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Switching from organics and farm-based foods to conventional food shopping

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
If you've had to, can you talk to me about it? We've finally reached the point where I don't think we can afford to keep buying the things we have been, and I'm having such a hard time with it.

We're lucky to have a local co-op group through which we can buy eggs, chicken, meat, etc. straight from the farmers who raise them, and I'm in a local delivery program for organic/biodynamic fruits and veggies. But it's still SO expensive. I don't buy a lot of convenience foods, we cook at home for almost every meal these days, the kids eat fruit for snacks, and we're still exceeding our $600 monthly food budget.

I think what's hurting us the most is that DH and I eat a lot of protein, and I can't have gluten or a too much of any grain-based food, or my GI issues flare and I feel generally yucky. With trying to eat organic/sustainably, that kind of diet is so expensive.

If you've switched over, how did you manage to change your mindset? Did you feel it was important to continue to buy anything in particular organic or from your local farm, etc.? Were you ever able to shut off that part of your brain that keeps whispering about giving your kids pesticides, etc.?

TIA!
post #2 of 28

I haven't switched entirely, but I am working with a small enough budget that organic and local are not always options for me.  Here are a few things I've done to save money in ways that feel okay to me:

 

1. I do some very serious shopping at my local farm market.  I don't always buy a lot there, but I go at the end of the day, and look for vendors trying to unload excesses of things.  Often you can get amazing deals.  I got a bushel of no-spray pears this year for $5, because the farmer just couldn't sell them and wanted them gone.  I ate them for a long while, and made pear-sauce once they started to go bad.  Things like this happen pretty often, especially at smaller markets.  

 

2. When I can't buy local, I bring a copy of the Environmental Working Group's "dirty dozen" with me to the grocery store.  The things on the dirty dozen list (highest pesticide residues) I make sure to buy organic.  The other stuff I don't worry as much.

 

3. I always buy real eggs from local farmers.  Eggs are such a cheap source of protein anyway, and farm eggs have SUCH a better nutritional profile, that I just can't give this one up.  And again, if you shop around you can find farmers with great deals.  One guy near me just does eggs on the side, and sells them for $2.50 a dozen.  For essentially 4 meals worth of protein, that's a great deal.

 

4. If you're looking for cheaper protein sources, dry beans are amazingly cheap and awesome.  I make them in the crock pot, easy.  Eggs are pretty darn cheap, too.  I find more ways to use dark-meat chicken and generally only get chicken breast for special meals.  Same with beef; roasts and stew cuts are usually much cheaper than steaks.  

 

5. As for the quality of meat, I have given up on organic (too darn expensive), but I always make sure to get antibiotic-free and hormone-free meat.  You can still find this pretty cheap sometimes (often, Amish chicken is cheap and free of these additives).  

 

Anyway, there are some initial thoughts.  I eat a lot of grain, but my usual "use meat more like a flavor enhancer than a main dish" advice doesn't sound appropriate to your situation.  Good luck!  

post #3 of 28

Honestly, the  BIGGEST key for me was ignorance.

 

That's right...I simply quit reading and researching into why conventional foods are so terrible for you. Sure, I know those articles still exist - I know the research is there, but the money (to buy all those spendy goods) isn't - so yeah.

 

After ignoring these things for so long, I'm kind of oblivious. We eat a healthy diet. A lot of fresh produce, fruit, grains, protein - it's just not organic.

post #4 of 28
Thread Starter 

Thanks ScottyG, you reminded me of a few resources that I've always meant to check out and have never gotten a chance to--namely, the Amish market 15 minutes from here! Our farmer's markets aren't much help right now, unfortunately, since most are closed for the winter, and the others are outrageously priced ($5 for a dozen eggs?). I wish I could find a less expensive source for eggs, because we do eat a ton of them, but the cheapest I've seen around here is $3 for a dozen.

