As food costs soar and people become more conscious about their food decisions, it’s time to rethink the way we shop for food. Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, advises, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” This can be applied to budget reasons as well as health reasons. “Eat food”—buy real oatmeal in bulk rather than processed hot or cold cereals. “Not too much”—obviously less food (conventional or organic) in your cart means a smaller bill and allows you to buy better quality products. “Mostly plants”—try to eat lower on the food chain, it costs less! Again, it will clear up money for whole organic produce and local foods and treats.
Whole Foods carries generic brands called “365 Everyday Value” and “365 Organic Everyday Value” that will also lighten the burden on your pocket book. There are no artificial ingredients or genetically modified ingredients in the food. It is exclusively sold at Whole Foods, and the products range from body care to dairy products.
Join one of the 50 natural food co-ops in Minnesota, and you not only receive a member dividend check at the end of the year, but you will also receive monthly coupons and be eligible for weekly or monthly discounts at all co-ops stores.
A way to save money on produce during the summer is to become involved with a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm that offers reduced-priced membership shares when their members come work on the farm. This is a great way to learn more about growing vegetables and to meet farmers.
Hampden Park Co-Op, a natural foods grocery store near the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus, lets volunteers put in three, six, or twelve hours a month to get food at a discounted price. Currently over 250 households are participating. Naomi Jackson, member coordinator at Hampden Park Co-op, commented on paying more money for organic food, “It’s the old adage-you pay the grocer or the doctor.” She gives some tips about eating green on a budget:
- Be willing to do more cooking from scratch.
- Expand your definition of “local” to the Upper Midwest.
- Buy dried fruits; they’re lighter and cost less to ship.
- Buy your produce at farmer’s markets, and don’t rule them out if they are non-organic. Some simply can’t afford the costs of certification. Ask them how their vegetables were grown, you may be surprised.
- Buy storage crops in big batches for home storage-squash, onions, potatoes, and garlic.
- Buy vegetables that last longer in the refrigerator—carrots, beets, and cabbage.
- Connect with your local cooperative grocery store. You’ll gain access to resources for money-saving tips for your area.
- Buy grains, beans, pasta, nuts, rice, and spices in bulk.
Most importantly, before heading to the grocery store or farmer’s market with your cloth bag and pocketbook at hand, decide where ‘organic’ counts for you. Whatever you decide to buy is a personal choice. “Greening up” your diet doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
What to Eat, by Marion Nestle, North Point Press, 2007.
The Organic Food Handbook, by Ken Roseboro, Basic Health Publications, 2007.