Adjusting your budget for healthy, organic food

The egg recall has a lot of consumers waking up to the dangers of factory farms, agribusinesses and food processors. These corporations take any short cuts necessary --labor law, safety and animal welfare violations-- to produce mass volumes of food at low costs, which translates to higher profits for them and lower prices for us. Seems like a win, huh, when you are in the supermarket aisle and you can buy a carton of eggs for about $1.50? But when salmonella outbreaks happen, we start seeing the hidden cost of cheap food.

Seems like a no brainer to buy organic, and local food. Except, you have that excuse, "I can't afford organic." (I know I've used that one myself.) But eventually, I realized the costs were too high not to buy organic and local, as well as whole, unprocessed foods, so I figured out a way to afford it. Here's how:

  • Increase your food budget. I nearly doubled mine. The simple reality is cheap food is cheap quality. It can be argued whether it's even "food" at all (high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soybean oil is NOT food). For me, I save money by not having cable or running the AC too much. There is always somewhere you can cut back. Cancel that landline, rent movies instead of going out, rethink that Coach handbag (funny a $2 apple is expensive to us but a $400 handbag is quite reasonable)...just make it happen.
  • Buy less. I don't have nearly as much food as the average person in my pantry. Don't get me wrong, I eat wonderfully well. I just don't eat as much or as often. We're a country of overeaters, simply because food is so cheap. When you pay more for your food, you instantly reconsider midday snacking and large portions. Any time I can split a meal into two or three portions so that I can have leftovers, it helps my budget.
  • Never waste food. How many times have you thrown away half a carton of eggs because they expired? Not hard to do when you are spending 13 cents an egg. When you pay more for organic or high-quality whole foods, you start seeking the challenge of using up what you have in the refrigerator before you opt for something else. And it's true, that while we throw so much food away, there are people starving in Africa. I started to make that connection by donating money each month to sponsor a child in Africa. Her picture is on my refrigerator to remind me to eat another grilled cheese sandwich before the cheese goes bad, even if I'm in the mood for tacos.
  • Freeze everything. There's no way I can eat a whole package of sandwich buns, a jar of pasta sauce or a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies before they go bad. I leave out only what I can eat within 3-5 days and freeze the rest. You can freeze just about everything. And if you aren't sure how to go about it, just Google it (e.g., "how to freeze cookie dough") and you'll find the answer.
  • Make things from scratch. Some organic and unprocessed foods are expensive, yet very easy to make from scratch. For example, I make some kick'n black bean burgers at a fraction of the price that Amy's organic  or Boca would sell for. It takes hardly any time at all and they taste way better. (Of course, I make a huge batch and freeze some for later too.) I also bake my own bread, which really is very simple. Stay tuned, I'll share lots of these recipes soon!
  • Don't waste money on junk food and sodas, especially overpriced convenience store foods. Next time you pick up a bottle of cold Coke or water on the go for $1.50, or a 12 pack of cans for $6, consider how that money could be better spent in your food budget. It's not that hard to take your own stainless steel or aluminum bottle of water with you when you leave the house, and that helps the environment, too.