I remember feeling bad because we couldn’t afford organic food, and I wanted to feed my children healthy food. Guess what?! I learned that you CAN feed your family well on a tight budget—organic or not!
Dear Mom Who Can’t Afford Organic Food,
In this post, I tackled head on the myth that everyone can afford organic food. It simply isn’t true.
“When there is a will, there is a way” is just cliche to someone struggling to meet even their basic needs. And maybe that is you.
But like me, you read; you research. And like me, you know that feeding your babies hotdogs and Twinkies is not healthy. You want something better for your children.
But you are frustrated.
I hear you, Mama. I am, too. It almost feels like a trap, right? Like you see the light at the end of the tunnel–you know what it might take to make your child healthier–but you keep running and just cannot get there. I’ve been there. Totally been there.
What my post the other day lacked was some practical ways to eat well when you can’t afford organic food. There are things you can do!
Check out these practical ways to eat well when you can’t afford organic food:
1. Avoid the dirty dozen.
Not sure what this means? Each year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases 12 of the most pesticide-laden or “dirty” fruits and veggies sold in the United States. Get a copy of the list and work toward avoiding eating too much of these items.
The list varies slightly from year to year, but typically the foods highest in pesticides are conventional apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, imported nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, kale/collard green and summer squash.
2. Avoid GMOs.
What are genetically modified foods? The top ones in the U.S. include corn, soy, Hawaiian paypaya, cotton, and canola (among others). I think avoiding these foods may be even more important than avoiding the dirty dozen! If it’s not organic then it’s probably genetically modified if you live in the United States. Read more about GMOs here.
3. Eat from the Clean 15 list.
Yay! Here’s a list where you aren’t just avoiding something! The EWG publishes a list of “clean” or lower-sprayed foods each year as well! These are foods you should eat from in abundance. Do note that corn and papaya are often both included on this list, and you still may want to avoid them because they are GMO.
4. Avoid processed meats.
Ideally, you would want to buy grass-fed, pastured, locally-raised meats. But our world isn’t always ideal. So instead of eating hotdogs and chicken nuggets, make the simple switch to cooking meals with plain meat that you season yourself.
Buy various cuts of chicken, beef or pork—or buy fish (preferably wild caught, but if it’s not in your budget, it’s not!). If it’s in your budget, buy hormone/antibiotic free, but don’t feel bad if you can’t. Just do the best you can.
5. Cook from scratch.
Steam a head of broccoli (it’s the easiest thing ever!) instead of opting for the pre-seasoned, cheesy broccoli bites in the freezer section. Make your own mac ‘n cheese or Hamburger Helper instead of buying the pre-made stuff. Make homemade bread crumbs to bread your own chicken instead of opting for the frozen chicken nuggets at the store. The Recipe Index here on my site has dozens more healthy, homemade condiment and meal options!
When you cook from scratch, you control the ingredients—not a for-profit company somewhere that cares only about making money, even at the cost of your health.
6. Cut the dairy subs and use the real thing.
When you look at dairy subs (think: coffee creamers, spreadable margarine, etc.), they are almost all made with high levels of GMO ingredients—like soy. Make the switch to using real butter, real yogurt (not the sugar-laden, flavored stuff!), real cheese (not Velveeta!) and real cream. If you have dairy allergies like we do, check out this post on how to choose a dairy-free milk.
7. Use healthy fats.
Canola oil is not healthy. It’s a top GMO crop, and I avoid those at all costs. Instead, use olive oil, palm shortening, coconut oil, real butter or real lard. Trina Holden recently posted this GREAT infographic on good fats!
8. Check the clearance produce.
Even during the time we had WIC, I would shop the clearance produce racks to maximize the funds I had. Sometimes, you can even score organic that is cheaper than conventional!
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9. Use fresh when possible, then frozen and then canned.
Fresh produce is always best. But you may not always be able to eat what you prefer. For example, apples are in season in the fall. So, they will be cheaper in the fall. But their price will skyrocket when they are not in season. For this reason, try to shop for in-season produce that is fresh.
When you can’t get fresh, opt for frozen. Most frozen produce is frozen at its peak time in the season!
Lastly, use canned. I really do not recommend canned goods. I have read that only canned tomatoes retain any nutritional value (canned fish is OK, though). Also, most cans are lined with BPA, which is a hormone disruptor (source).
I will not tell you that everyone can garden. Not everyone can. I think it takes some knack for it. However, you can learn at least the basics! (Check out these Gardening Tips for People Who Can’t Garden and these Simple Tips for the Rookie Gardener.)
If it were left to me, our garden would never produce a thing! My husband really takes care of it; I just pick out of it!
Up until two months ago, we lived in a townhouse, so we didn’t even have a yard. Instead, we used my parents’ land to plant three to four box gardens for the past four summers. Sometimes it was hit or miss, but it was nice to have the little bit of extra when it did go well!
If you do not have any land you can use, check out Jami’s Apartment Gardening eBook, which has ideas for gardening in small spaces!
Above all, just cook with real, whole foods! If you can afford organic, great! But, if not, don’t sweat it or beat yourself up!
One of the BEST eBooks I’ve read on the topic of eating healthy on a budget is Your Grocery Budget Toolbox by Anne Simpson. I highly recommend it if you want more in-depth tips!