Ways to Save when Eating Organic

By Tasha Zander

As people become more health conscious and aware of where and how their food is produced, they are looking for ways to incorporate more organic foods into their diet. Most major national and regional grocery store chains see this, and are building up their offerings of organic foods, hoping to appeal to every type of customer looking to improve their health.
Why Organic Food is More Costly
People naturally presume foods that are grown organically – or without chemical insecticides or pesticides, should cost less because the growers don’t have to spend as much money on chemical fertilizers and other substances. The fact that organic growers don’t buy these things, however, means people have to do some of the things growers purchase the chemicals to do.
On organic farms, weeding is done by hand, and pest control is either done by hand, by using biological ingredients, or by planting companion plants that repel predatory insects. Instead of using chemical fertilizers, organic farmers typically add compost to their growing areas, or plant winter covers that can be tilled under as green manure. They may also use other natural substances or remedies to protect their crops.
Look to Local Growers and CSA Programs for Savings
Local Harvest is an excellent resource that compiles the names, phone numbers, addresses, and sometimes websites of local farms or suppliers that sell things to the public. You can find everything from grocery stores to restaurants, wholesalers to meat processors, farmers markets, and growers who sell things through CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs. CSA groups generally offer different types of packages to suit the needs of different people.
When you join a CSA, you pay a fee to get a box of produce at specified intervals throughout the year or growing season. Depending on the size of the farm, you may be able to get seasonal produce for the entire year. CSA boxes vary in pricing, depending on the number of people you need to feed. Sometimes neighbors or family members decide to share a CSA membership to split the box so that more people can benefit from the excellent organic produce, and to lower the cost for everyone.
Check Out Your Local Farmers’ Market
When you go to your local farmer’s market, make a point of asking vendors whether they are organic growers. Understand that the requirements for organic certification in many states are very stringent, and the time it takes to go through the certification process and cost of inspection and certification may be prohibitive for smaller scale farmers.
Just because a vendor doesn’t have organic certification, that doesn’t mean that they don’t use organic or sustainable methods. You may find those who say they are organic growers, but don’t have the certification, charge less than the growers who are certified. Once you become familiar with the vendors and see the quality of their produce, you may feel okay about buying from growers who aren’t certified, simply because you trust them.
Growing Your Own Vegetables
You don’t have to have a huge yard to be able to grow your own vegetables. You can even grow organic vegetables and fruits on a balcony or patio in containers. Some cities and towns have “community garden” spaces where people who want to have a garden can pay a yearly fee to rent a space. Check your city’s website for links to community resources.
If you decide to plant your own garden, start the planning well in advance. Begin composting as soon as you can. Even if you don’t have a place where you can set up a compost heap, there are other ways you can compost in considerably less space. Make a diagram of the growing area, or how you intend to set up your pots or containers.
Create different lists – one for the things you really like, another for the vegetables you buy most often, and another for the vegetables you’d really like to have but don’t typically buy because of the expense. These lists will help you decide what to plant.
Avoid anything that takes up too much space, or things that are always available and not expensive to buy. If you have adequate space where you can store surplus, consider growing extra tomatoes and other vegetables for canning and freezing.
Getting a great value on organic produce can certainly be achieved, and you’ll likely learn some new things and meet some new people in the process. Cheers to a happy and healthy new year!