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Organic? Cheap? Local? What’s the most important to you?

post #1 of 51
Thread Starter 

Over the years we've slowly developed some eating habits I;d really like to stop and that includes me picking up quick and convenient food items or meals to make more time in my day to get other things done. 

 

I'm trying to make some big changes in my family's eating and also our food budget. Along with that I have to deal with the time factor of making more foods at home, which is a big challenge all by itself.

 

In planning food purchases and meal plans I always get caught up in the organic or local arguments that I can never settle in my own mind and commit to one or the other or some sort of balance of both. And with budgeting that throws another element into the mix since organic is almost always more expensive. So, I'd like to know what everyone thinks regarding organic versus local and how you work the cost of into it when you're on a budget. What works for you and do you find yourself absolutely choosing some things organic over others that are local and vice versa? And how does it all work out on the budget end?

post #2 of 51

First of all, local can be organic without being certified.  

 

This is how I think, when trying to decide.  Please forgive any proselytizing:

 

Recently, when looking for milk options, I chose a non-organic raw milk from grass-fed cows.  The hay they supplement with their diet is from the farm.  So, no grain, no GMO feed, no antibiotics, possibly (probably) some herbicide, but maybe not.  I haven't actually visited the farm.  Same goes for the grass-fed beef we buy.  The grass-fed beef is cheaper than the organic, and tastes better because organic is usually grain-finished and blander tasting.  Grass-fed is usually not finished in a feedlot.  Grain-free is a must, if I choose something not certified organic.  

 

Even national-brand Organic Valley comes from farms quite close to us.  And our closest dairy, which sells to a non-organic co-op, is antibiotic and hormone-free, and its top-notch pastures are maintained organically.  We call it "Happy Cow Farm" because it really is the nicest dairy around.  That complicates my choices!

 

I buy Rosie organic chickens.  The local pastured chickens are phenomenally expensive.  Plus, since chickens cannot be strictly fed on what they can forage, the feed must be organic, if not certified, then in practice.  Hard to find that where I am, so organic it is.  In two years, we will be raising our own birds for meat, so that will solve that.  I can give them exactly the life (and death) I expect others to give them.

 

We have so many organic market farms and CSAs locally.  Veggies must be organic, but not necessarily certified.  You need to know and trust the farmer.  We do our best to grow our own fresh produce at home.

 

There aren't local sources for grain here, so I choose organic unless my local co-ops have information on the farm and their practices.

 

Some "organic" pesticides and fungicides are bad bad bad.  Monoculture, organic or not, is bad bad bad.  Draining all water from farms to kill off any frogs or other wild critters that can possibly carry e coli is bad bad bad.

 

So, local is good.  Local, organic is best and thankfully I don't have to make that choice very often.  Organic, but not local is good, too.  orngtongue.gif  Expense is a distant third, and I am truly thankful for that.  

 

The choices available to me have gotten so much better over the last 2 decades, I can't even begin to list how much better things are.  The fact that we can even have the conversation about choosing organic milk from 500 miles away, or non-organic from 10 miles away is one that might not have been possible just a few years ago.  

post #3 of 51
Talk to farmers at the local farmers market, and you may be able to get organic without certification.

We buy organic, top priority. We buy at a natural food store and buy by the case to get a 20% savings. That helps the budget. Storage can be a proble with this approach. It takes some money to get started, but we generally only need to buy a couple of cases a week, of varying items.

Some things are easy to make from scratch. Pasta sauce is just (for us) tomato paste, broth, herbs and sea salt. On good days chopped and sauted onion and garlic get added, too. A little simmering, and done.

It really depends on your personal reasons for the priorities. We react to various conventional foods, and buying organic across the board makes it easier. Convenience foods no longer have a place in our lives, because of reactions, but I sometimes wish they did.
post #4 of 51
Quote:
What works for you and do you find yourself absolutely choosing some things organic over others that are local and vice versa? And how does it all work out on the budget end?

 

 

all about priorities for us

 

a new outfit vs used and use the difference for GOOD food and that certainly does not always mean local!

