This post tries to clarify some of those tough choices that you may face and shows you how our family makes those decisions on a budget.
First off, there is a lot of confusion out there about what organic actually means. Simply put, it is an agricultural practice that tries to minimize the burden that we place on the planet by straying away from synthetic pesticides and practicing sustainable agricultural techniques (being nice to land). Organic foods are also not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.
So, now that we've got that off our plates, another common complaint is that it costs a lot more. Strictly in the monetary sense, yes, it does cost more, but if you've ever tried to raise an organic garden there is good reason it costs a lot more - it's an absurd amount of work to get a crop from seed to table (luckily we enjoy the challenge). So, yes, you may be spending an extra 10-25 % on your food to go organic. If you spend $1000 dollars on food a month, that equates out to an extra $100-250, but if you only spend $300 a month on food, at worst its about $75 extra on your bill. Either way, it's a small price to pay for insurance that your children and grandchildren will still have bugs around to pollinate their crops and soil around for crops to grow in. Further, you can save a lot of money by growing the food yourself, and you may just pick up a really cool hobby in the process. The distance from your own personal garden to your plate is as short as it comes. Let's talk some more about this.
Now, the real problem surfaces when you start to look at food miles (the distance traveled from crop to table - the average piece of food on the American table travels 1300 miles from farm to table). Sure, you can buy organic apples, but if they originated in New Zealand and you live in Colorado, is that really sustainable? Just imagine how much fuel had to be burnt to get that small piece of fruit to you. So, in that instance, choosing a non-organic apple grown at a local orchard may be the better choice. I'm almost positive that you even have a better choice - somebody almost everywhere is growing produce organically - search them out. You'll be supporting your local economy and making a statement that you do care about what happens to this planet. In the instant that you make the decision to do this, not only have you spoken and your voice was heard, but the farmers who are working extremely hard to raise a family will be very appreciative that you made that decision. In fact, we've met a lot of friends this way. It strengthens the social fabric that used to be so common before nuclear families rapidly eroded the bonds of the community. People yearn for that bond, and it's probably why social media is so prevalent these days.
Buying in bulk is another option we use a lot for the sole reason that it saves on a lot of packaging and money. We do not buy single servings. Our oatmeal, flour, and sugar is purchased in 25 pound bags.
Ok, back to us. We eat a 50% mix of local foods and organic foods from the store. We do not buy meat from the store, rather from local farmers. Most recently our neighbor likes to shoot deer, but doesn't like to eat them, so he just gives them to us - a single deer will last us through half of the year. As you've seen on this blog, we preserve a lot of food from our garden. So, after everything is said and done, we really only consistently hit up the grocery store for milk products, grains, and chocolate. The graph below shows 7 years worth of monthly grocery spending. You can see the jump in price when we went to organic then from there food just got more expensive across the board. We used to be a little more diligent about finding coupons and only buying organic things on sale, but now we are a bit more liberal in our purchases. Honestly though, a family of three with some hard work in a garden of their own can easily sustain a local and organic diet for about $300/month.