With the increasing number of food scares within the past several years, the allure of organic food is irresistible. It claims to be kinder to the environment and animals, as well as being free of pesticides and chemicals. Yet organic food can cost twice as much as its non-organic counterparts, making it difficult for just anyone to afford. And because organic food is preservative-free, they don’t have nearly as long of a shelf life. With all the food labels claiming to be “organic,” it’s difficult to tell which products to trust and which are just using a clever marketing technique.
The term “organic food” refers to products made according to certain standards as set by the European Union. Produce is grown without the use of non-organic pesticides, insecticides and herbicides, and livestock cannot be treated with growth hormones, nor can anything be genetically modified. Without the use of non-organic chemicals, farms won’t release anything synthetic into the environment and can also sustain naturally diverse ecosystems. This causes organic food to be more costly. Luckily, there are a few helpful hints to remember when buying organic without breaking the bank.
1. Shop around. While a supermarket is dependable, health food stores, delis and local farmers’ markets are all great places for organic food. Stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are great and have many options. You can also try Asian food stores in your area as they usually have fresh vegetables at wallet-friendly prices, and you’ll help out the environment and your community.
2. Ask questions. If you’re at a farmer’s market or organic food store, don’t be afraid to ask questions about what you’re purchasing or what’s in season. Becoming educated about produce is the best way to know when and where to buy organic.
3. Buy in bulk and freeze. As long as you have room in your freezer, don’t be afraid to buy organic produce and meat in bulk if they’re at a good price. Whatever you have leftover can be frozen and will still taste as fresh as they did when you bought them.
4. Grow your own. Planting your own produce is a surefire way to stay under budget and be eco-friendly. Small produce like carrots and tomatoes are simple to grow and don’t require a lot of space. I purchased a basil plant, which I only water once a day — and since I can keep it in the house, I never have to worry about insects.
5. Consider generics. Stores like Meijer have their own brand called “Meijer Organics” which are certified organic with great prices.
Remember, have fun with organic foods and recipes and relish in the fact that you’re keeping yourself and the environment clean and healthy.