 

Local is not always best, the cost often is much higher (in my area) farm markets mean pricy and not better (often sprayed!)- certain things I do only want organic - flour, grains, herbs, dairy, meats......veggies - seasonal-local vs non huge footprint import.

 

I travel over an hour to get dairy vs local that is non organic/sprayed and not the best selection. 

I travel almost an hour for meat vs local farm market that is almost twice the cost and grain fed too! Both dairy and meats we make other stops on the way so it's not just for those items.

 

I deal mostly with farmers that do not do markets and the cost is much better. Simple freeze/can/dry items vs always fresh- long run saving-$$! From scratch vs ready made and or boxed=cheaper. Bulk vs going each week=cheaper.

 

Really it is all about priorities - home made,  organic, know what is in it vs a dinner out or brand new something. Cheaper in the end when all is added together.

 

ETA- we buy what we like to eat, CSA's really don't work for us- we do a meat CSA but we can buy at the level we want and have a large choice, it's not just given to us. A farmer we really like is doing away with his CSA (same complaint I have with them) and going with "shares" this works better for all- cost is for what you want.....there are certain weeks I don't need anything from him and he doesn't grow all that I want, I would rather get what I need and pick it out vs getting things I have no use or desire for- makes it cheaper for us!


Edited by serenbat - 1/15/13 at 11:56am
post #5 of 51
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the great feedback everyone. I guess I need to take a closer look at what local means in my area and what might be organic but not certified. 

 

serenbat " Simple freeze/can/dry items vs always fresh- long run saving-$$! From scratch vs ready made and or boxed=cheaper. Bulk vs going each week=cheaper." 

 

Are you saying its good to opt for frozen/canned/dried items for a good bit of your purchases to save money? Do you choose organic when you do that? If so, are there brands you favor that are worth the cost and taste better than the usual canned stuff?

 

I'm looking at dehydrating too, so that I can make sure I use all of my bulk produce and nothing goes to waste. Anyone dehydrating?

post #6 of 51
Quote:
Are you saying its good to opt for frozen/canned/dried items for a good bit of your purchases to save money? Do you choose organic when you do that? If so, are there brands you favor that are worth the cost and taste better than the usual canned stuff?

I freeze 90+% of our fruits and veggies (when in season)  - I can, (sauces, salsa mostly) I hardly do any canned (commercial foods)- occasion organic coconut milk but that'a really it

 

All the fruits and veggies we eat are organic or non-certified but grown by those I know. Fresh are in season items and stored (potato/sweet potato/squash) and lettuce and mushrooms (I have a winter source as well for these).

 

I dry apples and onions.

post #7 of 51

well local in arabia has a whole different meaning doesnt it redface.gif i would imagine you hardly have anything local. or very few items local.

 

i guess the philosophy is so much different. 

 

i mean i grew up in asia. the concept of not local and organic didnt even exist. because everything was organic and local and one could spot the non organic a mile away and no one would really buy it. tastes terrible. so back in asia we would buy smaller not very good looking veggies. quite different than the veggies here in the states that looks good but tastes terrible. 

 

let me throw in a couple more spanners in the melew.

 

how about activism? i dont eat bananas - they've ruined many an economy. we have enough fruit of our own here to go buy another fruit that we dont even grow here - anywhere in the US. same with quinoa. our demand for quinoa has made bolivians unable to afford to buy their regular grain anymore. 

 

living in california i do local and seasonal.

 

almost no processed.

 

not too much buying in bulk. old beans take longer to cook.  

 

when you are vegan and dont eat soy or gluten or corn (keep as much as GMO crops out) your choices make you really look at eating and what you are eating.

 

i'd love to go organic but we cant afford it. plus we know our farmers so we get organics anyways without paying an arm and leg for it. 

post #8 of 51
I recently bought quinoa to try! Rice has arsenic, quinoa is taking food away from those who used it as a staple. Corn is incomplete, compared to other grains. What grain is left to eat, when having a wheat-free night or diet?
post #9 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by pek64 View Post

I recently bought quinoa to try! Rice has arsenic, quinoa is taking food away from those who used it as a staple. Corn is incomplete, compared to other grains. What grain is left to eat, when having a wheat-free night or diet?


