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Frugality vs. Organics, how do you find a balance?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I sat down the other night to try and get a handle on our budget (we were having to dip into our savings too much lately). I was horrified to find out how much we had spent on groceries this month. I try to buy everything organic or natural but as everybody knows, they cost significantly more than the regular brands.

What I want to know is: how does everyone balance being frugal with buying organics or natural products? where do you compromise i.e. always organic milk and produce but regular cereals, etc.
post #2 of 18
I struggle with this. i am new to this organic business, eating more vegatarian meals, etc. I am increasingly frustrated, because when i go into Wild Oats, i can blow a serious wad in there, that i didnot do when i shopped at walmart!

what i do is shop at walmart and wildoats and hope for the best. i dont know how some of the moms here at mdc do it on such a limited budget!. and i plan, and i make lists and menus!

sometimes i buy my veggies at walmart where they are a fraction of the cost. they have a few organic brands in the aisles and i hone in on those.
post #3 of 18
I keep track of the sales at my HFS, then I stock up.
For instance, last week they had Cascadian Farms jams/jellys for half price. I bought 12!
There is a food co-op in my area that I am investigating. A friend of mine says they have great prices on produce.
post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 
We don't have a supercenter Walmart near us (although I hear one is coming in the future). I do have access to a military commissary twice a month if I wish but they don't carry organic products. There is a local supermarket that has a good selection of organics but their prices are exhorbitant. I live about 20 minutes away from a co-op and that is where I tend to do a lot of my shopping. If I really want to do a big shopping trip, I load up my ice chest and go to Whole Foods which is about 45 minutes away. I've been hounding Whole Foods by e-mail to open a store closer to me. I do the menu planning thing off and on and this does really help when I keep it going. I like the idea of stocking up when things go on sale. I'm going to have to make a habit of doing that also. Thanks for the tips...keep em coming!
post #5 of 18
We figure it is our "vote" to buy organics, almost excliusvely. We value our local health food store (walking distance) so we shop there, rather than the bigger store 1 1/2 miles a way, or Walmart, which we'd have to drive a car to. We want little neighborhood stores over the big box stores you have to drive to (and I wouldn't trust too many organics from Walmart). We also grow a bunch of produce and subscribe to a CSA, where we get a box of in season produce from a local farm on a weekly basis. Dh and I have worked on organic farms and know the value of the food grown there - commercial produce tends to be more exploitive of the workers and destroys good land, so we feel it is our "activism," so to speak, to buy local, locally owned and organic whenever possible. We are tight in the money dept. right now and figuring our budget, we could buy all box store food and still not save that much - we have to make the cuts elsewhere. We're thinking only one car? Or, less electricity? Hmmm, still working on that. I'll climb off my soapbox now

Dh pointed out that we pay cash for stuff and buy used cars...maybe since we don't have car payments and have cheaper insurance it is cheaper?
post #6 of 18
I feel your pain. We charge our groceries and whenever our visa bill comes, groceries are always the culprit for our crazy bill. The prices seem so outrageous. But when you consider how a small, organic farm works, I really feel the prices are appropriate. I know it's taunting to see a commercially grown piece of produce at a 1/3 or 1/4 the price, but the detramental effects of buying commercial (health, environment, ethics, etc) always having me opting for organic.

I'm about to quit my job to be a full-time, SAHM (YEAH!!!!) so our family income will be halved. What we've decided to do is cut back on charitable giving. We feel supporting local and/or small farmers is putting money in a place that means something to us and is for the greater good.

A side note: I spend a lot more money and put more thought into what goes into my body than what's on my body. I've explained my organic tendencies to a few people that way and that seems to click for them so I just thought I'd share.
post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
We don't charge our groceries (or anything else for that matter). Just wanted to clear up a misconception before it went too much further - we take great pride in the fact that we pay cash for everything

I also try to buy only organics because I believe that demand will drive down the prices eventually. HotMama - Your organics are cheaper because you pay cash?? Geez, we pay cash for everything and don't get any breaks. I'm just kidding, I know that you meant that if you live frugally in other areas you can afford to splurge more for the groceries. I agree, except my food bill was $700 last month!!! That's embarassing and totally inappropriate for a family of four.

I'm thinking that my problem may not be so much what I'm buying but how I'm shopping.

We have pared down everywhere else already and now need to trim the fat from our grocery budget.
post #8 of 18
700.00 for a family of four - Ouch! We pay about 350.00, and that seems high to me because we are making dd's goat milk formula from scratch.

Yes, what I meant is that we don't buy cars, etc on time and make payments for more than we can afford, which I see many families doing.
post #9 of 18
Just a clarification... We only charge our groceries out of convenience, not because we're in debt (we pay off our bill every month and have no debt). I wanted to make sure no one was under the impression that we make wild purchasing decisions. Buying organic is a thoughtful purchasing philosophy and a budgetary priority for us.
post #10 of 18
We have certain items that we will only ever buy organic. All of our dairy is organic. Veggies are predominantly organic unless they are so significanly cheaper at the regular store, that it seems silly to spend that much on organic. Basically, we check every week as to what store (co-op, Whole Foods, or regular grocery) has the best price for what we need. The Winter series of coupons came out for Whole Foods and they have 50 cents off Horizon milk and pudding, and have some good coupons for other things that we use, so they will be getting all my milk business until May. (Heaven's Gate baby shampoo for less than $5 with the $1 off coupon!)

