Whole Foods Lifestyle - Organic On a Budget?

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12-15-2008, 08:30 PM
Alright, so I briefly posted an inquiry regarding this in my introduction, but just in case some people exist who don't read every single introduction, I thought I'd re-post my question in it's proper topic. So my GF & I are trying to start & eat organic. Her mom & father eat organic, & she's eaten it on & off for big chunks of her life. I see how the preservatives, additives, GM & other foods effect their bodies because they aren't used to that junk, & lately I've seen it effecting mine. I've read a lot about High Fructose Corn Syrup & it's correlation to weight gain since it's introduction in the 70's & it's finally moved me to action. We're going to start eating organic (slowly, & probably simple, cheap foods: ie. soup/sandwiches). My dilemma lies in that I live with my mother (the coupon queen) who buys almost everything in bulk, almost all of which is junk food or filled with junk anyways. We live in a small room in my mother's house ATM, & we're currently sharing the same fridge with the rest of the house (which makes it hard). We're going to be obtaining a rather good sized mini-fridge after Christmas, so that we can more easily eat organic & separate the two different diets of the household. I'm posting asking for some advice or suggestions for a college student looking to buy organic on a budget. I get a pretty decent paycheck, but I'm not rolling in the riches, FYI. I also don't have much knowledge about the cost of certain foods, or what brands are better than others (her mom has given us a few good brands, but still, we're kind of just pulling straws right now). Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you for your time & consideration,

12-15-2008, 08:39 PM
Even if you cannot afford organic, moving to a "Whole Foods" approach (meaning you cook and eat from basic ingredients...whole grains, lean proteins, lots and lots of produce, etc...rather than from pre-packaged foods) will cut out a lot of the additives and junk food, even if you can't afford all-organics. So if you really can't make the organics work budget-wise, at least try to go to more whole foods...it'll eliminate the HFCS, preservatives, additives, and the like, while increasing the nutritional quality of what you're eating.

Also useful for those on a budget - the Dirty Dozen - a set of 12 produce items that are the most heavily sprayed. These are the foods for which buying organic is especially important, if you can afford it. There is also a "Cleanest Dozen"...the 12 kinds of produce that have the lowest pesticide loads. If you have a limited budget for organic produce, these will help you prioritize. http://www.foodnews.org/walletguide.php

Doing organics and whole foods on a budget basically requires that you do a lot of cooking...you can have prepared foods that are healthy/organic, but they are generally WAY more expensive than those on a budget can afford. So be prepared to put in some effort...it really is worth it!

12-15-2008, 08:44 PM
Hey Kimmy. Welcome.

One thing I'd like to point out .. it's possible to eat naturally and cleanly and avoid processed foods w/out necessarily eating 100% organic.

I would dearly love to eat 100% organic foods, but with my financial situation, it's not always possible. So I do research and investigate and see what I'm able to compromise on and what I WON'T compromise on at all.

I avoid HFCS and preservatives nearly 100% (probably 90% or better) by eating whole foods as much as possible.

I eat a TON of fresh veggies that aren't organic. I eat whole grains - probably 50% organic and 50% not, but I buy them from the bulk bins at the Whole Foods. I try to buy local where I can ... and sometimes that saves money. I will spend the extra money on cage free organic eggs at the grocery store, but I also buy from a local farm when I can ... and I pay much less when buying eggs from them.

I won't compromise on dairy for the most part. I buy organic/hormone free milk, cream, butter, yogurt, etc. From what I've researched since milk is a direct, unprocessed product of the cow (pasteurization doesn't count) , hormones and other chemicals pretty much pass straight through, as opposed to some other items.

I also tend to buy artisan cheeses from small companies - but then I'm a cheese snob! :)

Then again, I buy Barilla whole wheat pasta, which does have some preservatives in it, but I'm comfortable with that and I don't eat pasta every day, either.

So ... as I said, it's possible to eat clean, while not being 100% organic. You just have to decide what's important to you and work around that.


Thighs Be Gone
12-15-2008, 08:56 PM
I would like to agree what the others have advised you in regards to clean eating and whole foods emphasis. The things I buy organic in my home right now are things that comes from a package and milk. Otherwise, we just buy ordinary whole foods.