 

I'll get the dirty dozen list out again--I haven't looked in quite awhile. I also need to start putting together a list of less expensive meals, I guess. My main problem with legume-based meals is that they generally disagree with me, and no amount of "getting used to them" seems to improve that problem, IYKWIM blush.gif There are actually a few meals that I really miss, like honey baked lentils, but that both DH and I agreed had to be off our menu because of the results (he's in sales and works with people all day).

 

Gah! Anyway, thank you for the advice, I appreciate it. I'm sure I'll start to feel better about it when I see that we don't all promptly keel over from eating grocery store chicken. It's just hard to get past those long-held biases!

post #5 of 28

One trick with legumes is to cook them on very low heat for a long time (hence my crock pot).  I'm a little of a science geek, and the thing is that you want to break down the inulin (non-digestible starch that leads to gas despite being super-healthy) as much as possible.  Soaking overnight, then throwing away the water and rinsing is a help.  And, inulin breaks down over long cooking periods.  So, if you cook the beans slowly all day long, there's much less starch.  Probably not an experiment to do the day before your husband works... but worth a shot.

 

And, honestly, the grocery store chicken is passable.  Not going to kill you.  Every once in a while, I'll admit that I buy clearance meat at the grocery store, the kind that's waaaaay marked down because it's only "good" for a couple more days.  And it's probably got some chemicals in it, but I figure once in a while is not such a big deal, and 99 cents a pound is too good to pass up!

 

Best to you!

-Scott

post #6 of 28
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ScottyG View Post

One trick with legumes is to cook them on very low heat for a long time (hence my crock pot).  I'm a little of a science geek, and the thing is that you want to break down the inulin (non-digestible starch that leads to gas despite being super-healthy) as much as possible.  Soaking overnight, then throwing away the water and rinsing is a help.  And, inulin breaks down over long cooking periods.  So, if you cook the beans slowly all day long, there's much less starch.  Probably not an experiment to do the day before your husband works... but worth a shot.

Oh, this is very helpful, thank you! We've some experience with inulin before as an additive in other things, and boy, what a disaster, LOL! I didn't realize that was the culprit in beans too! I'll definitely try your suggestions.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by beansmama View Post

Honestly, the  BIGGEST key for me was ignorance.

 

That's right...I simply quit reading and researching into why conventional foods are so terrible for you. Sure, I know those articles still exist - I know the research is there, but the money (to buy all those spendy goods) isn't - so yeah.

 

After ignoring these things for so long, I'm kind of oblivious. We eat a healthy diet. A lot of fresh produce, fruit, grains, protein - it's just not organic.



Yeah, I'm figuring that's going to be largely the key here too, since it's this or go back to work, which is simply not an option--at least not for this! To save the house, yes. But not for groceries, unfortunately. Thanks, beansma.

post #7 of 28
Thread Starter 

Well, it looks like my decision just got a bit easier—just got an email that our terrific farm co-op is being dismantled. I can get still get eggs for $3.50 a dozen at our local farm (versus $2.25 through the co-op), but I will miss the grass-fed ground beef terribly. The flavor is absolutely incredible. Maybe I'll stock up during the last shipment and dole it out slowly and carefully for burgers only, and use the cheaper stuff for everything else.

post #8 of 28

Another thing - I know I seem to be the source of pessimism, but I'm just speaking from my own experience -

 

doing "the dirty dozen" didn't work for me. If you really research it the cut off limits for the amount of pesticides is so....okay, let me say this - number 13. The dirty dozen cuts you off at a dozen (duh, lol!) but what about the item that made number 13 - or 14, 15, 16...

 

I think I saw a really detailed list at the environmental working group site - although it's been years since I've looked, and the difference was SO small it just didn't make sense to do it. If I wasn't going to buy numbers 1-12, then why would I buy number 13 on up, when they practically have the same amount of pesticides in them as the first 12?

 

AHHHH!

