More Organics in Your Life, No Matter Your Budget
|February 7, 2015||Filled under Be Healthier, Frugal Tips and Tricks, Going Green, Healthy, Reduce/Reuse/Recycle|
When hearing the phrase “living more organically”, many people picture a modern day homesteader building their own home from recycled materials, living without electricity, growing their own food free of pesticides and chemicals, and raising their own meat. While this is a good option for some, and I do a lot of homesteading stuff around here, it isn’t necessary to to to extremes to get more organics in your life – and you can do so without breaking the bank.
Going organic, specifically eating more organic foods can be achieved on almost any budget. There are many reasons for eating organic, most of which relate to an improvement in the environment, economy and one’s health.
Adding more organics to your life includes choosing foods grown in the most natural way as well as finding or making cleaning supplies that are free of harmful chemicals. Choosing clothing made from organic cotton, wool or silk is another way to add organics to your life.
People are choosing to live more organically for a variety of reasons. The number one reason, of course, is for a healthier body. In the past few years people have discovered that most everything they come in contact with has some form of chemicals or preservatives that can cause the body harm. From cancer to neurological problems, the known issues seem endless.
Others are choosing to live more organically to lessen their footprint on the environment. Everything from the materials used to build a home to the clothes we wear and the toys our children play with contains some kind of chemical that leaks into the environment in one way or another.
Of course there are those who choose to live more organically simply because it’s the trendy thing to do.
Whatever your reason for choosing to have more organics in your life, you should be informed about what the term “organics” actually means, which products are best bought organically, the challenges and the benefits of going organic.
This report will dig into these topics to help you better understand what being organic actually is and how you can incorporate more organics into your life no matter what your budget is.
What Does Organic Mean?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “Organically grown food is food grown and processed using no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.” (source: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/food/organics.htm)
But what does that really mean?
When talking in terms of food, especially produce, organic means the food is grown without using synthetic fertilizer, sewage sludge, and irradiation. It also means that the foods have not been genetically engineered. Instead, the process relies on using natural or mechanical methods for pest control; for example, using beneficial insects to control the harmful ones.
In order for food to be certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture, it has to be grown and processed according to their guidelines. These guidelines include the soil quality, pest and weed control and use of additives. A government inspector must approve the growing operation while the grower must go through a certification process. Everyone who comes in contact with the food, including handlers and processors have to be certified by the government as well.
Home gardeners can grow their own organic produce too. The USDA has tips to help them get started.
Meat and dairy products sold as organic are from animals that are raised under specific animal welfare guidelines. They cannot be given antibiotics or any kind of growth hormones. These animals must be provided with access to the outdoors and be fed 100% organic feed. This feed does not contain any animal by-products or genetically modified (GMO) grains.
Other organic products, such as cleaning supplies, simply means the product contains no toxic chemicals and is made from all natural ingredients. A resource for determining the safety of household cleaners found in many homes is the Environmental Working Group, online at www.ewg.org. They rate the safety of almost every over-the-counter brand and product.
When choosing organic cleaning products look at the specific ingredients listed on the label. It should contain no phosphates, no solvents, or any petroleum-based ingredients.
When you think of organically grown food it’s often viewed as a more environmentally friendly way of producing or growing products. Since organic food is grown without pesticides, hormones or petroleum-based fertilizers found in most industrial farms, it is a much greener way of producing food.
Benefits of Organic Products
You may be wondering if organic products are healthier or more beneficial than regularly produced or grown products. There isn’t a definitive answer for that.
Just because something is organic does not automatically make it better for you or the environment. Nor does it mean that they are always easier to grow and maintain. Again, there are guidelines that must be followed.
However, organic food can help you protect your family from toxic pesticide residue that is often found on non-organically grown fruit and vegetable skins. But there are many more benefits as well.
- Is it more nutritious?
Maybe. The answer isn’t clear yet from the studies of the past 50 years. Most will agree, though that the chemicals used in weed and pest control do end up in our soil and eventually into our food. New research has shown that some organic produce can be lower in nitrates and higher in antioxidants than produce grown traditionally.
- Free of Pesticides.
Conventional farming uses synthetic pesticides to protect their crops from insects and diseases. This leaves a residue on the produce and leaks into the soil. On the other hand organically grown produce growers use insect traps or predator insects as well as disease-resistant varieties of plants to control pests.
