Save Money on Healthy Organic Foods

by Tiffany in Frugal Green

save-money-on-healthy-organic-foodsYes, the conundrum that most families into natural health and wellness will face. On one hand we have the argument that organic, healthier foods cost more and therefore cannot be justified when we have a modest budget.

There is some truth to this no doubt. Organic cow’s milk might cost you $4.99 for a half gallon at the grocery store. The non-organic milk sits right next to it at $2.79 per whole gallon. The raw organic almonds I buy at $12.99 a pound to make breakfast bars with seems extravagant when I could buy Pop Tarts for a couple dollars a box right? Why go buy $15 worth of ingredients at the store to make a good dinner when we can shop the $1 menu at McDonalds?

But then the counter argument is that unhealthy foods and non organic foods will cost us more in the long run. Why? Because food is our medicine. An unhealthy diet will eventually lead to health problems, doctor visits, unpaid sick days, hospitalizations, pharma prescriptions, etc. If you need proof, look at me. My bad choices turned around to bite me in the behind BIG time. I chose bad foods…REALLY bad foods for many years and got lovely colon cancer, $50,000 worth of surgeries, and chemo treatment at $7000 a week for 6 months. Don’t I wish I could go back and buy healthy foods and complain about how expensive it was. ;)

I see both sides of the coin but only one  really stands up to tough scrutiny. If we cut corners on a healthy diet due to expense…we may likely be paying the piper later…with interest. But like everything it seems there is no black and white here. Some things we may need to compromise on. How can we cut costs and allow access to better food? Let’s explore some of the ways.

Menu Planning – This is probably the best way to cut costs, good old fashioned planning. It gets really pricey when we shop piece meal and only pick up ingredients for a couple days worth of meals. You also might not know what you already have to work with and that can be costly. It just makes good sense to sit down every month or every two weeks and plan out every meal you will eat. Take an inventory of your frig and pantry to see what you have already and work with that. If you have a 5 pound bag of jasmine rice then plan 2-3 meals each week that incorporate rice. If you shopping listhave lots of dried or canned beans then plan some meals with beans, etc. And when staples like beans and/or rice go on sale, make sure to take advantage.

Meal planning alleviates stress because you always know what you will be making and that lessens the chances that you will just call out for pizza. And eating raw takes planning cause if I want to use rice I have to allow four days for it to soak! But it is kind of fun to do. If it is not your thing you can also use online meal planners or services. Try Menu Planning Central or the Healthy Menu Mailer.

Also don’t be afraid to eat the same thing multiple times in a week if it saves money. There is no law that says dinner has to be totally unique each night.

Buy in Bulk – Sometimes bulk food warehouses can be a bad deal if we buy stuff we don’t need or want just because it is cheaper. But if you shop wisely they are wonderful. Personally I avoid paying the membership fee at Costco by shopping with my mom. I save money on the fee and my purchases count towards her cash back bonuses.

I like to buy frozen fruit at Costco. I can get a huge bag of frozen strawberries for $7.99. A bag ¼ that size can be found at my local grocery store for $6.99. That is a BIG savings since I can easily go through one bag a week and this is one of those areas where I opt not to go organic due to cost. If I had to pay triple for that amount of strawberries I would not buy them nearly as much and I would not make green smoothies nearly as much so the health benefit in that scenario favors the non-organic strawberries. Same goes with their bag of mixed fruit. But when strawberries are seasonal I buy organic and freeze my own. I just run out pretty quick. :(

Organic Baby Spinach is also a great price at Costco so I stock up on that. Fresh, seasonal fruit is better priced too. Costco it is one of the few places I can find wild caught salmon in our area. They have big bags of baking soda that I use to make my own green cleaners. They also add to their organic offerings all the time. Just don’t buy stuff for the sake of buying cheaper stuff.

You might also look into a food co-op where you join with other people to get bulk food at wholesale prices.

Shop Less – This ties in with meal planning. Frequent trips to the store end up costing us more than if we just plan for one or two shopping trips a month. Of course a diet rich in fresh fruits and veggies might mean more trips but the bulk of the shopping should only be done at certain times. The book America’s Cheapest Family discusses this.

Don’t Eat Out – Just stop it already, it is expensive. Make your own meals and save money. Presuming you don’t shop the dollar menu then value meals at fast food places will run around $25 for a family of 5 and it is crap food! That $25 could be dinner for 2-3 nights if you plan well. And don’t waste money on $4 coffees from coffee houses. Yes, it is easy for me to say since I don’t drink coffee but it seems like such a waste. I had to speak with my hubby about this recently and his iced coffee from Dunkin Doughnuts habit.

Make Your Own – Are you buying bottled salad dressing or salsa? Bags of bread? Think about making your own foods and condiments and save money.

Look for Deals – When staples go on sale like rice, beans, nuts, grains, etc, stock up and fill your pantry. Use coupons when you can but do not buy stuff you don’t need or want just because it is on sale. Wasting food is not cool.

If you find you regularly buy certain brand products then contact the distributor and see if they can send coupons. Join their online mailing list to get printable coupons. Pick up Mambo Sprouts coupon books in front of Whole Foods. Look at online sales flyers to see which stores are having sales and even if you have already shopped this week check them anyway, just in case. Don’t go to Whole Foods to buy your almonds when Trader Joe’s down the street has them on sale. If you use Agave Nectar a lot then stock up when they have a sale. I recently found my favorite brand of raw Agave Nectar for $1.99 a bottle! It was an unadvertised sale and needless to say I bought every bottle they had. Which leads me to a little tip: the little natural food sections of mainstream grocery stores often have unadvertised sales. I guess maybe they decide that no one is buying this stuff so they want to clear it out which is good news for me.

