10 ways to eat organic on a budget

Tom Hunt - 03 March 2015

With a little shopping knowhow we can all buy more organic produce - here are 10 ways to eat organic on a budget.

1. Grow your own

Organic vegYou don’t need a garden and it takes little effort to grow a few pots of your favourite herbs and vegetables and it’s so rewarding. You can grow anywhere, on windowsills, on the porch, or on the driveway. Start with herbs as they can be so expensive to buy and take up little room. Try up-cycling your empty egg boxes into planters for seedlings and using old bean cans and milk bottles for plant pots. Find out more about growing your own...

2. Eat less meat

Meat is at the top of my priority list when it comes to buying organic. Organic certification from the Soil Association not only certifies that the meat is organic but that it is high welfare. Meat is expensive, buy less and make vegetables the centre of attention. When you do buy meat buy cheaper cuts like shoulder and belly, they take longer cooking but are often tastier than the prime cuts.

3. Reduce waste

The average household wastes between 20-30% of their food, through mismanaging the larder, over buying, and poor storage. I see this as a budget for buying better quality and organic food. Make sure you use your oldest meat and vegetables first and build your meal plan around those ingredients. I keep a draw in my fridge for the oldest produce and rotate the produce into it before it gets cooked.

4. Buy in bulk

Buying some produce in bulk can help you save money in the long run. Bulk buy products are often cheaper. Stick to pastas, pulses, dried foods and vegetables that have a long life like potatoes and onions. You can also buy whole animals butchered for a good price. Freeze them in portions and cuts and defrost as necessary.

5. Buy seasonal

Produce is cheaper when it is in season. Firstly because it hasn’t had to be shipped halfway across the world and secondly because it will be more abundant. As you know I base all my recipes around seasonal produce for this reason as well as the superior quality. Use this excellent seasonal chart as a guide when shopping...

6. Cook from scratch

Convenience foods are more expensive than cooking raw ingredients from scratch as long as you look after your ingredients and use them sparingly. I like to cook extra portions of food that I can eat for lunch the next day or freeze for use in the future.

7. Know the ‘Clean fifteen’

The Environmental Working group have released a list called the ‘clean fifteen’ naming the least pesticide ridden vegetables. If you can’t afford to buy all organic then these fruit and vegetables are the best non-organic produce to buy – avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, frozen peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papayas, kiwis, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower and sweet potatoes.

These are the best to avoid: apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, imported nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas and potatoes.

8. Join a local organic box scheme

Local box schemes are not always the cheapest option but they will normally compete with the prices of organic supermarket produce. They will provide a good base of ingredients for the week, save you time shopping and support local farms. If they give you an option to, buy a veg box without potatoes. This will give you a larger variety of ingredients. Imported organic produce costs a lot more so avoid boxes that use imported produce. Find an organic box scheme near you...

9. Create an organic buying group or co-op.

Club together with other people interested in buying organic produce and set up a co-op. Here’s some info on how to set up a co-op by the Soil Association. This will give you buying power, as you will have a larger spend. It will also allow you to buy from co-operative wholesalers such as Essential-trading and Suma co-op. Co-ops are a really resilient model for business and working together that can also save you money as an individual.

10. Shop wisely and avoid supermarkets

Organic food is seen as a premium product and can be over expensive for this reason. Supermarkets are guilty of this, so it is best to avoid them. Supermarkets normally have their prices available online, note down the cost of the products you normally buy and price check them with online organic shops, farmers market and greengrocers to find out who has the best price.

Originally posted on Tom’s Feast. Tom is an acclaimed eco-chef and author. He founded the Forgotten Feast, a campaign working on projects throughout the UK to revive our cooking heritage and help reduce food waste, and Poco, a festival café and award winning restaurant in Bristol. For more of Tom’s world inspired seasonal recipes check out his book The Natural Cook.

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05 March 2015 18:22

Community supported agriculture (CSA) farms are a great way to access a variety of seasonal, locally grown fruit, vegetables, meat and other goods, direct from the farmer. Many farms let you put on your wellies and help out, or hold harvest events and even the odd Cèilidh! Get in touch with the CSA Network UK on Twittter, @CSANetwork or Facebook www.facebook.com/CSACommunityUK

Jo Farrar
05 March 2015 18:10

Try and support a local veg box scheme as their prices tend to be cheaper than the big national schemes as they have less overheads etc.

03 March 2015 17:21

Great blog. How about signing up to a local community supported agriculture scheme too? Many of them offer workshares - where you put in a set number of hours work in return for your share in the harvest. Find out more here: http://www.soilassociation.org/communitysupportedagriculture

Anna Louise Batchelor
03 March 2015 15:50

Good tips Tom. On point 9 can I encourage you to get people to look for existing food co-ops. Establishing a food buying club and especially a food co-op is a lot of hard work (I know I was a founder and involved in running one for 7 years!) when there maybe one just round the corner! The Sustain 'co-ops finder' is a useful tool and can be found here; http://www.sustainweb.org/foodcoops/finder/

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