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Organic on a budget - help!

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I need some help. We really need to cut the non-organic, genetically modified crap out of our diets. Our budget is pretty tight, though. I'd like to spend less than $70/week for two adults plus a toddler.

DS is allergic to dairy, so we don't buy anything that contains milk.

We'll eat pretty much anything, just please don't make me eat oatmeal more than once a week.

Ideas? Suggested meal plans?

We have access to Whole Foods, but a single roast there easily costs $19, so that is difficult. DH also drinks a ton of OJ and that's the only thing he won't compromise on. He wants at least 2 gallons per week, prefers Tropicana or 365 brands.

We have a rice cooker, crockpot, pressure cooker, etc.
post #2 of 18
Rubber chicken. Get 3 meals out of one chicken. First meal you roast it and eat some meat, second meal you use the remaining meat, in either a casserole or tacos or something like that, third meal you make stock out of the carcass and use that to make soup with the remaining meat.

I'm in the middle of moving, but I had written up a guideline for people looking to spend about that amount for a week for a family of 4. I'll be putting it on my website once I can find it.
post #3 of 18
Find an organic farm co-op in your area, and that should help with the produce at that time of year, anyway. You'll get a better deal by finding a farm that has work hours, as you work some instead of paying more in cash.

Also, check out door to door organics.com if they are in your area...I get in a box in ONE week alllll organic produce. I spend EXACTLY what I used to spend on conventional produce with MAYBE splurging for apples or berries, etc, and get JUST the same amount of produce every week, except it's alllll organic. Plus, it's dropped on my doorstep. You can switch out items you don't like for ones you do, you can shut it off for a week or more at a time, no penalty. If you can find four people together to do a co-op, you get four dollars off per box. You can switch box sizes week to week, or just do every other week. They're pretty darned cool, and a great way to eat organic while not spending a mint.

As far as meat...a few years ago we got a freezer. Now, we buy a 1/4 cow and split with another family, a whole hog, and lots of chickens and a couple of turkeys. We freeze them. They are alll free range, organic, and locally grown and humanely slaughtered. For the poultry, I pay 2.75 a pound cut up or 2.50 a pound whole (and the roasters are HUGE...like 8 pounds!), I think for the hog I paid 3.69 a pound. I don't remember what I paid for the cow, but they are all heirloom varieties, the best flavor I can imagine, and we're saving money, and eating organic.

Because we're getting it in bulk there is a cost savings.

We belong to a dry food co-op. I buy my grains, flours, and rice milk in bulk.

I got a bread maker for my wedding, and when it died, my family just got together (I have a big family, mind you...but you can get them CHEAP at sal army, too) and got me one for Christmas. I make all my bread with organic flour, and spend about a buck a loaf, instead of upwards of three bucks a loaf.

We eat a lot of potatoes. I ordered 60 pounds of potatoes from a farmer 40 miles a way. She's 15 minutes from a girlfriend. When she was out that way, she picked them up and then we met for lunch. I think I paid a dollar a pound. I got 30 pounds of purple peruvians and 30 pounds of russets. They are some of the best potatoes I have ever had. We store them in the basement, in flat boxes. Pretty painless.

I guess...if you find the co-op community in your area, and find out who the local farms are in your area who grow organically...it takes some work. But once you get it all together, you will have EVERYTHING you need at your fingertips and will possibly be spending significantly less for a significantly higher percentage of your diet being organic.
post #4 of 18
Don't worry if you can not afford to buy everything organic at first. I would start with the food group that is most important to you. For example, if eating organic fruits and veggies is at the top of your list, concentrate on buying the fruits and veggies most effected by insecticides, like celery. Then work your way down. So say you buy organic celery, og tomatoes, and og lettuce and then you are almost to the end of your budget, so you buy regular bananas. Also, pay attention to what is in season--these are cheaper. Or if you feel that your animal products--meat, poultry, dairy--are more of a concern, start there. Don't overwhelm yourself with trying to do everything at once. We have been on a tight budget and have incorporated organic foods in over time. A small start is still a start in the right direction.
post #5 of 18
I guess my point was that buying direct from the local farmers cuts out the middle man of buying at the grocery, and you get a much better deal...and thus can afford to get more organic at once than you would otherwise have available.
post #6 of 18
Courtenay_e, thanks so much for the doortodoororganics link! I haven't signed up yet but am seriously debating it Organic food at my local grocery store is super expensive and not all that appetizing looking (seriously, it's manky!)... And while there's a couple of places to get it fresher and slightly cheaper (farmer's market and a store 30 min away), with two kids underfoot I never seem to make it to either!

