Many consumers complain that while they would like to buy organic whenever possible, the higher costs associated with organic products is too much to realistically consider it. Time is money, and not only are organic farms typically smaller than conventional ones, they on average take more time when producing crops because of the care required when not using chemicals. This of course leads to a premium being added to production costs, but it should never take away from the wonderful work that organic production is doing both for people’s health and the environment.
Buying organic is a little more expensive, but the higher costs are well worth it. Consider this:
1. No chemicals = more labour
Without the use of chemicals and synthetic pesticides, organic farmers have to hire more workers for tasks such as hand-weeding, cleanup of polluted water, and the remediation of pesticide contamination.
The positive: By choosing organic you are supporting employment over the production of harmful chemicals.
2. Demand beats supply
Retail sales of organic food have increased significantly over the last decade, and most people agree that there are many benefits to organic farming. Despite this, organic farmland only accounts for 0.9% of total worldwide farmland, and organic farms tend to produce less than conventional farms. Because demand is so great, organic often fetches a higher price.
The positive: Strong demand is slowly encouraging further growth in organic farming, and the more popular it gets, the more savings can be made. By choosing organic, you’re part of the industry’s growth.
3. Better living costs more
Organic feed for cattle and other livestock can cost twice as much as conventional feed, and the higher standards for animal welfare mean that organic farms spend more on the care for their animals than conventional farms.
The positive: By choosing organic you are ensuring a better lifestyle for farmed animals.
This is just a few of the reasons to justify those few extra dollars.
Still not convinced? Why not try some of these handy tips for keeping the cost of organic shopping down!
1. Know what’s important
It’s easy to assume that when you make the decision to buy organic, you must aim to bring only organic into your home. But not everything has to be organic, and if your budget is tight then it’s a great idea to know what’s important and what’s not. The Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides identifies both the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean 15”.
The Dirty Dozen shows the foods with the highest pesticide residues, listing:
The Clean 15 shows the foods with the least pesticide residues, listing:
It’s recommended that you always by the ‘Dirty Dozen’ organic, and that if your budget’s a bit tight then the Clean 15 are ok to buy traditionally grown produce.
2. Be organised
It’s easy to overspend when you’re not organised, so label food properly when freezing, plan meals around what’s already in your fridge, and check the pantry regularly for nearing expiry dates. Keep a grocery list on the fridge, use see-through containers for leftovers, and organise your shelves in a logical way.
3. Learn to cook simply
Learn to whip up simple but tasty organic sauces, soups, breads and other meals, and you’ll save a ton in the supermarket. Choose recipes that pack a flavour punch but don’t require a mountain of ingredients, and watch as the dollars roll off the bill.
For example, instead of buying a pre-made tomato pasta sauce for $4.99, use organic tinned tomatoes, home-grown herbs and garlic to create your own sauce for half the price.
4. Visit the farmers market
Many local farmers offer organic produce but choose not to apply for organic certification because the costs outweigh their small-scale profits. By doing this, they can pass their savings onto you, but talk to them about their farming practices to ensure their produce meets your expectation.
5. Eat seasonally
Eating out of season can be very expensive, and not only are you paying more for the food, but it’s not going to taste as good as it should. Plan your menu to fit in with the seasons and you can both save significantly and ensure your food tastes great.
6. Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk is a great way to make some savings, as long as you can ensure you’ll eat the food before it goes bad. Bulk items to look for include nuts, cereals, seeds, rice, grains and pasta. If you don’t have the storage space, talk to other friends and start sharing your food.
7. Grow your own
Growing your own food means you have control over the food you eat, and you’ll know exactly what gets put on the produce and how it is fertilised. Growing your own doesn’t mean you have to have a big garden, and you don’t have to be massively clued up on your gardening knowledge. A small veggie patch takes little investment, little maintenance, and little experience.
8. Join a co-op
By joining a local food co-op, you may be entitled to special discounts, exclusive promotions, and opportunities to share in bulk items. In general, a food co-op is owned by community members who buy shares to gain membership, and while there is an initial outlay, the savings in the long-term can be big.
9. Check for sales
Supermarket catalogues often show big savings on selected items, so plan your menus to suit what’s on sale. While not everything on sale will be organic, it could mean keeping the rest of your shopping down, allowing you a few extra dollars to spend how you like.