How can you incorporate organic food into your diet easily and cheaply? Katie Roche, journalist and advocate for Organic UK, explains that while the benefits are pretty priceless, there are still many ways to eat better for less. Here she takes us through some of the best ways to enjoy organic, no matter how tight your budget.
When you buy organic it means guaranteed high standards of animal welfare, fewer pesticides, no artificial additives, no preservatives and no routine use of antibiotics.
The reasons why organic food costs more are connected to the reasons people choose organic in the first place. Weeds can't simply be sprayed away, which means farmers have more labour-intensive work. Plus, if we want to eat meat from animals that are not fed on genetically modified feed, then farmers must ensure their animals eat a 100% organic diet - which costs more. Although, as the cost of chemicals to non-organic farmers continues to rise, we are likely to see less difference in price over time.
At Organic UK, we believe organic food should be available to everyone, on all budgets. With that in mind, here are our top tips for making organic more affordable.
1. Eat less but better meat
The British Journal of Nutrition shows organic milk and meat contain around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic. Meat is expensive and we shouldn’t see it as something to consume at every meal or even every day. Try to eat less but better meat, and make vegetables the focus of your meals by using some of the ideas in our next tip.
2. Know your beans
Beans, lentils and pulses are very affordable, packed with goodness and make a great alternative to meat - think lentil stews and aubergine-based lasagne. Or, if making a meaty classic, you can reduce the amount of organic meat used by substituting half a portion with beans or pulses. Try adding a handful or two of red lentils to your next spaghetti bolognese. Check out our recipes, packed with quick, mouth-watering ideas for using more veggies in your cooking.
3. Use every last crumb
The average household wastes an incredible 20-30% of the food they buy, but if you appreciate where your food comes from, you tend not to waste it.
Eco-chef Tom Hunt explains that a little organisation can go a long way. “Make sure you use your oldest meat and vegetables first and build your meal plan around those ingredients,” he advises. Tom keeps a drawer in his fridge for the oldest produce and rotates food into it before it gets cooked - so that nothing is left forgotten at the back of the shelf to go off.
4. Stay frosty
Buying frozen organic food is still good for you and can certainly be cheaper as it becomes more widely available. Studies have shown that freshness can be preserved, and frozen foods are still filled with nutritional benefits once thawed. This is good news for organic eaters on a budget and brings us nicely onto our next tip.
5. Be a freezer hero at home
Many people waste food that can easily be frozen - and guess what? Most foods can be frozen. In a survey, Love Food Hate Waste found that almost 80% of people interviewed had thrown away food that was nearing its use by date, without realising that they could freeze it and keep it for later. You can freeze herbs, fruit, cheese, and even eggs (just break them into handy containers like ice trays!) and milk.
6. Shop around and make a list
Write a list before you go shopping and stick to it. Don’t let special offers and those 2-for-1 deals distract you. When in the supermarket, keep in mind that most big chains now have their own brand organic ranges which can be cheaper than non-organic branded products.
Shopping online is another option, as it is easier to be more disciplined, and farmers' markets are often cheaper for fresh organic produce than supermarkets, especially if you visit towards the end of the day.
7. Grow your own
Don’t worry, you don’t have to transform your entire garden or find an allotment. From simple window-box herbs to growing tomatoes in a tub, the smallest outside space can be transformed into a mini kitchen garden.
8. Go big or go home
Bulk buying can be a great way to save money. Staples like organic pasta, tinned tomatoes and beans can often be the same price as non-organic. It also means you have ingredients on hand to make a quick meal.
If you have a co-op or buying group nearby, you can save a lot of money while being part of a like-minded community. If you're feeling particularly inspired, why not set up your own group for friends and family? Saving them money will win you big popularity points! The Open Food Network has an easy to use tool.
So with a bit of careful planning and organisation, and some simple switches, you'll be amazed at how much you can save on your organic shop. What are your top tips for making your grocery budget go further? Get in touch and let us know via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
About Organic. Feed Your Happy
The Organic. Feed Your Happy campaign is run by Organic UK. The campaign invites you to add happiness to the world and your life by feeding your happy with organic. Food as it should be - good for you and your family, good for the animals and good for the planet.
With the help of a loan from Triodos Bank, Organic UK (The Organic Trade Board) aims to grow the market for organic in the UK. It is an independent non-profit membership organisation with over 140 members across the organic industry from brands to producers, retailers and certifiers.