So anyway, I'm excited about this... I hate having to run to the store for produce all the time, so this could make grocery shopping a bit less stressful too What size box do you get?
post #7 of 18
I'm glad to be of help!

We get a medium box. With a family of four, it's almost perfect, but we're omnivores, and my dh doesn't eat enough veggies. The cool thing is that if you get the "wrong size" box one week you can change it up (or down)the next week.

And, honestly, I've yet to be anything but exceptionally pleased with the produce we have gotten. It really is a great deal...
post #8 of 18
we began phsaing out processed foods about six months ago. i am a sahm so money is tight here too.. i found that by shopping at a few different grocery stores has helped and i freeze what produce i can when in season. we are buying part of a cow this spring which will save tremendously. i found that the meat and dairy are the most expensive to do organic so local and freeze in bulk are the best bet...
post #9 of 18
Originally Posted by krankedyann View Post
Rubber chicken. Get 3 meals out of one chicken. First meal you roast it and eat some meat, second meal you use the remaining meat, in either a casserole or tacos or something like that, third meal you make stock out of the carcass and use that to make soup with the remaining meat.

I'm in the middle of moving, but I had written up a guideline for people looking to spend about that amount for a week for a family of 4. I'll be putting it on my website once I can find it.
Oh I can't wait. I spent $150 last week on groceries for DH and I (since I was trying to do grain-free..had to buy more produce and meat) and I just can't afford that...we are holding our breath and praying to make our mortgage payment next month. Any tips will be much appreciated!
post #10 of 18
Whenever I see a deal I stock up on it. For instance after thanksgiving our local grocer had turkeys 49Cents a pound, celery 4 pgks for $1.00 apples were recently .59 cents a pound.

We have a deep freeze. So I cut the celery into small peices and larger peices. With the apples we made homeade apples sauces and apple butter. We cut up the apples and froze some as well. The turkeys got made into gumbo one night, turkey pot pies another night. Turkey chutney another night. Anyway.

As for all regular meats we buy in a whole cow from the local amish and than take it to the butcher. This last time it cost all together about $1.40 a pound. The meat could not be labeled organic , but it was grass fed and open range. Very lean meat. Perhaps you have a farm nearby you could buy off of.

Also I have notticed store brands coming out with there own organic brands. We shop Gerbes ( Dillions, Food 4 Less etc) and they had lots of organic stuff this last time.
post #11 of 18

Organic vs. processed

One thing to keep in mind is that it's about as expensive to buy prepared food (like frozen lasagna) as it is to buy organic ingredients to make food from scratch.

Don't buy organic prepared food or mixes. Buy organic ingredients and make it yourself. If this sounds impossible, I have 2 suggestions. 1st-double some recipes and freeze half. It's not much more work and gives you a night off. 2nd-get a set of menus and use them over and over again. (I recently typed out how to do menu planning on my blog, listed below, if you need some pointers.)

Last, hopefully, the healthy eating will transfer into less colds and more energy, which cold help you save money on meds or even make extra money!

We are on a very tight budget too, but we just buy organics b/c of my health. If I don't have good food, I'll have to pay for more medicine. I would rather do it in food.

A few more thoughts on produce: I have heard farmer's markets are better than organics most time b/c of freshness and they can be a lot cheaper. Just ask what things they didn't spray with pesticides and buy those! In the store, it's usually cheaper to buy unprepared carrots than it is baby carrots. Cabbage is one of the cheapest vegetables to buy and it can make alot of coleslaw or something similar.

For ground meat, we use deer meat from my dad. If you can find a hunter with an abundance, you might get great quality meat for free!

