The following is a new weekly feature brought to us by my friend Charlotte Lee. She has been a wealth of information both here on The Frugal Find and personally when it comes to eating healthful organic foods on a budget. I’ve asked her to share tips and how-to’s that show us ways to replace the quick and processed foods we’d typically buy at the grocery store with organic and all natural options. Our goal is show you that you CAN EAT WELL for LESS! Take it away Charlotte…
I am so honored to be invited to TFF today so I can share the journey I’ve been on to feed my family on 100% organic foods without going broke! I am an at home mom of two boys and a little white fluff dog. We live on one income and have since I had my first son over 4 years ago. Budgeting and getting creative with what you have is a must to make it work. Finding great resources for organic, high quality foods at rock bottom prices became my big focus as we downsized our single income a couple years back and I had to feed each of us on $5 per day.
Note that I didn’t say “cutting back” but rather “getting creative”. If you see any part of this as deprivation, it won’t be as fun, it will be frustrating when the work comes and the feeling of being deprived will suck you dry of motivation to keep going!
Two years ago, as we moved to Oregon and out of California, I plunged even further into organic foods. At the time I had bought mostly (about 75%) organic foods but we ate out a ton, I still bought premade foods and the truth is that convenience was more important to me than quality or cost. Then it all changed. I started to realize that these quick, convenient boxed options were taxing our budget and that we could be having more nutritious, fresher, better quality foods if I would take the time to research, plan and put the work in. If you’ve shopped for organic foods you know that coupons are NOT abundant. I knew that there had to be cheaper ways to shop for what is without question the more expensive option. I had to keep our budget the same.
With some help from friends and co-ops and websites here’s what I found and what I’ve used:
Farmer’s Markets – farmers come together in a central location once per week to sell from their own stands. Avoiding the overhead costs of grocery stores they will often have fabulous prices there and they’ll be fresh and straight from the farm. Not all farmer’s market stands will be organic and some will be organically grown without being certified USDA organic. The latter are often very well priced because you can get organically grown foods for conventional prices. But ask good questions about pesticide use, fertilizer use and herbicide use! Find a farmer’s market in your area by visiting Local Harvest.
Farms – Many local farms will offer you-pick options for their crops! Take advantage of the field trip opportunity and pick to your heart’s content. Berries which come in on sale for $4/lb. when buying organic are available at the farm for $1.75-$2.00! And this week alone I picked 15 lbs. of berries to freeze and jam for the winter months when they’re not available! Apples in the fall and stone fruit towards the end of summer are all great to stock up on from you-pick farms. A google search for local farms that offer you-pick is often more than what you’ll need to get started.
CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) – This year I’ve taken advantage of a local CSA. As a member of a CSA I purchase a share of a farm and I get a share of the crops! Local farmers offer shares typically once per year at the beginning of the year before planting season. The benefit here is the low, low prices on amazingly fresh, organic and local produce! There are a variety of CSA’s ranging from veggies, fruits and veggies, just fruit, optional eggs, you-pick boxes, etc. The downside is that you often don’t get to specifically choose your variety so you have to use what you get – get creative. The upside is that the price can’t be beat but the money is due up front or in payment chunks. Mine averages out to $20 per week for organic veggies. For more information about CSAs, go here and find your local CSA by visiting one of the listed sites. I found mine through Local Harvest and I’ve used Eating Well Guide as well.
Co-op – This is my go to place for bulk goods and one I could not do without. A co-op is a group of people who create a wholesale account to be a distribution point for companies meaning that they get the rock bottom prices that the grocers do except there is no mark up! I get all my monthly staples from here. Dry grains, dried fruit, essential oils, soaps, etc. anything that I can get from them I most likely will because the prices are 40-60% lower than the health food stores. All of these options should be free to join. There is no membership fee but some may ask for volunteer time since this is not their jobs. The drop point coordinators are volunteering their time and homes as well. Some will charge 10% of the order to have it sorted out for you. Azure Standard, which is local to Oregon, is the wholesale provider for most of what I get on a monthly basis. You can visit them at Azure Standard and set up a free account to see their prices. The only downside is that orders must be over $50 individually and as a group must total a minimum amount for the drop to take place. This means that you typically get your order in once per month and planning ahead is a must!
The other provider for our co-op is Frontier, which you can visit at Frontier Co-op. Organic spices, toys, household items, anything I could get at a major health food chain can be found here and found for 50% off most items.
Visiting either of their sites and calling them you should be able to find out if there is an existing co-op near you.
Through any of these venues you can find nearly anything organic, pasture raised, free range and the highest quality for the cheapest prices. All you have to do is ask, ask, ask!!! Just by asking around I found a reputable dairy for our milk, organic, free range, pastured eggs and a fantastic, 100% grass-fed, pastured beef butcher to buy an 1/8th of a cow from and even got free kefir grains! Asking around at the farmer’s markets and even nudging some of your “green” friends who are usually thrilled to share will be a great way to learn of new sources.