How to make an organic eating plan for your familyMeagan Francis
Over the last month I’ve written quite a bit about organic foods: reasons to consider buying organics, even more reasons to consider organics, and ways to save money on organic dairy and budget for other organic foods.
Maybe you’re convinced that you’d like to go organic, or you’re just organic-curious, but you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the options. Fear not: here’s a step-by-step way you can work on implementing more organics into your family’s diet:
- Prioritize. Most of us simply don’t have the budget for a 100% organic diet, so think about what’s most important to you. For example, maybe you’d like to choose organic versions of “the dirty dozen” – the list of fruits and veggies that, when farmed conventionally, have the most pesticide residue. Or maybe you’ll choose the foods your family eats the most of, like dairy. Take a few minutes to consider your reasons for going organic, and make a list of foods you’d most like to prioritize.
- Reframe the issue. If you’re struggling with justifying the higher cost of organics – or are trying to convince your spouse – it may help to consider your food budget in a different light. I know that for some families, money is so tight that there really is no room to budge. But for many of us…well, it feels like we don’t have enough to invest in organics, until we consider that cable package we barely use, all those times we went out for lunch, or the unlimited texting plan on our iPhones. I know that it seems like the American way to try to get as much as you can for as little money as possible, but I’m trying to shift my mindset to focus on better quality, too , which tends to come at a higher cost.
- Scope out local stores, markets and farms. Even if you live in a small town, you might be surprised at the organics you can find in your area. For example, our regional superstore, Meijer, carries an expansive line of store-brand organics that are quite economical – everything from jam to crackers – as well as well-known brands like Stonyfield Farms. Our supermarket carries some organic produce, milk, and yogurt. And I’ve also found organics in some unlikely places, including Big Lots, Target, and even the special buys at Aldi. If you live in a rural area you might be amazed at the organic goods available at local roadside stands and farmer’s markets. They don’t always advertise, so do some driving around out in the country or join a locavore or farm-to-table email list or Facebook group in your area to get the scoop.
- Make a shopping plan. You may have to visit several different stores or markets to get everything you need, so figure out how you’ll do that. Maybe you’ll stock up on staples at the superstore every other week, while shopping for milk, meat and produce at your local market weekly. Maybe you’ll scour offbeat deals at Aldi and Big Lots monthly. Make a plan that works for you so that you don’t find yourself out of essential ingredients in the middle of making dinner!
- Tweak your budget. Yes, it’s true that your budget will probably need some adjustment if you’re going to buy organics regularly. If money is very tight, look to see where you might be able to cut back to make it work. Is food waste taking a sneaky bite out of your wallet? Could you get comfortable with new cooking techniques so that you can make better use of what’s on sale? For instance, cooking “low and slow” is my favorite way of turning inexpensive cuts of meat into delicious, tender meals. Also consider finding other ways to cut back on your food budget depending on your priorities. For example, shopping discount stores like Aldi for non-organic staples can help free up more cash for organic dairy or produce.
- Just start! If you’re still overwhelmed, try a few organic brands and see how you like them. Choose the organic lettuce rather than the conventional next time it’s on sale. Try organic yogurt or milk as an experiment. But warning: I’m guessing that like my family, yours will like the taste so much better that it’ll be near impossible to make the switch back.
Are you incorporating more organics into your diet? How are you making it easier on yourself?