With the rise of talk on sustainability, the health of our planet and public health, going organic is peaking up on people’s radars. Why eat organic food? What are the benefits of going organic? And how could you possibly afford it, especially when you have a family? Can you eat organic food on a budget? These are some of the questions that I’ve been faced with multiple times over and I thought it was high time I wrote a blog post about it and answered some of these key questions.
What does organic exactly mean?
I know saying you eat organic food is probably a super hipster thing to say, but believe me when I say that going organic has nothing to do with being on trend!
Organic food simply put is food as it should be. It is food that is grown without any form of pesticides and uses natural methods of farming to grow your food. It’s really us going back to how our grandparents and great grandparents used to eat. In addition to that, organic food also has no added artificial preservatives or additives.
Organic farming standards also extend to inedible crop like cotton (which is one of the highest pesticide content crops on the planet) and animal produce like meat, dairy and poultry.
Obviously animals aren’t sprayed with pesticides (lol at the thought of that). Organic animal produce means that there is no routine use of antibiotics on livestock; the livestock feed on non-GMO feed and they also have the highest animal welfare standards within the agricultural industry.
Why Eat Organic food and what are the benefits?
This is the part where if you and I were having a face to face conversation, I would turn into an overzealous activist and you’d be sorry to have asked. So instead, here’s a *succinct* list of all the reasons why you should consider going organic:
Pesticide free food - according to pesticide action network UK*, studies have shown that regular exposure to heavy pesticide use can have serious effects on our health from short term illnesses (e.g. short term memory loss) to long term chronic and fatal illnesses such as cancer.
Some commonly used pesticides are known as endocrine disruptors, meaning they affect our hormones as well as our reproductive organs and the ability to conceive.
One of the bigger issues that we have at hand is that none of us know the long term effects of the combined use of pesticides on our health, and A LOT of our food have more than one type of pesticide sprayed on them.
The part that concerns me most is that pesticides spread everywhere. They leak into the air we breathe, the soil and make their way into our rivers and water. This is a REAL problem.
Non-GMO - organic food is not genetically modified and that is a good thing, contrary to popular belief. GM food is usually created/patented by the same organisations that also sell pesticides (eg glyphosate by Roundup). GM food is supposed to be superior to regular crop so negates the need for pesticides in theory. But here’s the crazy part , when farmers use GM seeds to grow their crop they STILL have to use pesticides to prevent weeds from growing next to their crop. And the more you use pesticides, the more the crop becomes resistant to it, meaning you need to continuously increase the dose. Moral of the story - you can’t beat nature my friend.
Higher nutritional content - organic crop is scientifically proven to have up to 60% higher antioxidants than their non-organic counterparts! Check out this meta-analysis by Newcastle University.
“Analysing 343 studies into the compositional differences between organic and conventional crops, the team found that a switch to eating organic fruit, vegetable and cereals – and food made from them – would provide additional antioxidants equivalent to eating between 1-2 extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day.”**
Organic food is HANDS DOWN the best food you and your family can enjoy. And let’s not forget, is also bursting with flavour because its grown the proper way. Nothing is rushed, and no corners are cut, and that is reflected in the quality of the produce.
Preserves wildlife - Non-organic conventional farming is responsible for a whopping 40% decline in insects with ⅓ of them being endangered, like our bees which is a high concern as they are our food pollinators, also honey, hello!
Yet “organic farms have 50% more plants, insects and bird life and are home to 30% more species on average.”***. Organic farming is seriously the only way forward for the sustainability of our planet.
Enriches our soil - soil really is the unsung hero of life on planet earth. It contains all the minerals and nutrients that we all along with animals and plants need to survive. So when you add pesticides, fungicides and herbicides to the mix, the pH balance of the soil is disrupted, and the soil is destroyed making it difficult to recover.
Did you know that we lose the equivalent of 30 football pitches every minute to soil degradation??***
This is not the case with organic farming. Organic farming preserves the soil by avoiding all those harmful chemicals and actually allowing and giving the soil time to rest and replenish after harvest.
Conventional farming methods don’t employ practices that work with nature, but keep using up natural resources, and in a way, not honouring the soil which gives all of us our sustenance. It is all about the bottom line, at any cost.
