How to buy organic, local and sustainable food without breaking the bank

We all know the benefits of buying organic, local and sustainable food. It’s good for us, good for others and good for the environment. But dang! It seems so much more expensive than just buying conventional products. So why should we care and what are some practical ways we can make shopping this way more achievable, at least financially?

The dirty dozen

Some of the worst culprits are cage eggs, ultra low cost milk, imported fruit and vegetables, and highly processed foods. When we buy these products we will likely save a buck in the short term, but someone or something else ultimately pays the cost in the long run whether that be animal welfare, food security, or importantly, our own health.

Putting your money where your mouth is

Sometimes we need to re-evaluate our values and goals and ensure that our budget and what we spend on our food reflects where our priorities are. This can be a confronting, uncomfortable and slow process, but it’s definitely doable and something we can all aspire to.

PS. Please know I am all about inspiring and empowering, never shaming or scaring, and that’s why I have written this blog to share practical ideas to help you all and start a conversation!

Since we have started eating this way our grocery bill has grown exponentially, so I have had to figure out some nifty ways to stretch our budget further, without compromising the quality of the food we eat, or the footprint we leave.

In this blog I share with you the top 5 ways we afford to feed our family organic, local and sustainable food, every week.

1. We grow (some of) our own

This might sound obvious but growing your own food is a great way to spend less on food at the grocery store. Plus you know exactly where and how it has been raised. We may not all be able to raise our own cattle or poultry, but growing herbs and vegetables such as tomatoes is super cheap and really easy.

If you’re at square one, make it your goal to grow one item your family can eat. Make it fun and get the family involved in planting and caring for your homegrown food. I haven’t met one child that doesn’t love being outdoors playing in the garden!

Read our blog for more gardening tips.

2. We shop farm direct

When you shop at the local farmers markets or farm direct you cut out the middle man and sometimes this means you will save money on your produce. Even if the produce retails for the same price in the store you will likely find fresh produce direct from the farm lasts longer in the fridge and is therefore more economical.

So make the commitment to an early morning start once a week and discover your local producers.

3. We shop in bulk and stockpile

When you see your favourite organic items on sale or available in bulk, buy up and stockpile these items for future use. I often make a special trip to Aldi to stock up on their “Just Organic” range which includes pantry staples such as coconut and olive oils, nuts, seeds, tomato paste and tinned tomato. When buying pantry items in bulk do keep an eye on the used by date to avoid waste.

You can also buy in bulk and stockpile meat by looking out for specials and freezing it for later use. Buying local and organic or grass-fed meat when it’s on special will definitely help your bottom line. I love the Macro organic chicken range available at Woolworths as it’s local, and affordable. They also do grass-fed beef mince. Whenever it’s on special I buy a stack to freeze for later.

Another age old way of stockpiling is to preserve food that is in abundance, so why not try making your own jams or pickles based on seasonal availabilities? In winter I like to stock up on local strawberries and make a big batch of strawberry jam to last me until the next year.

By eating the food that is in season, you will avoid big grocery bills. It’s easy to know what’s in season because it’s usually heavily reduced at the store. You can also check out this guide. If a recipe calls for something that’s not in season, rather than buying something that has been imported, check out the freezer aisle. Sometimes the local organic option is available there.

4. We eat and waste less

So here’s the thing. Local, organic and sustainable foods cost more to produce and therefore cost more to buy. There is no escaping this fact, so a mindset shift is required. The old adage ‘quality over quantity’ comes to mind. We now eat less meat and select cheaper cuts to stretch the budget further. My best budget-saving recommendations are chicken drumsticks, beef mince, lamb shoulder roast and whole chicken. These cuts are really cost effective because I can stretch them out with other ingredients to make a meal.

‘Nose to tail’ is another term that comes to mind and is helpful in reducing food waste. When you buy the good stuff, you don’t want to waste anything so you can make your dollar stretch further. For example, broccoli stalks can be added to soup to help make another meal, and you could use left over roast chicken bones to make stock/broth.

5. We (try to) eat homemade

By far the biggest cost saving when it comes to feeding your family is too cook from scratch and avoid buying convenience or takeaway food. After all, you’re not just buying the food, but paying for someone else’s time to prepare it. By preparing the meal yourself you can probably afford the extra cost of better quality ingredients.

Most of us are super busy, I get it, so this might sound like a bit of a far stretch. As a mum of two children under five with a husband who works away, I defiantly find myself short of time. What has helped is learning how to cook, so it’s quicker and easier to prepare meals from scratch, and investing in some time-saving kitchen gadgets such as an air fryer.

Perhaps if you’re eating a lot of takeaway you could start by just reducing one takeaway meal per weak and swapping it for something fast and easy like these lamb cutlets, or even a simple baked sweet potato with your favourite yummy toppings. The hot tip here is to keep it simple, what you feed your family does not need to compare to MasterChef or be worthy of Instagram.

Make the change

If you’re keen to start buying more organic, local and sustainable food we hope this blog has inspired you to reach your goals and helped you figure out how you might be able to afford to make the switch.

If you have ideas and experiences you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. Please use the comment tools to let us know what you think.

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