Here are some tips that I’ve used in the past as a poor uni student trying to buy organic food on a budget. If you’re the kind of person that raids the isles of the supermarket for the cheapest of the cheap, unfortunately you’re going to be hard pressed to find organic food at that price. However, if you tend to preference buying quality food, you should be able to buy quality organic food for a similar price.
1. Buy foods that are in season. This one should be obvious. Seasonal produce is generally far cheaper as it’s grown locally and there’s plenty of it. You also know that the produce you buy hasn't travelled around the world to get to you.
2. Join a community supported agriculture (CSA) initiative or a box scheme. CSA initiatives are fantastic, and they’re popping up everywhere. While CSA’s differ in the detail, they’re about connecting the community with local farmers and cutting out the middleman. I joined a CSA, Beanstalk, while I was at university. I was able to volunteer to save money on my box, I took advantage of the cheap bulk dry goods, and I got to meet like-minded people in my community. It really is a great way to go. If you’re hard-pressed for time, or there isn’t a CSA near you, often you can find a produce company that delivers organic fruit and vegetable boxes to your door. The convenience can often save time and money.
3. Do your homework and hunt out cheaper places. The price of organic food varies dramatically from place to place. I understand that not everyone lives in a zone where they can choose from a multitude of health food stores, but plenty of you do! If this is you, then do your research and find a store with the best value organic produce. It can make a huge difference to the total of your food bill. A favourite of mine in Melbourne is Terra Madre. Many of their products are cheaper than at Coles or Woolies, and the quality is always far superior. The place is constantly bustling, full of other people, I’m sure, who come there for the cheap prices, quality produce, and great selection of goods.
4. Buy the basics, not the ‘superfoods’. Throwing a few packets of superfoods in your basket, such as green powders, goji, and chia can suddenly spike your food bill. Fair enough if you have the money to spend, it’s better than blowing 80 bucks on a night out drinking. If you don’t have the money, shop organic basics and leave the superfoods on the shelves. Buy some pulses, some cheaper grains (eg. Millet, polenta and brown rice), some eggs, some basic (in season) fruit and vegetables and you have the basis for healthy, nourishing meals.
Buying certified organic isn’t always the best option. Certification for farmers can be expensive. There are many farmers that practice organic farming without the certification. Personally, I would be happy to buy pesticide free apples from a local farmer without certification. I would prefer to do this than buy certified organic apples from a shop that have travelled from the other side of the country.
However, Australian organic certification is extremely important. It’s a simple way to tell that the product you’re buying has met certain environmental, social, animal welfare, and health standards. Without this certification you just have to use your own judgement. The further away the product has travelled from, the harder it is to judge its integrity. Yes, it costs more for the certification but sometimes it’s worth paying that bit extra. For those of you that are unsure what you’re actually paying for when you buy certified organic, you can read this article here.
Love Jessie x