I have decided to break up the organic grocery haul experience into
two three posts. We got so many responses, I felt it was worth taking time to highlight the hottest topics and suggestions.
I was interested to discover that many of you passionately buy all organic everything. A few of you favor the "dirty dozen" . . . and the method splits and splits from there with dairy, egg, meat, etc.
(Tonight's dinner: Delicious!)
#1: Many, many of you mentioned joining a local co-op/buying at mom and pop natural grocers or digging deeper at the farmers market. I think this is an excellent suggestion . . . for most people. When we lived in Ithaca, we shopped often at the local co-op and found the prices comparable/less expensive than Wegmans. The farmers market was awesome and often overwhelming!
a.) Where we live now, the natural food stores are extremely expensive with little selection. I have no idea why. But we tried out a new one a couple weeks ago, and I'd say most of what we normally buy was at least $1 or more expensive. Needless to say, we were quite disappointed.
b.) The farmers markets, though, are something I haven't explored much. I know they aren't quite as plentiful -- but I blame my ignorance on their accessibility. Whereas in Ithaca we could easily walk/bike . . . here, we have hop on busy highways, which isn't as inviting.
#2: The "Dirty Dozen" came up over and over again. It looks like a lot of you follow them as a guide. I know I've linked to it before, but for those of you who are unfamiliar -- the "dirty dozen" includes foods that are particularly covered in pesticide residue.
a.) Since we found out that we'd go way over our budget with all organic, I think buying the following ingredients at a premium is a good start and worth the added cost. (The ingredients in bold are the ones we use almost every week.)
b.) The other stuff, we'll likely continue to buy conventional, unless it comes with our CSA.
#3: According to a few of you, store-brand organics can be a good buy AND easier on the budget. I found this to be true in my experiment, too. Unfortunately, Wegmans doesn't offer a wide range of store-brand organic foods, but I do see the number increasing (slowly). Out of this week's trip, the peanut butter, jam, tofu, and eggs were all produced by Wegmans.
And one reader mentioned something I hadn't thought about because I'm not used to shopping sales (because most of what we usually buy is store-brand anyway and rarely on much of a sale): Stock up when prices are low. Freeze, freeze, freeze! Great tip.
#4: On the other hand, some of you mentioned that buying bulk and avoiding packaged foods is better. I agree completely that this helps! We regularly buy all our oats, couscous, quinoa, rice, and other dry goods in bulk. But I think we could do better -- adding flour, cereal, peanut butter, chocolate chips, etc. to this list.
Furthermore, the issue of dry beans versus canned came up. We've had dry beans in our pantry for over a year that we have yet to hydrate. They are a great, lower cost option and help avoid the whole BPA issue entirely. I've definitely noted that we need to get on this, soon. I've already bookmarked a few pages about how to cook them in the crock pot.
#5: Regarding dairy, we don't drink milk. However, several of you mentioned that organic milk can often last up to 3 weeks! I just thought it was worth sharing in case anyone else is on the fence in that area. Sounds awesome and perhaps worth the higher price tag.
As far as cheese/yogurt goes, if we were to continue buying all organic, I think we would need to limit our diary consumption significantly, which I'm not prepared to do while I'm breastfeeding. $6 for a small package of cheese is three times what we normally pay -- but the reason for the extra $$$ is certainly compelling.
#6: Which brings me to values. Several of you noted that buying organic -- and more importantly LOCAL -- is the ethical thing to do. It supports farmers with living wage. It supports better environmental and humane farming practices. And I wholeheartedly agree.
We do the best we can within our means to support local farming, which is one reason we invested in the CSA this year. I got a couple emails, one of them rather nasty, about how with "everything else we seem to spend money on," we could allocate more to feed our family the "best" foods. Again, an issue over values. I'll touch more on this in a moment.
#7: Overall, I felt good because many of you said we did well with our prices. That our haul mimicked what you're used to spending/getting. But then I felt bad because for us, this price point isn't going to be sustainable. Though in our next post, I will show you what I am planning to do to our weekly list to sneak in more organic/local foods.
I'm always looking to improve on our budget and the foods we consume -- they are two of the most important things to us right now. I'd like to stay close to our $60 sweet spot, but I could see allocating another $10 to $15 if we cut it out somewhere else.
#8: (This is only a message to a select few:) I guess what surprises me most is some of the negative comments/(mostly) emails we received. I want to make a general statement because I'd rather not get terribly defensive about specifics. Only Stephen and I know our budget situation.
The truth is: We don't have other money hiding around to add to our weekly food purchases. We don't buy lots of clothes, go out to eat, take vacations, or live life lavishly by any means. For us, it isn't a matter of values . . . it's a matter of balance. When I was working full-time, yes. I think we could have done better in this area of food. But there are plenty of people in the world who can't spend hundreds of dollars each week on groceries. Plenty.
We're just trying to make it work for our current circumstances. And right now, we have decided that I will be Ada's primary caregiver, which entails sacrifice that I don't feel is selfish by any means (OK. One specific was the suggestion that I should go back to work so we can stop trying to penny-pinch at the expense of my daughter's health -- that one got to me, folks!).
I ask that you please don't judge us so harshly. I know I'm posting publicly and, therefore, opening our lives for debate -- but I'm hoping to help others with their own search for balance. That's all.
Sigh. Haha. That last point got a little long and emotional. Collecting myself now. The next post about this topic will be more of the analysis of the actual things we bought, how much more they cost than the conventional items, and what we are planning to do to achieve the balance I've written about.
This post got rather long -- and fast. If I forgot anything you mentioned or have more questions, please keep 'em coming. I've been having trouble balancing the blogs with my new gig, but it's getting better everyday!
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