Hope that helps a bit.
post #12 of 18
Without knowing where you are and your exact situation, I don't know if these will work for you, but here is my 'plan'- we are working towards being more organic/tf- but with a family of 7- and all good eaters even though the kids are 8 and under- it really adds up! (and we are on a tight budget)

So for now, we are eating what we have/what we can afford- I am blessed to have put up my own salsa, pizza sauce, apple sauce, corn, green beans, frozen blueberries-- last year. So this year, I am looking to extend the harvest, multiply my gardening, and do even better at this. I am looking at putting a cold frame outside of our basement window (possibly even incorporating our dryer vent?)- with this I 'HOPE" to be having fresh greens for salads and such available at least this April through Dec or Nov, God willing. I am also planning, again God willing, to have tomatoes, cukes, and other veggies too, just not yet sure if I can extend those as much. If you can plant 1 tomato plant on the patio, a fire escape etc- it will at least provide some. You can also do strawberry plants in hanging baskets, lettuce and salad greens in a window box, potatoes in one of those big barrells- no granted you likely won't be growing enough to 'stock up' this way, but if you don't have time, energy, or space to do a big garden- you can at least lower your costs a bit- which means money to spend stocking up on other things.... You can also think about 'swapping' with a friend if you have anyone close by who would be willing- they grow a tomato, you grow a cuke.... OR do what my sister did and ask a friend if you can 'go in' on their garden- she bought plants, came by to help tend it weekly or bi-weekly- and came to help harveset.......

I also do a lot of 'pick your own". I am again blessed, THank God, to have a blueberry patch nearby that isn't "organic", but from talking to them I know they don't 'do much' to their trees- mow the rows is about it. 2 yrs ago we picked cherries (never asked about orgnic, probably not, but at least it is fresh, local, in season, and cheap), same with strawberries (I got strawberries for 95 cents a pound last year) I also have gotten apples for applesauce, from local folks who don't use theirs from their own trees- same with pears- now I know they don't use theirs, so I also know they don't spray them or treat the trees, since they aren't interested in the fruit.- ask around, you never know what you will find. I aslo have tons of woods to tramp through to get elderberries, blackberries, raspberries, ramps if I so desired, some nuts.......

I have also gone in with others on local free range meats-definately well worth the price- and definately a big savings! Hunting and fishing on your own is another great money saver- we want to try that, my family has always, we just haven't yet.

Now, that is great for looking ahead- for now- buy some good quality dry beans and grains- (if you have an amish store you might be able to get it in bulk cheaper)- sprout some to eat as sprouts, use some as they are- tabboule, black bean soup, red beans and rice, hummus..... Utilize a lot of soups- you can turn a turkey carcass into stock, chicken carcass, beef bones..... Thicken the turkey gravy and put in 'some' meat- serve over a good bread or waffles for a cheap meal- same with chicken- add lots of those cheap beans and sprouts to your soups- and serve beans at least once a week. Start each meal off with a soup if possible- good for digestion and also makes sure you don't 'gorge' on the meat and sides- you can make a carrot soup, squash soup, bean soup, minestrone soup, french onion soup minus the cheese..... Also, do follow the previous suggestion and look up which foods are the 'worst' offenders in each group- bananas for example aren't too heavily sprayed so go ahead and buy regular bananas, but always opt for organic grapes.. Same with veggies, if I remember correctly, carrots and red beets aren't AS bad as some other stuff- so go ahead and utilize cheap regular carrots, but get organic on some of the more treated stuff. Use alot of whatever you can get cheap- I was getting local free range eggs for $1 a dozen so we were using a lot of eggs, however, it is now cold, the chickens aren't laying as much so now I can't get them anymore.... There is also a place near me that this time of year will sell last years potatoes at a good price (they have been in cold storage, but they would have been in cold storage at my house if I had bought them earlier) Extend ground meat by adding in those beans (I cook and mash beans and add them in to meat- no one ever knows- I do about 1 lb of beans to 10 lbs of meat, but could probably go higher) I make 2 'mean' dips we really like- one does have cheese though, so you would have to modify if you don't use soy cheeses?- refried (or lately fermented bean paste) cream cheese (or lately kefir or yogurt cheese), salsa, and cheddar- heat till melted and bubbly. The other is salsa mixed with black beans and corn- either one of those utilizes beans so they cut the cost- and both can be use in tortillas with or without meat- to make enchiladas (and if you use ground meat mixed with beans you save on the meat too) You can also mix brown rice in with ground meat- so like for meatballs- you can mix in mashed beans and your spices, then mix in cooked brown rice (or organic oatmeal uncooked) - especially if the meatballs are to go in sauce, you definately won't taste the difference, but you will get maybe twice as much or more. I agree with whoever said, make everything instead of buying prepackaged- so buy tomatoes and make salsa (actually I would buy organic tomato, organic pepper, regular onion, regular garlic.. and make my own) Bread is a big expensive especially if you use a bit of it. The so called "good" bread is $3 a loaf. Now, I personally do not feel the good bread is any better since the flours are not soaked, and they aren't made from fresh ground flours, but that is where I am in my thinking- and since I am not going to grind and soak my own flour, I just by the cheapy wheepy bread, and try to use it less often. www.30daygourmet.com and sights like it that focus on freezer cooking or once a month cooking OAMC- are good for helping you buy in bulk- and what to do with that bulk- and still keeping life easy.