 

But see, I'm a totally anal retentive nut. Things like that drive me totally crazy, I spend hours and days and months even trying to figure out what I can do to beat the system, and it's exhausting. I don't feel guilty (anymore) for not feeding my family organics. We just flat out cannot afford them. I want to be able to feed my family a varied, fresh and healthful diet - that isn't possible if I was an organics snob (old me!). I want to offer my kids unlimited fresh fruits and veggies, iykwim...not constantly be smacking their hands away from an apple or carrot stick because it cost me big bucks ;P

 

Oh - and the beans - soaking them overnight (in water that was heated to boiling) seems to be the way to go with people who are sensitive to beans. Something about phytates - once again, something I'm choosing not to research into too much because (once again...) I make myself crazy (and my family crazy, for the matter, hehe!). We don't mind a lil' bit o' gas around here :P

post #9 of 28

http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com/

 

I feel food is a very important thing...at least try and get non- GMO I feel it's dangerous.

 

One thing I have done to cut our food budget is to buy "natural" meat with no drugs in it at Bj's in bulk. They have a couple brands that swear to no hormones or antibiotics and veg diets...I buy 2 big pork roasts and cut my own chops from them, I buy the chicken in bulk cheap. I do buy grass-fed beef at WF though...in bulk when I can.

 

everything else I get at WF too. they are cheaper than my local co-ops unfortunately. When I have money some day I will absolutely buy all local farm foods, but right now I can't. I still want to buy at least non-GMO and organic foods. I don't buy any snacks - only home made, everything.

 

no convienience foods period.

 

yeah it's a pain but I feel I have to do that for my family. I buy mostly frozen fruits and vegs too.

post #10 of 28

Bj's has a 5lb bag of organic apples for like $3 too

post #11 of 28
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by beansmama View Post

Another thing - I know I seem to be the source of pessimism, but I'm just speaking from my own experience...

 

But see, I'm a totally anal retentive nut. Things like that drive me totally crazy, I spend hours and days and months even trying to figure out what I can do to beat the system, and it's exhausting. I don't feel guilty (anymore) for not feeding my family organics. We just flat out cannot afford them. I want to be able to feed my family a varied, fresh and healthful diet - that isn't possible if I was an organics snob (old me!). I want to offer my kids unlimited fresh fruits and veggies, iykwim...not constantly be smacking their hands away from an apple or carrot stick because it cost me big bucks ;P

 

Oh - and the beans - soaking them overnight (in water that was heated to boiling) seems to be the way to go with people who are sensitive to beans. Something about phytates - once again, something I'm choosing not to research into too much because (once again...) I make myself crazy (and my family crazy, for the matter, hehe!). We don't mind a lil' bit o' gas around here :P


Yeah, but that's what I need though—the experience of people who've been there, and the thought processes. You sound exactly like me—I'll drive myself insane with the details and the what-ifs and the why-nots.

 

As for the beans, again, thanks. I don't mind if anyone else in the house is feeling gassy, but for me, well, it seems to be much worse, to the point where I feel like I can't even leave the house, LOL! I've been having trouble the last few days and couldn't figure out why. I realized this morning that I had like, three tablespoons of hummus with dinner two nights ago rolleyes.gif

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sosurreal09 View Post

http://www.nongmoshoppingguide.com/

 

I feel food is a very important thing...at least try and get non- GMO I feel it's dangerous.

 

One thing I have done to cut our food budget is to buy "natural" meat with no drugs in it at Bj's in bulk. They have a couple brands that swear to no hormones or antibiotics and veg diets...I buy 2 big pork roasts and cut my own chops from them, I buy the chicken in bulk cheap. I do buy grass-fed beef at WF though...in bulk when I can.

 

everything else I get at WF too. they are cheaper than my local co-ops unfortunately. When I have money some day I will absolutely buy all local farm foods, but right now I can't. I still want to buy at least non-GMO and organic foods. I don't buy any snacks - only home made, everything.

 

no convienience foods period.

 

yeah it's a pain but I feel I have to do that for my family. I buy mostly frozen fruits and vegs too.


