Whenever I talk about organic food the first concern most people have is how expensive it is, however, shopping and cooking organically can be done more cheaply than you may think. The truth is that it does require organisation, creativity and lifestyle changes, but these changes have the potential to make you healthier and happier. It took me a little while to get into the swing of things but I learnt a lot along the way. So here are my top tips to eating as organically, ethically and as healthily as possible on a budget.
Farmers Markets: Your local farmers’ market is a great way of getting fresh, local and organic produce. They offer the best produce of the season and as the goods are local it tends to be cheaper than buying from supermarkets. A good tip is buying in bulk and freezing what you can. You may get a discount if you snap up all of the spring onions :-). Also, if you go at the end of the day you may also be able to get a discount as they try to get rid of remaining goods. For details of a Farmers’ Market close to you check out the Local Foods directory.
Sign-up to an organic box scheme: Online shopping for organic produce with a company that delivers to your door is truly great idea especially as most of us are incredibly busy. Riverford and Abel and Cole are great UK companies that deliver local, seasonal and organic fruit and veg straight to your doorstep. There are often special offers on their websites so you can get excellent value for money.
Eat the Seasons: Cook fresh fruit and veg from scratch. Avoiding over packaged convenience foods is not only usually healthier but also cheaper.
Less meat, more veg: Meat can be an expensive addition to your shopping basket. Try to have fewer meat based meals each week. If you do like red meat try to lower the cost by buying cheaper cuts like pork belly of neck of lamb, offal can also provide nutritious meals (I love what River Cottage has done to highlight great pieces of meat for less). Local butchers are your mantra here. Get friendly with them and ask for advice on good alternative cuts. With poultry I make every part count. Nothing goes to waste. I tend to buy a whole chicken and divide it into meal sized portions. I will keep bones to make stock for meat based soups. Fish, can be expensive. I buy whole fish as this can be more economical and then cut it into meal sized portions and freeze.
Cook in bulk and get creative: Make meals in larger batches, use herbs and spices, and cheaper ingredients like tomatoes or beans and pulses to bulk things out, and then freeze left over portions. This is a great way making less into more.
Join or create an organic buying group: This is a great idea and one I will looking into this summer. You can become part of a co-operative with a local farm and buy as a consortium with others. This can reduce the cost per item of your produce. You can also buy store cupboard items in bulk with groups of friends getting items at wholesale prices.
Also, take a look at Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). CSA is a partnership between farmers and the public where you make an annual investment for a share of the harvest and can prove great value for money.
Make a shopping list: It’s an obvious thing to say and many of us already do this for our grocery shop, but this is my top tip and mantra. Creating a shopping list ensures that you won’t have food to throw away and you can get creative with any leftovers that you do have.
Freeze, freeze, freeze: If you can freeze as much as possible once you fridge is full this will help you to buy in bulk reducing the cost of purchases.