12-15-2008, 09:28 PM
Thanks everyone for your replies! I agree with what you're saying about whole foods, & understand that eating entirely organic is (at this moment) nothing more than a fantasy. I do not want to compromise with the organic on certain foods, but much of our diet will be based on all natural rather than organic. I've been shopping around a little bit, & bought a small amount of food just the other night. The only thing that was really "organic" were the granny smith apples we bought, the rest I was willing to compromise because the ingredient list wasn't a mile long (& I even found orange juice that was *gasp* just made from oranges!!) Lol. Directed at mandalinn, thank you for the link, I think it should prove very useful. Also, I don't have a problem with the cooking factor, because while I don't have much experience I do love to cook. As long as I have a basic recipe or understanding of how the food needs to be prepared, it usually turns out pretty freak'n delicious! I enjoy baking better, & for that reason want to bake our own bread rather than buying it. Any idea about the costs of organic (or all natural) flour/yeast? Photochick, I agree with you on the dairy, but one of the things I'm trying to do is drink less; I love milk, but I think I need to cut it out of my diet a bit more & maybe find my lactose in yogurt/small amounts of cheese. I also admit to a cheese weakness, which I'm trying to cut back on (Gouda breaks me every time-- can't pass it up!). Rar.. yeah, that's it for now. =]

Any thoughts on fruits? I love fruit, but organic fruit prices would kill me. I really don't want to be ingesting GM or sprayed crop though.
Rar, choices.

12-15-2008, 09:35 PM
I buy all my flour at King Arthur Flour. My local whole foods carries the brand, but you can also buy online at http://www.kingarthurflour.com

I actually don't like milk much - not so much the flavor as the texture. My FAVORITE ever dairy is plain greek yogurt. I love the FAGE 2% yogurt (which has 17g of protein per serving). I also make my own probably 2x a month ... and then use the FAGE to fill in when I don't have time to make it.

I freely indulge my cheese craving. I would rather have a little bit of REALLY good cheese than any amount of icky low fat stuff. :) So I do eat cheese nearly every day.

Fruits and veggies, I work from the list that Manda posted for the most part. I have it as part of my Excel spreadsheet and I just mark the things that I *need* to get organic. Anything else - I mostly look at prices and see what I can afford and what's on sale. Sometimes the organic items at my Whole Foods go on sale and are actually cheaper than the non-organic. A lot of what I buy and eat each week is based on what's on sale! :)

The cooking thing will help you a lot. I like to cook as well and am pretty good at throwing things together and having them come out well. That's a HUGE benefit when it comes to being able to eat whole. :)


12-15-2008, 11:37 PM
I live in an area where high quality organics are hard to find. The local grocery stores and health food stores sell some organic produce, but it's usually in pretty poor shape. Fresh fruits and vegetables do lose nutrition sitting on the shelf, so I figure it's probably better to buy a fresh looking "regular" apple than a withered organic one (definitely tastes better).

Hubby and I are on a fixed income, being on disability, so in general, we're able to buy more and higher quality fruits and vegetables if we're not overly concerned about organic, but I do keep my eye open for opportunities. For example, we have a private store that sells other store's overstock (sort of like Big Lots) and about twice a month they get in health food store and gourmet shop items, and I found organic chick peas at an amazing price, much cheaper than "regular" chick peas, so I stocked up (hubby said "do we really need 6 cans of chick peas? - and I just used the last can yesterday - wish I'd bought more). I buy organic fuji apples and organic baby lettuce spring mix at Sam's, because the price is good. The organic spring mix is only about $4 for a huge box, whereas a tiny bag at the grocery store would be about the same price. I think the cost of the Sam's card was well worth the price for the cost of my lettuce alone.

I also tend to pick local non-organic over large corporate organic. I love our local farmers markets (closed November through May, darn it), and especially try to buy from the Hmong and organic farmers because they tend to use fewer fertilizers and pesticides than other local farmers. We also have a lot of local organic farmers who are not certified (either because they are too small for the certification process to be affordable or worth the trouble to them), but they will tell you or have signage that advertises that they use only natural fertilizers and pest control methods (and will tell you what they are, if you ask).

There's a lot of good information on the web (if you consider the source and realize the extreme opinions probably aren't the most accurate. University websites are more accurate than blogs...) about which foods are best to buy organic, and which probably don't matter as much. I think this website reports one such study http://foodnews.org/.

But you'll find various lists on when it's important to buy organic, and when not so much. Now these lists vary according to the opinions of the list maker, but here's one list, that's fairly consistent with others I've seen.

Buy Organic: Peaches, strawberries, apples, spinach, nectarines, celery,
pears, cherries, potatoes, bell peppers, raspberries, imported grapes

Okay to Buy Nonorganic:
sweet corn, avocados, pineapples, cauliflower, mangoes, sweet peas, asparagus, onions, broccoli, bananas, kiwis