Scientists are now discovering that even low doses of pesticide threaten our weight. These pesticides are hormone disrupters that tamper with the body’s natural weight-loss chemistry. For example, certain bug-killing organophosphate pesticides are linked to obesity.
- No Food Additives.
Organic regulations restrict the use of food additives such as preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colorings, and flavorings as well as monosodium glutamate.
- Better for the Environment.
Organic farming is better for the environment because of the way it reduces pollution and conserves water and soil quality.
- Taste Better and Truer Flavor
People who eat organic food agree. It just tastes better. Strawberries and tomatoes grown in a natural chemical-free way are sweeter and juicier.
- Avoids Poor Scientific Advancements Food
Scientific advancements like cloned foods, GMOs and rBGH were rushed to market as a way to meet the growing needs of feeding the world. These scientific modifications have been shown to cause health problems including cancers, tumors and birth defects.
Top GMO foods: Corn, Soy, sugar, Aspartame food additive, zucchini and yellow squash, dairy products contain growth hormones, cotton, canola oil, and papayas.
- Higher Levels of Vitamins
Growing organically produces foods that have higher levels of vitamins and minerals. This is due to the products being grown in healthy soil.
- Benefits Animal Habitats
Organic farming doesn’t disturbing the habitats of animals since the foods are grown in a natural way without destroying forests and the surrounding land.
- Supports Local Farms
Buying organic produce from your local farmer’s market or farm stand supports the economy in your area.
The benefits of going organic can far outweigh the slightly higher cost of the foods. The health benefits alone to you and your family can be the deciding factor when choosing between organic and traditionally grown foods.
Challenges of Incorporating Organics
Going organic has gained tremendous popularity in the media as well as among foodies and environmentalists. Many consumers are jumping on the bandwagon as we become more informed about how our food is produced and the effects of the additives and pesticides used in food production. But this has led to challenges for many as well.
- Cost. Organic food can cost more than traditionally grown foods. In fact, it can cost up to twice the amount of chemically farmed produce. The cost can be offset in several ways though. For instance, by eating in-season fruits and vegetables.
Plan meals and shop for fruits and vegetables when they are naturally in season, such as strawberries in the spring or corn in the summer. If possible, buy extra to preserve for use in the off-season. Apples harvested in the fall can be turned into applesauce, apple butter or jelly, and pie filling.
- Finding and Buying Organic products. Whether you live in a large city or very rural town, finding organic products in the local stores can be a challenge. You may have to drive a little further or search out local farms that carry organic produce and meat. Organic dairy products can be especially hard to find.
- Shorter shelf life. Organics and fresh foods without added preservatives tend to deteriorate quickly. This can be a safety concern. One way to combat this is to use up fresh products before turning to frozen or canned varieties. Another option is to freeze whatever you can’t use within a few days.
- Understanding labels. With so many different types of foods and the way they are grown, consumers have to become savvy at understanding labels and the ingredients in products. For example, does the USDA seal mean something is 100% organic or just that is has fewer chemicals?
You can find a great label tool on the http://www.greenerchoices.org/eco-labels/ site to help you decode food labels.
Incorporating organics into your life can be challenging in many ways. Learning what organic is and the different labels will help you understand just what the product is. Buying in season and preserving extra amounts is a way to save on the cost of organic foods so you can enjoy them year round.
The Most Important Products to Buy Organic
When incorporating organics into your life, especially when you’re watching your budget, you need to know what the most important products are to use. What foods should you always buy organic? Are organic cleaning supplies important?
The “Dirty Dozen Plus” of produce, according to Dr. Andrew Weil are those that have the highest pesticide load. It’s important to buy the organic version whenever possible:
Sweet bell peppers
Generally, the thicker the skin, the less likely the food will have high pesticide levels. Soft or thin skinned, or if you eat the skin, should be organically grown.
These foods are cleaner and the least likely to be contaminated with pesticides:
Sweet Corn (Frozen)
Sweet Peas (Frozen)
Organic Meat and Dairy
Organic meats should not contain antibiotics. Meat animals should be raised hormone-free.
Livestock are fed all organic feed, which is feed that hasn’t been grown with pesticides or chemicals.
Animals should be raised in clean housing, with rotational grazing, and have a healthy diet.
Livestock and milking cows must graze on green pasture for at least four months a year. Chickens should have either an enclosed area or be free-ranged so they have freedom of movement, fresh air, direct sunlight and access to the outside.
