The most common thing I hear when I talk with people about food and my diet is, “I think what you’re doing is great, but I just can’t afford organic food. It’s too expensive.”
I typically just bite my tongue and either move forward with the conversation or change the conversation all together. Two things which don’t come very easy to me! Well, guess what?
I’m sick of biting my tongue. And that’s what this post is all about. I’ve decided I need to speak up and share my own finances with people, because I think the results may surprise some.
Before I start I would like to make one very important note: this is a budget and eating plan that works for my husband and myself, 2 people. I understand that if you have a large family that the results may not work out the same for you. Also, I don’t think just going organic is best, but rather buying locally organic foods from a trustworthy farm. There are multiple articles out there about how food you purchase at the store isn’t really grass-fed-free-range-organic like it claims to be.
Prior to the summer of 2011, I shopped at a food store on a weekly basis like most people do. I would write my weekly shopping list, plan my meals for the week, and head to the store with list in hand. I very rarely drifted from this list – a technique I had learned at Weight Watchers years earlier – it helps you stick to budget and healthy eating choices. If you don’t have a list, you’re more apt to be persuaded by foods you see passing by.
Each week I budgeted for $120 to spend at the food store and was usually very close to that amount, or a tad over. That $120 would be spent something like this:
- $40-$50 on fruits and veggies
- $20 on lean meats/poultry/fish/eggs
- $10-$15 on dairy (milks, cheese, yogurts)
- $20 on snacks and cereals (typically Weight Watchers, 100 calorie snack packs, granola bars, and ice cream)
- $10-$20 on things like pasta, pasta sauce, chicken/beef stock, condiments, etc.
- $5-$8 on gallon sized bottled water (unfortunately my tap water is not drinkable… I wish it were! I could save myself hundreds of dollars each year!)
As you can see, we ate fairly healthy and fresh ingredients – lots of fruits and veggies, no sodas or juices, minimal processed foods. When I bought the food, I paid no attention to if it was organic and local. I just bought whatever my list said for that week, for whatever meals I needed the ingredients for.
Nowadays, I spend $900 for 3 months worth of food from my CSA shares from Brookford Farm, plus about $40 each week on items either at the farm stand, farmer’s markets, or in the organic sections of the food store. Please note: whenever I purchase food from a store now I always read ingredients on products and purchase the products with the least ingredients. I purchase organic whenever possible. I like shopping at stores like Whole Foods because they have these cool labels for local products and I try to purchase those as much as possible. Whole foods also had a bulk section, where I purchase things like organic sunflower and pumpkin seeds, organic rices, etc. Also, BJs sells organic sugar, organic rice and Quinoa, organic stocks, organic olive oil, and some organic snacks. I try to stock up on bulk products whenever possible. Here’s how my money is now spent:
- $260 for 3 months of organic veggies ($20 per week)
- $103 for 3 months of organic dairy products ($8 per week, I typically get raw milk and yogurt, or raw milk and cheese)
- $65 for 3 months of free range eggs ($5 for 1 dozen each week)
- $99 for 3 months of pork (12 lbs. of pork, divided up into 3 pick-ups, 1 pick up each month, of about 4 lbs. Which works out to about $7.60 per week)
- $185 for 3 months of grass-fed beef (18 lbs. of beef, divided up into 3 pick-ups, 1 pick up each month, of about 6 lbs. Which works out to about $14.20 per week)
- $150 for 3 months of free range chicken (6 birds per session, about 5-6lbs. per bird. Which works out to about $11.50 per week)
- $20 on things like pasta, pasta sauce, oats, flours (usually from the farm), baking ingredients, whole grains like brown rice and quinoa, seeds and nuts, olive oil, etc. About once every two months I go to BJs and stock up on some things and spend about $50.
- $10-$20 on other fruits and veggies like bananas, avocados, lemons/limes/grapefuit, sprouts, cranberries (when they are in season), and lately a lot of spinach.
- $5-$8 on water
If I did my math correctly, that’s $101.30-$114.30 each week, which is less than what I was previously spending. Hmm… interesting. So my husband and I are eating organic, healthier, while supporting the local economy and environment and we’re saving money?! In all actuality, I probably spend the same amount of money each week because I do have a slight obsession of slipping into a Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or small cafe whenever I see one to buy something like a loaf of bread, or a snack, or some really yummy nut butters…
But my point is this: my budget has not change by going local and organic.
My weekly meal plans are now much different – I cook with what I am given for the week. This means that most of my diet consists of produce that is in season and I plan my meals around that produce. I also cook and use my meats much different. Before I would just buy chicken breasts at the store. Now I get whole chickens and I make sure to use every single piece of meat from that chicken. I typically get 4 meals for my husband and I out of a 5 lb. chicken. This has caused me to get a lot more creative in the kitchen, and I can say I honestly love it! I love to cook! I have also started making mostly everything myself now including breads, protein bars, snacks (usually healthy muffins of some sort), and ice cream.
The most important thing to me that my husband and I have gotten from all of this local, organic, grass-fed food: WE FEEL AMAZING! Both of us have a ton of energy now. And I’m not trying to sound cocky in saying this, but I feel like it is true – we look better. Out hair, nails, skin, eyes, all healthier…. I tell my husband all the time he has a “glow” to him and his eyes are brighter. In fact, other people have been telling him this lately too! I have seen fine lines (I will not call them wrinkles…) practically disappear from our faces. My hair, which was literally falling out a year ago, is healthy and long and even a tad bit thicker than it’s ever been. If we feel and look this good on the outside, I can only imagine how healthy we are on the inside….
You make think I’m a wacko for saying and doing all of these things, and that is fine! We are all entitled to our own opinions. My way of life may not work for you. What I’ve done in this post is shown you the math – mostly to prove that we’re not living some lavish foodie lifestyle.
I do believe that Al and I are proof that healthier food = a healthier you, which therefore = a happier you. All I know is that we feel great, and we are proud of what we are doing. We are making our health our #1 priority and we are, in a way, investing in our bodies. The way I see it is if you don’t have your health, what do you have? You only have one body – you need to keep it healthy and strong so you can live a long, fulfilling life with the ones you love most!
Food, Inc. posted this video on their Facebook page today, and I thought it was a great addition to this post. I learned something new, you might too! Plus, the little girl is really cute! Potato Project – The importance of going organic
How much do you spend on your weekly grocery purchases? I’ve heard of couples spending anywhere from $60-$200 each week. $100-$120 works for my family, but I’m curious to see what works for others.