Millet or polenta?

post #10 of 51

white rice (the arsenic is in brown rice - in the hull), buckwheat, barley, millet, amaranth. and the right kind of oats. 

 

sorta kinda amaranth and quinoa are not grains. they are clumped with grains but they are seeds. however i am a little confused about the difference between a seed and a grain. i mean arent grains seeds too. yeah quinoa and amaranth dont belong to the grass family and neither does buckwheat. 

 

btw pek i thought you might find this interesting. are we developing allergies because we are eating something too much? i know quite a few people who dont eat any grains or starches. they can do it a little bit ocassionally - but in general they stay away from grains and starches. 

 

also for myself - just to throw it out there - i am questioning the mixing of food. are we really supposed to eat so much variety. did we have variety in our diet before industrialisation. i mean look at traditional innuits. totally meat and fats diet, hardly any greens at all - maybe for a few months - but a tiny piece of their diet, and yet they lived a full and healthy life. i mean it was because they ate raw meat - sorta like beef tartare so they got all their nutrients. some traditional societies ate variety - but most didnt. a grain or starch, one or two veggies and maybe some meat/fish. sometimes it was just a grain or starch. i mean today there are full families who survive their whole lives on what i wouldnt call food - not too well if i may add. but they dont die from malnutrition. so i feel we really have very very limited clue about nutrition.

 

i see what the industrialization of food is doing to countries. the rich countries are getting more variety and the countries growing the food cant afford to eat what they grow. how unfair is that? how ridiculous is it that bananas here was what 30 or 50 cents a piece whereas persimmons which were growing porfusely in trees all around us were almost a dollar to a dollar fifty a piece. to me that screams exploitation. ugh. even now. naval oranges that are everywhere - are almost a dollar a piece. do we really need to have so much variety in our diet. do we really need to have papaya and bananas in our grocery stores. esp. in a place like california when we have so much local variety all throughout the year. we grow so much. should our grocery market have the same policy as say michigan which has a much shorter growing season.  

 

ouch i realised cynthia i was 'advising' you. not stating my preference.

 

here is my priority - however my priority is decided by the fact that i live in california and have access to so much fresh food that i dont have to can or dehydrate rarely. pretty soon here i will be sick of apples. however i will add i did dehydrate my persimmons coz they were going bad. ooooh dried persimmons are HEAVENLY. persimmons have such a short season that i ate almost a pound everyday for a couple of months and now just a few chips and they are done till next winter.  

- fresh

= seasonal (i havent eaten a tomato since summer. i've had a few errant tomato when i've eaten out in salad)

local (not strictly - my present addiction are they spicy peppers from mexico. they look like a giant jalapeno - not sweet but spicy. i cant get enough)

= organic (honestly for the taste - not so much for the chemical factor. i dont buy organic, but i get organic because i trade. i feel buying organic is a privilege and it irks me that some people dont have that choice) 

post #11 of 51

Hello Cynthia,

 

I also had these same questions.  After trying really hard to be perfect, I have relaxed a lot.  I put local first, organic second, and price third.

 

Local has one major benefit that is proven; it tends to be much fresher, which means it has much, much higher nutrient content than the same organic food shipped weeks prior from out of the country or the other side of it.

 

But I happen to live in florida and there are many wonderful outdoor markets and they not only tend to carry more local produce, they are about half the cost of the local grocery chains. I think this is where it starts; organic can be supported locally more...organically...in the long run.

 

I think it comes down to where you live as to how important local produce is, and what you cook.  See, I am not likely to get to choose locally grown apples.  And since I don't care for them anyways, they are something I just don't buy.  Avocados on the other hand, GOTTA have, and I don't care frankly how I get them.

 

But I try to avoid grocers who can't tell me where their produce is from or even label it.  That is a HUGE part of the problem and the first step in educating consumers.