Good point about the non-GMO, thank you. We are members at Costco and can get organic, grass fed ground beef there, but it's still $4.25 a pound. I just looked and the organic eggs are only slightly cheaper than our farm's eggs. They do have OK prices on Coleman chicken (whole and parts), and their boneless skinless thighs work for just about everything I make with chicken. Because of our co-op, I haven't looked at the meat prices at WF in such a long time—I guess it's time for me to start comparing there too, and watching for sales!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sosurreal09 View Post

Bj's has a 5lb bag of organic apples for like $3 too



I wish our Costco did organic fruit. I would be so on that!

post #12 of 28
I've had to do much the same over the past few months. I'm going to reassess for the late Spring and Summer when more local produce is available, but for now I make a monthly trip to Wegman's for the grass-fed beef ($5/lb) and I but the Giant/Nature's Promise brand chicken and use that in crockpot recipes w/ rice and beans so it stretches farther. They also have cage-free eggs for $3.50/dozen. While there are some more local places, I don't find it beneficial to drive here and there and expend mental energy trying to piece together the "right" foods on a limited budget other than these two things.

I love the poster who said "ignorance"...precisely. There is so much readily accessible information and it makes it seem like the consequences of less than the best foods are immediate and severe. They're not. Ideals can stay ideals, but the day to day sustainability needs to be there IMO. I haven't given up on this entirely, but for now this is what I'm doing. I'd much have my kids eating a varied diet w/ copious nutritious foods and find ways to work in organic and local when I can and not the other way around. I think the mindset of 'settling' for conventional foods is a tough one to maintain when it's a financial issue.
post #13 of 28

I went through something similar. I had been vegetarian, but then found out my breastfed son's health issues were an allergic reaction to the food I was eating. Turns out, he's allergic to a lot of foods. I had to cut out wheat, dairy, nuts, eggs, seeds, most soy and other legumes, and a lot of potentially cross-contaminated foods, which essentially made it impossible for me to maintain a veg diet. It was so hard and we couldn't afford things like organic humanely raised meats. We couldn't even save some money and buy bulk-grains due to cross-contamination. I definitely went through a mourning period.

 

As previously mentioned, the first step is to push out all those old thoughts about conventional food being poison. You CAN be healthy on a whole food based conventional diet. My son is super-healthy other than his allergies and none of us has been sick for at least 6 months. Whenever those negative thoughts creep into my head, I have to remind myself of things like the fact that my family will be much healthier on this conventional diet with full plates of protein, fruits, and veggies everyday, then if I spent all our monthly grocery money on two week's worth of organic and didn't have enough to eat the rest of the month. It's much healthier to get all your nutrients from conventional foods, then to go hungry and most whole conventional foods aren't really that bad.

post #14 of 28

Does it have to be all or nothing?  Buy some conventional produce and the organic when it is on sale?  That is how I work.  Over the warm months we ate a lot more organic because I have a garden and can usually find good deals at our farmers market.  But over the winter months fresh produce of any kind usually leaves something to be desired.  So I buy organic on sale and then fill in with conventional and whatever  I have frozen or canned myself.  Once in awhile I can find a good deal on organic frozen veggies and I will stock up.  Also can you get a better price from your grass fed beef farm if you buy in bulk?  Once or twice a year we split a large bulk order with 2 other families and get a much better price then if we just bought for ourselves.  We also eat Amish chicken.  I can get that on sale for around $1.25 a pound for bone-in chicken.  Many foods I alternate between organic and conventional.  Just do the best that you can with your budget and don't feel guilty about it.

post #15 of 28

I think there have been a lot of good ideas - I do think that the protein thing is important.  Can you find sources of cheaper protein?  

