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If I Can’t Afford Organic, Where Do I Start?

Here are a few nutritional things to keep in mind as you start to make your holiday menus!  Originally posted on 1/17/12, this is one of our most popular posts and the first of a 3-part series.  Check out the continuation here: Part 2 and Part 3

If I Can't Afford Organic, Where Do I Start? (part 1) ::

I just got back from the grocery store (yes, it’s 9:30 pm….but it beats hauling out 3 munchkins in the cold during the day!) and I feel like someone socked me in the gut.

$4.58 for a 16oz bag of frozen, store-brand, NON-ORGANIC blueberries.

I didn’t buy them.

I feel like every trip to the store deflates my sails just a little bit more, and it seems like each week we are having the same discussion….“um….do we have any extra money in the budget this week to throw towards groceries…?”

And to heap insult upon injury (or is it injury upon insult – I always mix them up, but neither scenario is pleasant…), I have read the books, the blog posts, the research, and I know what’s in “the cheap stuff” and I just can’t bring myself to cut corners on some things….

…sound familiar? So….if you want to buy organic grass fed, hormone-free, antibiotic-free beef, or eggs from a pastured hen, how on earth do you squeeze it into the budget?  And should you buy the organic apples or the organic bananas if you can only afford one or the other?  And what the heck is kombucha and why do they want me to shell out $4 a bottle!?!?!

So if you simply can’t afford to buy the organic version of every item on your shopping list, here’s where you should start and where you should be confident in spending a little more, in order to get the most nutrients and the biggest health impact:

1. Buy quality fats and quality meats.(and this includes high quality dairy!)  We are trained by the FDA, the Food Guide Pyramid and Jenny Craig to think that fat is bad.  WE HAVE TO REVERSE OUR THINKING!  We need fat to survive.  Let me say that again.  We need fat to survive.  Since the early to mid 1900’s when we started introducing industrialized food and the low-fat craze took over, our heart disease rates have skyrocketed.  The average American, pre-low-fat-epidemic, ate an average of 18lbs of butter per year, and now that number has plummeted to right around 4lbs per person per year.  It’s not hard to see that BUTTER is not what is giving us high-cholesterol, heart disease or obesity.  Interesting, huh?  We’ll be talking more about the CRITICAL roles of fat in our diets, but for now, check out these wonderful resources and articles to get the wheels turning….(and for some of you, the thought of whole milk and not skim, or butter and not margarine is enough to give you a heart attack.  But for right now, just humor me and check this out….maybe it’s possible that the Food Guide Pyramid is…*gulp*…wrong.)

2. Choose your produce carefully!  The Environmental Working Group has published a wonderful shopping guide that you can print out and take with you to the store!  You do NOT have to buy 100% organic when it comes to produce – some fruits and veggies retain basically no pesticide, and some are dangerously high!  Check out the EWGs Shopping guide for info on which produce is the safest.

3. Buy quality eggs from pasture-raised hens.  Trust me, once you see the rich golden yolk of a REAL egg and you taste the hardy, nutrient-dense difference, it will be SO hard to go back to the pale-yellow industrialized taste-less egg.  The overall quality and taste difference truly is shocking, and this is one food that it is DEFINITELY worth paying an extra dollar or 2 for, in order to get an egg the way God intended! And depending on your source, and if you can find a local farmer that sells them, you may actually get them cheaper than store-bought!

Egg Beaters: food for fools (this one is a shocker!)

4. Nix refined sugars and artificial sweeteners!  This is a tough one.  Trust me….I cringe when I remember how many diet Cokes I could polish off in a day’s time!  Plus, have you ever tried to cut out refined sugar all together, cold turkey?  Then, about 2 days into your sugar-less pit of despair, you find your self walking through the grocery store and it takes every ounce of willpower not to throw yourself into the donut display?  You haven’t? uhh…me either.  But sugar is ADDICTIVE and devastatingly DESTRUCTIVE to our health.  And here’s why: Why is White Sugar Bad for You?

And if that is as far as you get, then you’re doing AWESOME!! we’ll have more tips and explanations to come, but here are a few more things that you’ll want to keep in mind as you start to consider swapping out the good ole industrialized processed goo (which, unfortunately, is a fairly accurate description…) for new flavors and healthier, nutrient dense ingredients:

  1. Start slow!  As you being to research what it is we are REALLY feeding our kids and how FAR we’ve come in removing all traces of nutrients and minerals remember that your family needs a grace period!  Your kids are not going to wake up one day and BEG for cod liver oil!  as a culture, we have to re-train our taste buds, so be patient with your family and realize that even SMALL changes have a HUGE impact and if your family isn’t ready for a complete overhaul, then work at it slowly, making one or two changes per week.

  2. Start with small changes.  Add more butter to your vegetable at dinner (this is one the kids will LOVE!), if you think about it the night before, soak your oatmeal, swap out pudding cups for cultured yogurt, start buying whole milk instead of skim (and feel good about it!) and make a goal to have at least one homemade, REAL food meal each week (a meal that contains no processed foods)

  3. Buy locally and in season. Make a point to find farmers in your area that sell their produce locally and use organic practices.  It is SO expensive to become certified organic by the US Government, that many small farms can’t afford the paperwork and reporting.  However, many of them are following organic farming principles, simply because they know it’s better! So ask around and make friends with the vendors at your local farmer’s market!

  4. Shop like great-grandma!  Only buy things from the grocery store that your great-grandma would recognize as being food.  Much of what we eat is so processed that there is not a single naturally occuring ingredient in it.  Weird to think that the food you’re eating isn’t, by definition “food”, huh?

  5. Don’t get discouraged and don’t get overwhelmed! The vast majority of Americans have never once wondered about the discrepancies we are told about fat consumption and cholesterol, let alone questioned the food guide pyramid! This is a lot to swallow (pun totally intended) but its TOTALLY worth it!

I’ll leave you with one last article that is laid out really well and helps you break down the best traditional foods, as well as some alternatives for each budget level.

Check out the continuation here: Part 2 and Part 3

Let us know how you’re doing!  What changes are you making?


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