Going Organic On A Family Budget: A Real Life Example

When Jen found herself studying Nutrition with a young family in tow she felt the desire to transition to organic, but it seemed impossible. Time? Cost? Planning?  It seemed overwhelming and too hard - but something shifted and she took on the challenge to feed her family of four on organic food, and after 3 months, she is not looking back. Let her share her beautiful story of simply leading by example, getting started and deciding to challenge excuses - plus she has shared an amazing beet recipe!

When I think of organics, and having my whole family eating ‘that way’, I have had a lot of different thoughts as to why I wanted to do that for myself, and for my family.  I took time to really consider my motivations..

..did I just want to jump on a bandwagon?  

..did I consider myself more of a health professional if I did?  Or less of one if I didn’t?  

..was it about the nutrition, the toxicity or was it about the way of life ?

..the feeling of walking into a small business, picking your produce, and lovingly preparing it?  

It was honestly a little bit of everything all rolled into one.

On that note,  it’s no secret that commercial farmers use chemicals for various reasons - pest control and fertilisation being the main ones - they are in the soil, and sprayed onto food itself.  Regardless of what regulation says is deemed ‘safe’, eating organic ensures you don’t consume this - and when I am concerned with the ingredients on a label I am equally concerned about the ones that aren’t.  

There are other schools of thought about a organic produce having more nutrition - and given what I am learning about farming practices and soil I tend to agree - but in formal studies there is mixed evidence.  Just as there are mixed results on blind tastings of organic vs. conventional  produce.  

I bring this up only as a way to show that this is a decision of head, heart and intuition - for me it is a slow and more present way of eating, rather than anything hard and fast in any other category.

Where to start.  The important thing for me was just getting started.

1. Find your nearest organic grocer

2. Make up your usual shopping list and head off (I started with just fruit and veg)

3. Make sure you take your own bags (your grocer may use boxes to place groceries in, but I haven’t yet seen an organic store that uses plastic bags - best be prepared).

With an organic smile spread across my face I set off home. Would it go off quicker than conventional produce? Would I notice a difference in taste? Would I feel instantly healthier and have the best skin ever? Would my budget handle this decision?

Does organic last longer than conventional (and some tips on food storage)?

The organic produce we purchase lasts a full week - we devour it and are conscious to use it before it spoils.  Leafy greens I wrap in a damp clean tea towel, and refresh with water every few days, the rest of the vegetable produce is lay out on paper in the ‘crisper’ section.  Fruit is placed into bowls for easy access for the kids.  

In 3 months I haven’t had any food spoil, this is not only because the produce lasts well but @@when paying organic prices my priority to avoid spoilage was a lot higher@@, so if something is needing to be used I just throw it in with whatever else we are eating that night! Where there was a will, there was a way.

So, did it really taste different?

YES. In a word...and whilst I love my imagination this can’t be ‘all in my head’, because others have noticed too!  My husband commented on the taste of his mushrooms in the curry we made recently “Are these organic? I’ve never tasted such good mushrooms before!”.

@@We have eaten pears that have BLOWN. OUR. MINDS. A lettuce and tomato sandwich is so intense with flavour I’m satisfied to eat it every day!@@ Even the ground cinnamon – borrowed by a neighbour for baking – was commented on; “the flavour and smell in that cinnamon is so intense!”.  You can’t argue with that!

Lets look at the financials, can a family afford it?

So we are actually spending less or close to the same as before.  I was previously spending about $250 (!) on food a week, much more than I wanted to (factoring in the higher cost of food in Mackay) - and there was no way we could afford to spend more!  So in the name of this experiment I jotted down our spending over the 3 months to see how we were fairing.

The week that we hit $176 I had to restock the pantry on a few things, I bought them in bulk so costs were up a littl. Overall though I was surprised with the results…

I have looked into why we spend the same to less, as it shouldn’t be this way considering organic good is more expensive per item (not pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes here), and I found the reason is two fold..

Firstly, I bake lunch box treats instead of buying them.  This skill has grown, and I can throw things together easily. Where I would take 45mins to get organise to bake, prepare the baking and get it i the oven - I have go-to recipes that honestly take no time at all!

Secondly, I am not bombarded with options - so @@I ONLY buy what I need, I buy ONLY what we eat. It’s a revolution in my fridge!!!@@

Talking of which, when we get to the end of the week in the name of ‘using everything up we have’ and not wasting a thing, I have put together some interesting combinations. A few weeks ago I opened the fridge to find; a sweet potato, a red onion, a bunch of beetroot, with a little help from google, I made a simple yet delicious soup.

simple-beet-soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 sweet potato (diced)
  • 1 red onion (chopped)
  • ½ bunch of beetroot (chopped)
  • Stock (I used vegetable)
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt and Pepper

Method: Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Toss 2 Tbs of oil (I love coconut) with the sweet potato, red onion, garlic and beetroot, season, and roast for 20-25 minutes. Once soft combine with 1 cup stock and blend adding stock bit by bit until desired consistency is found, I used a vitamix to blend, a stick blender would do the same job.

Season and serve.  Great with some fresh mint if you have some growing under your garden tap!

Easy peasy!

Love, J x

P.S. Do I feel healthier and have the best skin ever?  Haha. Sure I feel healthy. However I didn’t notice any massive moments of sun-beaming-out-of-my-face health. Sorry to disappoint! Will we continue eating this way?  Yes, most definitely, the flavour has us hooked!