 

 

As for price, I have decided to focus my organic budget solely on things I can't get locally that my son eats primarily.  For example, when I make eggs, his are organic, dad's are not.  I keep a separate set for our son.  It's a compromise to save a few dollars per month.

 

Anyway, I am new to this forum, nice to meet you.

post #12 of 51
Thread Starter 

We have a lot of farm-based villages and cities here so, surprisingly, we get a lot of fresh, local produce. I almost always opt for local over imported. That's a pretty easy choice because imported is almost always more expensive, though sometimes it is superior in taste so I have to juggle the taste/cost/imported factors to decide. For some things I can't get local - like avocados  - I choose closer over further, Kenyan or Sri Lankan over California. 

 

Organic - we have a few local companies that offer a limited variety of organic produce and food products. I tend to buy from them whatever I can but sometimes the price is triple - which puts a dent in my budget. 

 

It's a constant tug of war, I tell ya.

post #13 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cynthia Mosher View Post

I almost always opt for local over imported. That's a pretty easy choice because imported is almost always more expensive, though sometimes it is superior in taste so I have to juggle the taste/cost/imported factors to decide. 

ugh! that makes sense right?!!!! not here in CA. vegetables coming from mexico and south america are cheaper than locally grown. things are just way too messed up here. 

 

It's a constant tug of war, I tell ya.

that is so so so true!!!

post #14 of 51
I don't have the farms close by, but have a wonderful natural food store that carries only organic produce from the closest farms possible. It's pricey, true. I avoid produce for allergy/intolerance reasons. Boy, do I miss it. I have to make do with frozen or canned. The advantage is it's cheaper than the fresh, and by buying cases I get a discount. We all make our choices based on what's necessary and what options are most feasible for that location.
post #15 of 51

Organic, inexpensive AND local. We grow our own meats, and have done a garden some years. When we can't garden, we can always find someone with extra produce. We can also get certified organic grains from a neighbor for less than buying white flour in the store. We strive to meet all 3 of these things whenever we can.

post #16 of 51

This summer we were the grateful recipients of extra veggies from a friend's garden.  We had just built a house, and money was tight-- we dropped gymnastics for the summer, basically stayed at home.  Their help dropped our food bill down at least $100 in a month.  We made a point to take what was offered, and to eat that instead of dreaming of something else.

post #17 of 51

As a general rule, if I can talk to the farmer they get my business (as long as their practices meet my standards). I do a lot of shopping on craigslist for 1/4 or sides of meat. You get some great deals from small farmers with good practices. We keep a chest freezer because we can get much better price. We raise our own laying hens and broilers. Looking to get some sheep this spring for meat and fiber (as well as preservation since they are an endangered American breed).

 

Next comes produce that's organic. I refuse to buy meat (for the most part - Applegate beef hotdogs and bacon being the two exceptions) that's organic. The reason I refuse to buy meats that are certified organic (I also don't buy conventional) is because I don't know what they are fed (and as amazing and unbelievable to most as it is, there is no organic standard that requires organic grains - or food for that matter - to be tested from GMO's -- this is why the Non-GMO project is so important and valuable ... organic and GMO-free are not mutually exclusive) and they don't say if they are grass finished most the time. So I will purchase certified organic veggies, but almost never meats. It also has to do with how the animals are treated/raised. Chickens that are organic can be raised the same way as conventional from my understanding while fed organic feed. Eggs are also something I will not purchase, for the same reason's as listed for meat.

 

Price - this is a tough one. I source a lot of stuff in bulk and try to share with neighbors. I also buy avocado's conventional a lot more often then I would like (I usually opt to support organic just so I can "vote with my dollars") but they are expensive anyway and then add the organic label! Whew! Greens I will not buy conventional no matter what. They are always cheaper but I also have NO idea what the current practices are as far as radiation/pasteurization. I like my food alive so ... I go with organic over price with most produce. Meats, I buy in bulk and pay way less. Just found a local farmer that I got a side of beef from for $2.65 a pound hanging weight. She uses organic practices. Even with maintaining the freezers I am not getting any where near the roast price (on farm) for my local organic farm. I had to drive about 40 minutes...but the quality, price and taste made it very, very worth it.

