How I Afford Buying Organic Produce and Products
By Samantha Bailey, Best of Vegan Senior Editor & Certified Nutrition Counselor, in partnership with Forager Project.
A few years ago, I decided that feeding myself nourishing foods was a necessary investment. Organic food is often priced higher than non-organic food, but there are ways to get a better bang for your buck. In this article, I want to outline what motivated me personally to prioritize buying organic and which changes I’ve implemented over the years in order to afford it. I hope that you’ll find my experience and tips useful and that it’ll show you that investing in quality produce and products doesn’t have to be inaccessible.
Many things had to happen to shuffle me toward healthier lifestyle choices. As a teen and in my early twenties, I gave the idea of ‘health’, as well as organic and quality food practically no thought. And why would I? I was on a dance team, running 9 miles a week, full of energy (or so I thought) with seemingly no physical issues. I ate with reckless abandon as I had yet to be presented with an alternative reason not to.
“I found myself scrambling, grasping at straws, to get a handle on what ‘healthy’ actually meant.”
But life will change, and sometimes it changes hard. Through the death of my mother, I lost my health insurance. I found myself scrambling, grasping at straws, to get a handle on what ‘healthy’ actually meant. I knew I needed to avoid doctor’s appointments at all costs because it would be unaffordable, therefore I also knew I needed to protect my health. As I started on my journey of discovery, it led me to realize how much more than just food connects with your own health and well-being. I began to uncover how our general habits can hold potential wellness back, or propel wellness forward.
“To get what we believe we want, our lives have to also shift to make room for our new desires.”
In our quest to choose and make organic foods a fixture in our lives, sometimes this means thinking outside of just the basics of affording organic food, but also questioning our priorities in how we spend our dollars on other aspects of our lives. To get what we believe we want, our lives have to also shift to make room for our new desires. Some things will have to get trimmed, mitigated, or removed so that space can be made for our priorities on our health. In my life, I reassessed the following:
- Do I need to eat out as often as I do?
- Is a chai latte 5 mornings a week truly necessary?
- Will browsing online clothing stores and storefronts help lead me to more robust health?
I took stock of my life but more importantly, where I wanted to go, and I adjusted! I slowly started to step away from buying clothes first-hand, and instead went without or obtained second-hand clothes. I really looked at what I could make at home like my Cashew milk chai lattes, invested in a reusable insulated mug and made the shift. I decided to cloth diaper and obtain hand-me-downs for my sons in addition to reducing one-use items that I would buy regularly.
“I took stock of my life but more importantly, where I wanted to go, and I adjusted!”
A few things were accomplished in making these personal decisions:
1) I reduce my carbon-footprint quite a bit
2) I save cash money!
Now I can circle back to the direction I choose to steer my life and can afford the necessary changes to get there.
“It’s important for me to eat a variety of produce and to keep things cost-efficient.”
Buying organic fruits and vegetables
When it comes to fruit, I go heavier on the cheaper, bigger fruit like Bananas, and melons. In the multitude of apple varieties, I can choose the cheapest variety. It’s important for me to eat a variety of produce and to keep things cost-efficient. I buy certain fruits only while in season, like berries and watermelons. This means that I sacrifice berries for 5 or 6 months every year.
“I stock up according to shelf life and/or make sure I freeze produce before it goes bad.”
Luckily, leafy greens are priced nicely. Getting a bunch of organic Lacinato or Curly kale can often be $2.99. A great tactic for reducing food waste (as well as to make sure your dollars count) is to buy hearty veggies with a longer shelf life and only one delicate green. The same goes for fruits: oranges and apples last a while, especially in the fridge, but berries only last a few days, so I stock up according to shelf life and/or make sure I freeze produce before it goes bad.
Buying Legumes and grains in bulk
Legumes (lentils and beans) and grains, even when organic, are always affordable and even more so on a sale day, with coupons, or in the bulk section. When there is a sale, I may buy up to 5 pounds of rice or beans. Buying dried foods is cheaper than buying canned foods, but we all make choices, sometimes sacrificing price for convenience, only you really know what your priorities are.
How I afford packaged organic foods
“What helped me put things in perspective was realizing that certain foods are too cheap for them to have been made ethically”
Packaged and processed foods tend to be on the slightly pricier side. Processed means that a company used produce, grains, and beans and created a ready-made product, such as pasta, jelly, seitan, vegan cheese and sour cream, nut milk, yogurt, etc. One thing that’s important to understand is that many lower quality foods are actually cheaper because they rely on less sustainable yet more affordable packaging, mass production and sometimes unfair working conditions. What helped me put things in perspective was realizing that certain foods are too cheap for them to have been made ethically and so investing in higher quality also means investing in better working conditions and sustainable practices.
“I would like to emphasize that we all live very whole and layered lives.”
I would like to emphasize that we all live very whole and layered lives. There are joys we get from the simple things, like a soy latte from a store, but the lesson is to learn where and how frequently we enjoy them. I decided that eating plant-based and organic was a priority to me, but I also decided that I love vegan cheese, ice cream, store-bought cashew milk and yogurt (for convenience) and cute little chocolate cookie snacks.
In the end, I remember my main goal which is to thrive and be healthy, not just physically but mentally. Being too strict and too unprocessed isn’t always fun or convenient. And so I am very conscious of the reasons I consume these (very fun!) vegan processed goodies, I prioritize the one I truly love and enjoy every bit of them.
“for many people, especially those living in food deserts, the cheapest is often the only option and I don’t think that guilting people who don’t have a choice is a solution.”
I’d also like to add that I know that for many people, especially those living in food deserts, the cheapest is often the only option and I don’t think that guilting people who don’t have a choice is a solution. I do believe that it’s up to those who can afford it, to vote with their dollars and simultaneously help make high quality foods more accessible (through co-ops and other initiatives). As someone who has struggled financially at different times in my life, I also want to show others in the same position that there are ways of making it work if that’s what you choose and to feel empowered and in charge of their own well-being. You don’t have to do it perfectly every day, every step towards your own wellbeing counts.
I hope you enjoyed this article! I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments, so please feel free to let me know how you feel about this topic in the comments below. Lastly, here’s a quick cheat sheet listing my top tips for you to save.
Note: Eating plant-based for ethical and environmental reasons is a non-negotiable for me and eating organic is something I try to prioritize whenever possible.
Samantha Bailey is a senior editor at Best of Vegan. This article was written in partnership with Forager Project as part of their organic summer campaign. All opinions expressed are the author’s.
Text: Samantha Bailey
Photography: Kim-Julie Hansen