat local, organic foods on a budget? Yes—but you have to be creative. Spend 10 minutes in the natural foods grocery store and you’ll be tempted to buy a single source chocolate brownie with organic buttercream frosting for the cost of a movie ticket. And surely you can find organic apples for less than $2.79 a pound.

We can eat well and be kind to our bodies and the environment without spending our entire paycheck on two (reusable, of course) bags of groceries. It takes a little more time, effort and local research than simply shopping at a grocery store, but it is possible.

1. Buy direct. CSAs (community supported agriculture), farmers’ markets, trips to the farm: buy directly from the farm. By cutting out the middle man, you’ll save money and know exactly where and how your food is grown.

2. Buyer’s clubs. Consumers join together and place a joint order with a food distributor, usually an organic supplier. The food is delivered and the consumers meet again to break down the order and take their purchases. It’s like a food co-op without a storefront.

3. Food co-ops. Each member makes a yearly financial investment that goes toward store operations and overhead and, in turn, receives a certain discount on their purchases. Co-ops are great place to find local organic food at affordable prices because they are not-for-profit organizations. There is no CEO and no shareholders seeking to make a profit from your grocery purchases, thus making the sale price as low as possible.

4. Public markets. Large cities often have permanent markets that sell anything from produce to cheese to fish. The Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia; the Lexington Market in Baltimore; The Milwaukee Public Market in Milwaukee; and the Pike Place Market in Seattle. Large markets are a great opportunity to buy directly from the farmer or producer without making a commitment to a CSA.

5. Change your eating philosophy. Eating local and organic foods can be expensive if your shopping list remains the same. Local, humanely raised meat and dairy costs more than its industrial counterpart. Consider changing your shopping list. You’ll be able to eat more local and organic food but keep your grocery bill the same. Try committing to Meatless Mondays. Read Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman; two foodies that are omnivores and support simple, easy ways to eat better.

6. Get in the kitchen. Learn how to cook with different grains and different vegetable. Create meals from scratch, from whole foods, with leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch or the next day’s dinner. By cooking for yourself, you can control the salt, sugar and fat content of your food, while at the same time choosing your ingredients and the food’s source. It takes more time, but cooking is a fun, healthy way to wind down at the end of the day.

Committing to eating local, organic food while staying within the parameters of a budget isn’t necessarily easy, but it is possible. With a little effort and planning, you can say goodbye to gray grocery store chicken and sample an heirloom turkey for Thanksgiving.

The earth, the farmers and your health will thank you.

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Author: Kristen Miller 

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Author’s Own

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