Good luck
post #13 of 18
Hi. All of these are great ideas! I just wanted to add that you can make bread without a bread maker. It does take some time, but most of it is waiting for the dough to rise. Which is great, because you can get other stuff done during this. I realize some people just really don't like making bread from scratch. And that's ok. But if you haven't tried it, I say try it at least once. I find it really fun! You can even use a good stand mixer or even a food processor to knead the dough! This makes it way easy!
post #14 of 18
I am looking for ways to get my ingredients cheaper too. I am in NH and just posted on craigslist for farmers/hunters/natural stores/co-ops! Hopefully I will hear something soon!
post #15 of 18
Oh and thanks lyme for the blog, I am enjoying it as we speak!!
post #16 of 18
thanks simplepamom for the wealth of information!
I will have to try your beans and meat idea to make the meat go farther. It is really not noticable? My husband loves his meat and does not like it when I "mess" with his food. How would you use this "beanmeat"? Meatloaf, hamburgers, casseroles?
post #17 of 18
My friend writes this blog - authenticdeliciousness.blogspot.com They are 95% organic vegans. I think she keeps her budget around $400/month, which includes household items. That is probably a bit higher than your budget, but you can certainly pick up some good ideas.
post #18 of 18
Sorry for the delay. Ladybugsmama, I buy a huge thing of ground meat- 10 lbs- If I know I am getting it ahead of time, I soak the beans the day before and cook them as usual- if you have some beef stock to cook thebeans in even better. Cook until very soft. I then drain the water or as much as possible- and mash the beans. If you really don't want them to know- you might want to process in a food processor by batches to make it as smooth as possible. Then I mix the beans in with the meat- along with whatever I normally add in to make meatloaf, meatballs, burgers..... My dh loves meat, and he is pretty able to tell variations- like everyone says mix 1/2 ground turkey with 1/2 ground meat they won't know-my husband knows- he doesn't exactly mind, but he can tell. When I added liver to the meat- he could tell that too- again, he still ate it and said it was good, but he could 'tell' something was added or changed. I do not think he mentioned noticing anything different before I told him I had mixed the beans in the meat. I even used this bean/meat mixture when my sister and her kids came over to make tacos- and her kids are picky- and they ate it just fine. My kids normally say they don't like beans, and they ate it. (actually my 1 dd age 8 may have said, I don't like this- to 1 meal with this meat- but I had a lot of spices in it that time)

I do my meatballs in BBQ sauce - so definately undetectable there. Also totally undetectable in chili- or even in tacos and spaghetti- things where a sauce or spice really covers the meat. I would recommend if you want to try this, you go ahead and try it, and use the first batch of mix to make - chili, lasagna, tacos, spaghetti, meatballs that will be in sauce..... then if it goes well that way, use it for meatloaf and burgers which will be more obvious if they are going to notice it.

On an aside, they say you can use mashed white beans in place of 1/2 the butter in baking- and I have used it in cookies- and it was not detected- though it did make a more cake like cookie- the taste was not noticeable- so if you can't taste it in cookies, I figured, you wouldn't taste it in meat.

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