 

We eat on a budget, organic - here is what helps us.  Price the things you use the most of, and shop for bargains on those.  Esp look at things that are expensive - you can either find them cheaper, or eat less of them.  For eating less meat, try soups, stews, stirfrys- things where the meat is cut into small pieces - it stretches it much further and gives you a good gluten-free option, compared to the idea of a plate with meat, starch, and veggies, or any option that involves a big hunk of meat as the main part of the meal.  Also makes cooking easier and clean-up, too, if you eat leftovers - most any soup or stew gets a lot better the second+ day as the flavors meld - I'm really looking forward to leftover Belgian chicken stew with prunes tonight....and make full use of your meat - when I roast a chicken, we eat roast chick for 2 nights (family of 4), then either sandwiches or a BIG pot of soup with the last pieces of meat.  Clean the carcass well and then use the bones to make stock with carrot parings, ends of celery, and onion peels/ends.  Makes way better, healthier stock than anything you can buy.  Even soup once a week will save lot of $$.

 

What other options are there in your area for cheap organic? - Trader Joes (meat, veg, actually they have organic in most dept's)?  Grocery Outlet (cheese, pantry goods like cereal and crackers, inc gluten free), bulk food from a grocery or coop, or mail order coops like Azure Standard or Frontier (stick to sales stuff, esp)?  

 

For beans - have you tried beano?  Do you cook them yourself, soak over night and dump the soak water for new before cooking (prolly doesn't happen for canned beans/processed foods)?  A piece of dried kombu (seaweed) is also supposed to help.  A bottle of beano is probably about the price of a nice piece of organic meat.  Maybe certain varieties are more tolerable than others?  Worth a try, and beans are so healthy.  Or probiotics?

 

Don't just look at the "dirty dozen" - look at the "cleanest conventionals": this list is best to worst:

 

http://www.foodnews.org/fulllist.php  So onions and avocados are your best bet, as would be eating organic in season, growing some if you can (if you don't have a space, can you trade some labor for a friend's garden space?), pricing fruit, veg etc by the pound (I shoot for as close to $1/pound as I can for organic, if it's more than $2, I think twice and consider it a luxury).

 

What grains can you eat?  Rice, quinoa (also a decent protein), oatmeal?  And what do you eat for breakfast?  Oatmeal with nuts or peanut butter, a chopped apple, and dried fruit is healthy if you can eat it, but if you can't, can your family eat it?  Is your kitchen completely gluten-free, or can you cook some grains (even if not gluten-containing ones) just for them?

 

What are you eating for other meals?  If they are all meat heavy, then yes, it is spendy....

 

I know it's a real pain to cook more meals, but if you can't tolerate grains, bean, etc, couldn't your family?  Could you cook a big batch of something you like and freeze for you, and then eat a different meal, even if just for the main course, and eat the veg etc that they do?

 

Our costco has organic food - frozen veg, butter, milk, some meat - if the one near you doesn't, is there another one within driving distance that does that you can do a stock-up run at?  (we have two near us, one has almost nothing organic, the other has quite a bit).  They'll look it up for you if you call and ask - I got my organic turkey that way for T-day.

 

And here is the very biggest money saver I can give you, if you don't do it already - PLAN A MENU. We write up a menu every week, write up the list based on that, adding stuff for lunches, breakfast and snacks, and stick to it.  Otherwise, you spend a lot of money, and walk out with two bags of food that won't make the dinners you need.  

 

We spend $200/week on gas, groceries, and meals out.  So we probably spend about $150 a week on groceries, including the money from our stock-up budget(for bulk orders, etc - those things messed up our budget too much to fit in the weekly money, as they varied so much - stock-up is $125/month, total).  We do eat about 90-95% organic at home, and my kids are about the same age as yours, and we have lactose intolerance issues in the house, which is also limiting and expensive.  (my 4 is a picky, light eater, too).

 

I think you could eat mostly organic, with some adaptation, esp on the meat front.  I don't work, and spend a lot of time bargain hunting to keep the budget in line.  I will say that gluten-free makes it harder, esp if you buy GF breads, etc - they are super $$$.

 

Please post or PM if you have questions - I do think that you can still eat a chunk organic, with priority given to some items. Sorry it ended up being a book....

