The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Organic on a Budget

We all know that organic foods costs more. Sometimes a little bit, sometimes two and even three times more! We also know the benefits are myriad and bountiful. But how do you budget it?

If you eat like most Americans, a shift away from some popular bad habits can have you eating organic without increasing your weekly budget--you might even show a savings!

1. Don't throw it out! Between 30-50% of all food goes into the garbage can. Being smart about freezing foods before they spoil is the main thing you have to do here to manage waste. And don't put it on your plate unless you're gonna eat it. Right off the bat, you can reduce your food budget by at least 30% just with this one change.

2. Buy basic foods. Bread, cheese, guacamole and salad dressing are the most heavily processed items I buy. My grocery cart is filled with items such as eggs, potatoes, onions, carrots, apples. The real money pit is the prepared foods. I cook simple but delicious recipes that don't take much longer than it would to heat up a microwave-meal or make a short trip to a fast food joint. Also, a dash of spices or olive oil is usually enough to dress up a dish. Sauces and marinades can be extremely expensive and double the cost of your meal. The food items themsleves can be rather cheap.

3. Avoid restaurants. You almost have to do this if you want to eat organically, anyway. I'm not against going out as a social event, but a lot of people eat at restaurants just because they mismanage their time and resources--late for work, too tired to cook, fridge is empty, etc. Being prepared, having ready-made meals of your own in the freezer helps (such as the leftovers from Item #1 above), things you can grab on the way out the door or heat up quick. It can also be fast and easy to cook up a nice dinner, you just need to keep some items on hand and a knowledge of a few recipes. Also: Keep snack foods such as granola or nuts in the car.

4. Buy in bulk. There is (what's left of) a 1/2 cow in my freezer. It lasts for a year. At bulk prices, this much organic, pasture-raised meat costs about the same as if you bought non-organics piece-by-piece at the grocery store. Other good bulk items: Dry beans, rice, barely, oatmeal, flour and whole sugar.

5. Grow your own garden. A single tomato plant averages around $2-4 around here. You could easily pay that much for a single package of tomatoes. In contrast, you could get between 20-40 pounds of tomatoes from each tomato plant. Some vegetables and fruits are difficult to grow in an organic format, but tomatoes grow very well with minimal supervision.

6. Watch out for sales. I can often find organic foods at conventional prices when they are just past the point of ripeness and the store wants to get rid of them quick. Good quality stuff at reasonable prices that way.

It does take effort. It does take foresight and preparation. And the most difficult part: It takes going against the grain of contemporary society. But with a little bit of practice, its not that hard at all and the payoffs are immense. I eat organic, gourmet meals every day spending about the same amount as the jokers eating fast food.



    Have you tried making your own guacamole? It's fairly simple. Easier than hash browns, to be sure!

  2. That's disturbing about the organic milk! Although I was under the impression that most commercial milk was ultra-pasteurized anyway, so I would never think that oganic was more pasteurized than that.

    My favorite milk is non-homogenized and pasteurized at low temps. It does NOT have a long shelf life at all. You also have to shake it before each use.

    I'm definitely in favor of low-temperature pasteurization.

  3. on guac...

    so you basically mash up some raw avacado (insides, not the shell), add in some minced onions, hot peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, salt and pepper.... lime or lemon juice... then cover tightly so it doesn't turn color.

    Is that it?