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Can You Afford Organic and Local Produce?

I recently came across a blog where the blogger had a local/organic/sustainability challenge going. It looked like a family of 4 has (only!) $588 a month budgeted to buy all food, and most (all?) had to be locally grown, sustainable and/or organic. Reading all of the comments, it's easy to see how some of her readers are frustrated. Not that many people these days have $588 a month to spend on food.

We are a family of 3, plus I'm helping to feed my mother in law in exchange for letting Hubby live there during the week. VHTS (Tween) and I can't have wheat, Tween can't have corn, nuts or soybeans, and I am working on losing weight/getting healthy. We have at most $300 a month to do this. I try to come way way WAY under that (not always successfully). How?
  • We're still eating winter squashes we grew last year. They've survived the winter down in the basement. I think we have 2 acorn, 1 butternut, 2 spaghetti, 4 mexican x-top cushaw, and 4 pumpkins left. We also have sunflowers; we still need to brush the seeds off and roast them. We also have black turtle beans left - I think enough for 2 family meals. We still have a string of very dry jalapeno peppers hanging in the kitchen.
  • Also from our garden, and now resting comfortably in our freezer are: 12 packages of various types of tomatoes, 5 baggies of string beans, 4 baggies of soy beans, 20 clamshells of raspberries. We already finished off the corn, okra, strawberries, and peppers.
  • In 2007, I had started to stockpile dried fruits and veggies, and last year (2008) stocked up on canned foods. We dig into these regularly.
  • I try to get to King Soopers (Krogers/City Market) early on Tuesday mornings, where I can usually find "orange stickers" (prices reduced by at least half) on dairy, produce and meat items. Sometimes I can get a little 1-pound log of ground beef for $.99! Yogurt can sometimes be found for .26, and milk often for $1.00 a gallon. I've discovered I can freeze the yogurt. Right now, I have 5 little 1-pound logs of ground beef from the last time I found them on sale (I grab as many as I have money and room for).
  • When I see a sale for gluten-free ketchup, beans, smart balance butter, or other items we used very regularly, I buy multiples.
  • Every other week I go to Sam's and get big bags of apples and pears. It seems like the other fruit goes bad before we get to it all, so for a while, it's bananas, apples and pears. Not local, I'm sure, but necessary for our health.
  • Wal-Mart usually has good prices for avocados, sometimes for $.50 each. I buy 10 at a time and refrigerate them to make them last longer. I'm working on a way to preserve them long-term, without causing brown spots or sacrificing taste. Any suggestions would be appreciated!
  • We supplement/bulk-up meals with white and sweet potatoes bought on sale, and rice and beans bought in bulk. This summer we will eat mainly from our garden (carrots, onions, greens, strawberries, beans, tomatoes, etc.).

VHTS and I need to gluten-free bread, and it's really hard to make all nice and soft, so I spend about $15 a week for 3 loaves of bread. Tween eats most of it... growing kid, bottomless pit, hollow leg, etc.

I can't do local and organic, and still get within our budget. I'd like to, but can't. The organic section of the supermarkets are getting bigger, and the prices ARE coming down, but they are still a little too high for me. Unless it has an orange sale sticker on it or is notably on sale, we just can't do it.

Farmer's markets aren't open yet, and given the weird Winter we've had, who knows what the local produce will be like or when it will be ready.

Who can afford to, realistically, buy only locally-grown, organic and sustainable produce for their family? How much do you spend? What do you get? Do you have enough variety in your diet?


Anonymous said...


While I'll agree organic can be more expensive, if you stick to simply meat, veggies, fruits, beans and legumes, seeds, nuts etc and cut out pre-packaged foods you can keep the costs down. There are co-ops who purchase from UNFI - United Foods Inc - local buying clubs, buying items in bulk/case which keep the cost down.

Check out You can find local producers, co-ops and farmers markets - build relationship with local farmers....perhaps you can work out an opportunity to help them at the farm for reduced cost beef, chicken, pork, etc.

While we have our own garden we cannot produce enough on our property for our own needs (and some varieties simply won't grow here). Therefore, we participate in a local CSA - community supported agriculture, buying a working share which saves us $150 a year. For $350 we get at least one bushel of fresh, locally-grown, organic veggies for 16 - 18 weeks depending on the growing season.

AND - if you can't afford organic - get locally produced!!! This is still MUCH better than food being shipped across the country. Go to the farmers market, perhaps you have something you can barter with them. Buy all their such and such at a reduced price and split it with others. For items we need in larger quantities we can't grow or get at our CSA, we attend farmers market late in the day and get great deals on items to can, freeze, dry, etc.

WHEN you find organic on sale - load up. Certain veggies keep for longer periods of you've learned storing your own home-grown items.

You are wise to head out on Tuesday for the "orange-sticker" items. We've learned this trick too! Another tip, ask if they have a glut of any product in the back - perhaps they'll offer a case price or reduced price to move it out!

AND....I can say this. We started eating organic, locally-grown OR organic products when hubby started having serious medical issues with his digestive tract. He was once again able to eat foods which he had previously had to stop...AND the symptoms are nearly non-existent. HE is on NO medications and feeling stronger than ever. We do spend more $$ than we use to on groceries - however, for us the trade off (savings from doctor and medication bills, eating out, etc)...wash out.

AND there is the importance of keeping LOCAL producers in business. There is very little of our family's food dollar which DOES NOT stay in our home state. We buy very little food which isn't produced locally......we are NOT interested in financing large corporations (mainly MONSATAN) . We have made friends with many local farmers and producers and learned a great deal from them. Knowing we are helping keep another family farming and growing is as important to us as getting the best quality food out food $$ will buy! AND every time we go "to the farms" it is a little mental health break for us - so much less traffic, noise, pollution etc. Keeps the batteries fully charged and ready to go! :) :)

Summary - grow your own, buy organic, buy local.......! God bless.


NVG-WmsFam said...

You are right, Sam. I should have emphasized ... buy local and organic whenever you can, and when you can afford it, and yes, there are ways to get around the affordability issue. But... these days, not many people have that luxury. Literally! Thanks for writing. Vikki

marci357 said...

$80/month for one - local but not necessarily certified organic, altho organically raised. Local would include my small garden. I also still have 8 spaghetti squash and 1 butternut sitting on my countertop, lots of dried veggies and fruits, and lots of frozen veggies/tomatoes/etc.

My meat is mostly self-harvested - clams, fish, deer, elk. Just canned my first clams this year to cut down on the freezer being so full of meat.