It all depends. I would say that these days we are about 60/40 organic/non-organic. Sometimes more depending on which store I happen to be at when I realize that we need more than the two things I just ran in to get.
post #11 of 18
I pick and choose depending on weekly specials/ market to market etc. How much $$ we have that week etc. But I always buy organic Coffee, milk & eggs & yoghurt . And usually 50 % of veggies-- luckily our little country store carries many organic veggies at great price-- less than bigger store often. I go there just for the veggies- other stuff is high as we are in rural spot.
I will buy cheap bread- store brand whole wheat- cheap sale TP to save the $ for the milk & eggs which cost lot more--

I save too by buying organic items from co-op...great prices but you need the $ upfront as you are buying a case. Doesn't work for dairy etc-- but I'll do beans- tortillas- salsa- muir glenn tomatos etc. for real deal-- it varies because catalog has different sale items each month-- I buy what's on sale.
Our bill is way lower than friends and we eat better than many but I am a super bargain hunter-- if something costs too much per pound- I don't buy it-- I make up the weeks menu as I shop, depending what's on SALE.
post #12 of 18

Menu planning is key, I think

And so is an organized pantry. The biggest waste of grocery $$$ in my house is when food goes bad / is thrown out.

Organic grains are pretty cheap and so are beans and rice. The more work it is to make, the cheaper it is. We've all seen organic prepackaged foods mean $$$ but avoiding excess packaging can really save $$$

We rarely buy canned beans. We use dry and have a pressure cooker to save time.

I shop sales but don't try to overpurchase. I try to buy what we will use now and not stockpile. This is for 2 reasons: I have a VERY small apt and because if I buy a whole bunch of X, I will not make it through the week, buying what I do need, now.

I am struggling with menu planning. I have a DH who both wants a plan and struggles against it. He is a SAHD and does most of the cooking. SIGH.
post #13 of 18
Traditional staple meals from around the world use rice, polenta, potatoes, pasta, buckwheat, etc as the bulk of the meal and veggies, meat and milk are used alomost as condiments to add flavor, appeal and extra vitimins.

Try not to base your meals on the especially expensive ingredient. For example, instead of eating a big bowl of yogurt, have borsht with a spoon of yogurt stirred in, instead of grilled eggplant, have ratatoullie on polenta. You can still have all the flavors you like, but the cost is a lot less.

I find that cookbooks can sort of misleading since they have lots of recipes for special occasion meals and few for everyday staples.

post #14 of 18
I agree with AmyB. I also try to buy less processed food. I try to use my pressure cooker, breadmaker and crockpot and cook instead of buying more processed foods. I think cereal is the biggest culprit. I buy a mixture of bulk (cheapest I can get) flake cereal, a box of oat pillow cereal (on sale) and mix with homemade or cheap granola. I vary this and premeasure into tupperware type containers for dh to grab on his way out the door (portion control). That way he doesn't buy junk (really expensive). For us at home I make oatmeal, pancakes, toast, etc. Also, sometimes buying in bulk, taking your own containers, is almost as cheap. I try to cut meat up really small and just use a little bit in a dish so my husband doesn't get cranky about no meat. Then I add more potatoes or veggies or whatever. I have a long way to go but I try.

If you don't have a breadmaker and want one, they aren't hard to come by. There are a lot of people who bought them with good intentions and are happy to give them to someone who will actually use them. Especially when it's to make bread for your kids.

Mostly I try to remember to enjoy the quality of my purchases so that I don't feel deprived. Nothing special about a jar of ragu but organic heirloom beans are so beautiful.

I think it was Mothering that recently had an article that listed the 12 most pesticide sprayed veggies to avoid.
post #15 of 18
We only buy organic for the things on the 'dirty dozen' list--that helps keep the cost down. We're meateaters, but are lucky enough to have a friend of a friend who raises humane meat that's not pumped full of chemicals--so we buy our meat in bulk from them and save a lot of money. We're also lucky enough to be able to buy free-range farm fresh eggs at less than grocery store cost. We also try to buy mostly whole foods--foods that look like they did when they were harvested. All of that processing costs--both your money and your health.

Oh and we have a garden. Last year it didnt produce very well, but it was a terrible growing year for a lot of pple around here bc it was such a cold summer. I have better hopes for this year's garden.
post #16 of 18
We buy a large organic box of veggies from an organization here in my province that brings together eaters (consumers of food!) and organic farmers. It is good for the farmers because they get a guaranteed market for their produce, it is good for me because I get cheaper organic food outside the corporate food system and I get to support local farmers.

If anyone is interested, you could learn more about this avenue for organic food and similar organizations elsewhere at www.foodshare.net
post #17 of 18
hi shrtsassy
same here I am always trying to figure that one out myself! I keep thinking that if enough of us do it then organics will be the norm instead of exception-wishful thinking I know.
Like you Whole Foods is 45 minutes away from me. They have opened a Central Market about 35 minutes away that sometimes has the same or better prices of the stuff I get at whole Foods. I guess it depends on the week.
post #18 of 18
Thread Starter 
Wow, great posts! Thanks everybody. I was flirting with the idea of becoming vegetarian. I did a lot of research and a lot of what I read made sense. I was all excited and started preparing meals without meat. DH wasn't too happy without meat (like Mamatanya's dh). I didn't want to get all militant on him so I've decided to just cut back quite a bit on the number of meals we have with meat. I've done some soul searching and don't think I could make the change myself. Thanks for the website Pony. Aster - a garden, what a great idea! I think I'm going to try that!
Mirlee- you mentioned that you got coupons for Whole Foods - do they come in the mail? How did you get them?

I get the same rush buying organics as I do when I wash my ds's cloth diapers...it makes me feel sooo good knowing that just my small part is doing something to help the earth for my children's future.
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