 

 

post #16 of 28

Well, I am going the opposite way...  we ate pretty much a standard budget US diet, but after a look at our finances, I felt that we needed to spend a little more on the quality of our food. 

 

I am very much a skeptic of anything that leans too hard to one side and wanted some balance instead of buy organic everything buy processed nothing.  I wasn't going to just start buying our normal grocery list at Whole Foods thinking that it was better just because I spent 3x as much.

 

I think it is important to choose what is important to you and start where you can.  We also eat a fair amount of meat and I enjoy it as a part of our diet. Like the posters above, I try to put my effort into buying quality whole foods and making things myself when possible, relying less on packaged food.  So for me, I choose grass fed/humanely raised milk, humane cage free eggs, we buy beef direct from a farmer, DH hunts for venison.  Recently I started reading ingredient labels on processed food and thinking a bit more about it, choosing a more minimally processed, processed version of what I want.  It also sounds bad, but I spend more money on DS' specific food than I do on some of our things - eg, he gets Annies crackers, but we don't.

 

I really like what the PP said about rather feeding my DS as many carrots as he wants as opposed to being stingy with them just because they're organic.

post #17 of 28
I shop mostly at whole foods and farmers markets. If I am going to buy organic produce I want to make sure that its from a store where the wholes store is certified organic. I also will buy local over organic any day. I also would focus my money on meat (if you eat it) . I spend about $ 100 a week on groceries.which includes a mixture of conventional and organics . google mambo sprouts. I believe you can down load a bunch of different all natural organic coupons. Whole foods also has coupons you can down load from their website...
post #18 of 28

Quote:

Originally Posted by beansmama View Post

doing "the dirty dozen" didn't work for me. If you really research it the cut off limits for the amount of pesticides is so....okay, let me say this - number 13. The dirty dozen cuts you off at a dozen (duh, lol!) but what about the item that made number 13 - or 14, 15, 16...

 

There is an easily-found "complete" list (well, they leave off some more obscure veggies, but it's reasonably complete) available from the Environmental Working Group at http://www.foodnews.org/fulllist.php which is also available as a free iPhone app.  It's got 49 fruits and veggies ranked from most pesticides to least.  I generally have the whole list on my when I shop.  I avoid the "dirty dozen" and feel fine about the "clean 15" and make a judgement call on the stuff in between, depending on how much more expensive the organic is, whether my babies will be eating it or just me, and so on.

post #19 of 28

It's a balancing act. I don't think stress from lack of money or as PPs have noted, limiting the organic carrots are healthy either. Health is a really broad category.

 

I think you have a significant challenge with your dietary restrictions! I agree with the idea of planning and also looking at what you usually eat and really monitoring for sales on those particular things. Making effective use of leftovers is big too, if you aren't already - freezing them, planning them out, whatever. We freeze a lot of produce from our farm share which is organic but cheaper (by quantity anyway) than the organic food box delivery (ours works the same way).  Developing a relationship with a local butcher can help too - I used to shop at one who stocked Mennonite (like Amish kinda) meats and he would sometimes throw in bones for stock or give me a discount if I'd take the last of whatever off his hands.

 

For meat too getting good with the cheaper cuts helps. Pot roast over roast beef or hamburgers, for example. You can use the time-honoured tradition of having smaller bits of meat with more potatoes and sweet potatoes or whatever grains you can use. If you can eat barley I've been using it lately for a kind of risotto that's not bad.

 

For vegetables now that it's winter I really do find frozen - even conventional frozen - are economical. You can wait for sales on them, there's little waste, and since they are usually frozen closer to the source they're really just as nutritious.

post #20 of 28

I am shocked at how much everyone has to pay for meat that is healthy.  WOW.  I guess after this many years of only buying chicken at the grocery store and raising our own meat I've gotten spoiled.  We raise our own pork and beef and raise them clean and very well treated.  We struggle some months with me in school and relying on my dh's income.   I truely feel for folks trying to properly feed their kids while paying their bills.  My hat is off to all of you for making cuts in other places to feed your families healthy food.

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