 

As a general rule, I tend to stick with organic more to "vote with my dollars" then anything. But there is just some stuff that I can't afford organic. I also buy almonds, coconut, honey, coconut oil, and any grains we do eat (currently grain free) in bulk. I buy my ghee in bulk so I get the best of the best for a much more reasonable price. I just bought a case of lemons, limes and avocados from a distributor directly and am preserving them. I freeze and can everything I can during the summer months and grow sprouts and greens in my windows during the winter months. I do find that I have very little interest in greens this winter, when I lived in Maryland they were a staple but we were getting them from a local farm cooperative in Pennsylvania and they were very fresh (also organic). Another great thing is to buy with neighbors or friends from a farm cooperative.

 

Sources I use (I'm on the east coast remember) include:

EVOO - Bariani (California)

Nuts, Seeds, dried fruit, Coconut, coconut oil - Wilderness Family Naturals or Essential Living Foods or Jaffe Bros (all of these have wholesale account options)

Honey - Local farm in 5 gallon pail (or friend with bee's and hopefully eventually my own bees)

Maple Syrup - Baer Brothers (in Pennsylvania when I was in Maryland - also got my grass fed beef from him, best price) ... now I am going to tap my own trees!

Produce - Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative (in Maryland) with a $150 minimum order (year round)

Palm Shortening - Tropical Traditions

Milk/Meats - we were a member of a food buying club that sourced local raw meats and milk (eventually soy free) which you paid a little more for but they lasted longer and the quality was second to none

Misc Items - Artisana butters, some seeds, other misc items was Natural Zing (had a buying club option)

Animal Feed - Our Animal feed is GMO tested and free which is something I have not found in a single other company as of yet, Organic does not mean GMO free -- Hiland Naturals

Other Misc including body products, some herbs and personal care - Frontier Cooperative

Fish - Local sources or Vital Choice preferably but I do buy non-BPA tuna and sardines at the natural foods stores

 

Hope this helps someone! It's a lot of work until you get it all worked out. Once you get it all worked out and find the best prices and preferably a few people to order with (but I don't let that discourage me, most of it stores beautifully), it's really not that bad.

 

namaste

post #18 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by GreenVariety View Post

 

Animal Feed - Our Animal feed is GMO tested and free which is something I have not found in a single other company as of yet, Organic does not mean GMO free -- Hiland Naturals

 

To be *certified organic* in the US and Canada, the food cannot be GM, and animals cannot be fed with GM feed.

post #19 of 51

yup with sweetsilver. those words usually come with this stamp 

 

here's the lowdown

 

If a food product is labeled 100% organic and is labeled with and USDA Organic seal, it must be completely free of genetically modified products by government regulations. On the other hand, foods that are labeled "Made with Organic Ingredients" or simply "Organic" are not as tightly regulated and can contain GMOs. To be sure your food is GMO-free, buy USDA certified 100% organic food.

 

which is about 95% organic. in reality 100% organic can never exist. our soil and water are too contaminated.

post #20 of 51
Quote:
Originally Posted by meemee View Post

 To be sure your food is GMO-free, buy USDA certified 100% organic food.

 

which is about 95% organic. in reality 100% organic can never exist. our soil and water are too contaminated.

....which is why I highlighted *certified organic*.  Even on a relatively pristine property as ours (in terms of chemicals applied), you have rain, dust, air pollution, drift from sprayed herbicides.......

 

Food products can have some minor ingredients, like xanthum gum, in them and still be a certified organic product.  Xanthum gum is from corn, and I've never, ever seen organic xanthum gum, though it might be a matter of time.  10 years ago, organic corn starch and corn syrup was almost unheard of.

 

It is, admittedly, a matter of doing the best you can do.  Certified organic is not necessarily the ideal, either.

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