Sustainability - another word that has been overused of late. But think about it, critics of organic farming don’t believe that organic yield can feed the world. But with 1 billion people malnourished, 2 billion obese and ⅓ of the food produced being wasted, the issue clearly isn’t producing more food, it is growing food that is good for our health and our planet and tackling food waste.
- Tabitha James Kraan
How to eat Organic food on a budget?
Now that I’ve hopefully made a case for going organic, the next hurdle for most is “But how? Going organic is so expensive!”. Well there are ways around that, where there’s a will there’s a way right? But before I share my tips, I wanted to first talk a little about the mindset behind going organic.
You see, going organic isn’t like a fad diet sort of thing where you jump on board hastily in your quest to get quick results, you have to be in it for the long run. Believe me when I say, if you try to switch to organic overnight, you will be overwhelmed (mentally and probably financially!).
Seriously embarking on going organic requires a combination of commitment, forward thinking and seeing the big picture. When going organic, your purchases aren’t only about you or your immediate family; you’re now taking into consideration your health and how your buying power affects your environment and those who have worked so hard and lovingly to provide you with your food.
And I have learned over the past 3 years that there is no black and white way of doing it but a lot of grey, and that was hard for me to accept. But accepting that it is a complex process will give you the peace of mind to finally come to terms with how to buy organic with a limited budget, in a way that does work for you.
You also have to begin to question and challenge your current lifestyle to see where you CAN make room for organic. Think about your spending habits. How often do you eat out or buy clothes or go on holiday? Is it really necessary? Could you cut back a little bit and use that income on switching to organic purchases instead?
Hyper consumerism is rampant in our society today, and going organic deals with it head on. How you say? Think about it. Going organic is about respecting nature and preserving our planet for our children’s children. It’s about eating wholefoods that are nourishing and healing to our bodies as well as systems that allow wildlife to thrive. Consumerism cares not for any of the above. So you gotta deal with that first.
It initially starts with awareness and then followed by making note of where you can make room in your life. Only YOU have the answer to that. We are all in different journeys and places in our lives. You may not be able to eat 80% organic and that’s ok, even if you start with making a switch to one item, it really does make a difference in the grand scheme of things! The organic market is growing every year and that means the more demand for it, the more supply there will be which will bring the prices down, elementary economics.
There are some household staples that aren’t expensive when it comes to swapping to organic such as eggs, milk and oats plus seasonal fruit/veg. And if you have some spare time, why not grow your own food? I have my hands full with my little 4 kiddos, but when they’re a little older, growing food is right up there on my bucket list! If you don’t have a garden, you can simply grow herbs in pots right on your kitchen window sill.
Next is doing a bit of research. Not all food is ‘sprayed’ equally. Some foods are safer to eat because they aren’t exposed to much pesticides; others are heavily sprayed and best eaten organic. I compiled The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen List which are the top 12 heavily sprayed foods and top 15 foods with lowest pesticide content based on the findings from Pesticide Action Network UK, check it out here. Having this list will go a long way in helping you start eating organic within your means. I have it up on my fridge to double check before I head off to do my grocery shopping!
After food, you can begin exploring other non food items that you are exposed to such as skincare, haircare, beauty, makeup, clothes and household cleaning products. Every swap you make is a win for the organic industry, the planet and of course your health!
If you’re keen on saving you could buy organic produce from farmers markets near closing time as they’re usually quite happy to get rid of their stock. You could definitely ask for a discount for it! Another thing I like to do is buy supermarket brand organic food, which are usually lower priced than organic brands. You can always shop around your local area and see which shops, stores or veg delivery schemes are competitively priced. The benefit of keeping it local is that you can talk directly to people and ask for a discount.
If you’re ever in doubt as to whether what you’re buying is truly organic, look out for the Soil Association logo which is the certifying body for all organic produce in the UK. That seal of approval can help put your mind at ease by knowing that whatever you are buying is of the highest standard.
Where are you when it comes to going organic? Any tips for going organic on a budget? We really need all the help we can get!
As I close, let me leave you with this potent quote:
“The earth wasn’t given to us by our parents, it’s on loan to us by our children.”
Newcastle university - https://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/articles/archive/2015/10/organicvsnon-organicfood/
Soil Association - https://www.soilassociation.org