Other organic products to consider include children’s bedding, clothing and toys especially if you or someone in your home has asthma or other allergies. These products are made from organic cotton or hemp.
Buying organic can be more expensive but there are ways to reduce the costs. Shop around and ask others where they find their organic products.
Buying Organic while on a Budget
When you’re on a budget, incorporating organics might seem out of reach. It’s true that organic products are often higher priced than conventional products. But with these tips you can begin using organic products without emptying your wallet.
- Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season when possible. Ask you grocer when the new produce comes in.
- Buy produce from your local farmer’s market. One caveat, many farmer’s markets accept food stamps and some even have matching programs so you can double you spending.
- Read labels carefully. Some organic products might not be the healthiest alternative, especially if it contains sugar, salt or is higher in fat or calories than a conventional product.
- Buy in bulk when possible. You can repackage and freeze or preserve the extra for later.
- Look for sales. Sign up for your store’s weekly circular to find out what’s on sale that week. Organic Fuji apples at $1.49 a pound is a steal. Stock up. Plan your meals around these items as well as what’s in season.
- Don’t be afraid to purchase produce that hasn’t been certified organic. If you talk to the farmer directly, and they say they don’t use herbicides or pesticides, then you can get good organic produce for a cheaper price.
- Cut back on meat. Organic meat can be costly. Go vegetarian a couple of times a week. Fish is a good alternative as well. Grass fed beef and free range chickens can be twice as high as conventional raised meat so when you catch it on sale, stock up.
- Use your leftovers. Add cauliflower to your mac and cheese. Leftover green beans can go in a salad. Leftovers also make a great lunch the next day.
- Make a menu & shopping list before you go shopping. Stick to this list and you’ll have everything you need for meals without a lot of extras.
- If your budget is really tight, buy only what you need for the week.
- Shop locally but stay away from the specialty stores. They’re great for unique items but for everyday meals stick to places like Costco, chain stores or local markets. Costco has organic meat at a reasonable price. For a wide selection of organic produce a local store might be a better choice. Visit several stores in your area and note the prices & availability of organic options. Keep this list handy so you know where to shop for each item.
- Don’t shy away from coupons. They are harder to come by for organic based products but some can be found online. Email your favorite companies for a chance to get coupons in the mail.
- Determine which products are most important to you to purchase in organic form. This allows you to spend a little more on them and still get conventional forms for other things at a lesser price. The best choices, in organic or conventional products, will have very few preservatives, fake sugar, very little or no additive or chemicals.
- Cook from scratch. Make snacks from scratch instead of buying organic prepackaged snacks that can cost as much as $5 a box. Make several batches at once and freeze part of them for later. Do away with all prepackaged foods.
- Take small steps. If the idea of going completely organic is too expensive, consider purchasing one or two organic products at a time, replacing conventional products for the healthier alternative. The foods you eat the most frequently should be where you start. Fruits, vegetables, milk and dairy, grains, meats and baby foods should be top priority.
- Certified organic cotton or hemp can replace fabrics such as bed sheets or linens. Keep in mind that natural fabrics aren’t the same as organic. Natural fabrics have been processed with a variety of toxic chemicals or from plants grown with pesticides.
- Grow your own organic vegetables. Start a compost heap. Use organic or heirloom seeds, natural pest control and chemical-free fertilizer.
- Choose a chemical-free home by making your own or choosing organic cleaning products, soaps, lotions, and body care products.
- Incorporating organics into your life can be hard when you’re on a budget. These tips can help you stretch your budget and still enjoy fresh healthy foods. By preplanning, watching for sales and buying local you will be able to add more organic products to your life.
Where to Go from Here
Before you start adding organics to your life you have a little homework to do. Take some time to research and understand what the different organic labels mean. Decide which of those labels you want to focus on when buying products and which you don’t.
Search out local farmers and growers who offer organic products to the public. Local crafts people who sell organic cleaning and body care products can be a big help on your budget.
Buy in bulk when possible. If you can afford to and have the room, buy a side of grass fed beef to freeze. Buy a few extra pounds of organic produce to freeze or preserve for later use. Visit local chicken farms to purchase organic eggs and poultry.
Don’t forget the dirty dozen of produce. If you have to pick and choose, those fruits and vegetables with thin skins are often the best choices for organic.
Adding organic products doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Being selective and following the above tips will help you enjoy a more organic lifestyle without breaking the bank.