Also start keeping track of your purchase in a spreadsheet so you can get a feel for average pricing. This will help you figure out if something is a real deal or waste of time.

egg comparisonCSAs and Farmer’s Markets
– Do the math and see if a CSA membership will be a good deal for you, it usually is. BUT if you end up with veggies you don’t like or use then perhaps not. Also check out Farmer’s Markets at the end of the day when the farmers mark down produce to get rid of it. Also be sure to look for local Amish for great deals on organic veggies and eggs.

Eat Less Meat – Meat is the budget killer so try to incorporate as many meatless meals as you can. If you see my sample rice meal plan above you will see only one of the three meals includes meat. That was deliberate. I have been amazed at how much food I have been able to bring home on the average shopping trip since we stopped buying so much meat. If anything we buy fish now instead for 1-2 fish meals a week. Ultimately I would like to see us move to buying sushi only… at our local Japanese grocer.

Eat in Season – Buy according to the seasons for cheaper prices. In the fall buy apples and persimmons and skip the pineapple and green grapes. In the summer load up on watermelon and strawberries. It might also be advantageous to buy a stand alone freezer and freeze some. You can also dehydrate to extend the life of seasonal foods.

Grow Your Own – Even if you have never gardened or think you don’t have the space I bet you can grow at least ONE thing. Pick one item you always buy and see if you can grow it yourself. Cherry tomatoes, strawberries, or herbs are a great place to start. They can be grown on a patio or at a sunny window. I love this post fro J.D. over at Get Rich Slowly about gardening. He found that for every dollar he spent on the garden, they harvested $1.91 worth of food and the expenses were often one time things like a wood chipper and young fruit trees. That is awesome. Wouldn’t you like to make every dollar go twice as far?

There are lots of ways to reduce costs that I can see. How about you? What tips or comments do you have?


Carnival of Natural Family Living #5

by Tiffany in A Green Home

More great entries for the carnival! Enjoy this fifth edition of the Natural Family Living Carnival…

Natural Family

First off is Mel of Bean Sprouts. She found an interesting query when looking through her blog stats she answers the question Can I Eat Bean Sprouts During Pregnancy on on her blog.

Dave G share a precious story about he and his family came to a decision about selling their summer cabin. It is a good read!

Stephanie at Stop the Ride shares a great article about creful consumerism with Don’t Get Buried Under Toys This Christmas.

Suzanne of Slanted Little House shares the beautiful story about moving her family to a 100 year old farmhouse with slanted floors and the reaction of her children is priceless.

Kevin at More 4 kids talks about a subject close to my heart and that is How To Raise Eco Friendly Kids.

Another subject I care deeply about is organic foods and Safbaby posts Should I Panic if it is Not Organic.

Trish at Our family Village shares 5 Reasons I Chose to Have a Homebirth.

Eco Friendly Advice

Micaela at Mindful Momma posts about Why it is Not Easy Being Green.

Shannon shares some thoughts on experiencing Oahu in the green.

Phil at Phil for Humanity tells us how to recycle Christmas trees.

Natural Health

Geroge at the hilarious Man and His Baby blog shares an article on Eating Fish During Pregnancy.

Tuan shares 25 Healthy Habits for Fitness and many cater to the more natural lifestyle.

[tags]natural family living, blog carnival, eco friendly, homebirth, christmas trees[/tags]


30 Ways to Go Green with Your Family

by Tiffany in A Green Home

30-ways-to-go-green-with-your-familyI am pleased to bring to the NatureMoms blog a guest blogger by the name of Abel Cheng. In addition to being a great source of information through his comments on this blog he also maintains a great blog over at ParentWonder. Abel has been widely featured as a parenting expert on the web and most noticably in places like The Star (a Malaysian newspaper) and the popular About.com site writing about Fatherhood. It is wonderful for us to get a father’s perspective on this blog when the primary focus is often geared towards moms.  Abel brings to us 30 Ways to Go Green With Your Family.

“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” — Ancient Indian Proverb

Everybody plays a part to conserve and protect the environment. We don’t need to wait for the Government to regulate some policies on this.

The best place to start is home. And the best time is from young.

Creating environmental awareness in family and getting everyone involved are critical steps toward saving the bleeding planet Earth.

Following are the green habits you can help your family adopt:

1. Perform routine maintenance on all appliances. From the newest refrigerator, right down to the KitchenAid mixer standing guard on the counter, the parts in any appliance (especially any gaskets) can become worn out. This can cause a hike in the electric bill due to a larger energy draw produced by faulty parts.
2. Use reusable utensils not disposable. Bring your own container next time when you order take away food. Decline any plastic forks and spoons.
3. Do full loads of laundry. Don’t start the washing machine until it’s full of dirty laundry.
4. Buy organic foods. Free of pesticides and chemical-based fertilizers. In case you ask, organics are affordable.
5. Use rainwater for plants. Collect rainwater and use it to water your plants. No wastage on treated water.
6. Do not to open the fridge for too long. Decide what you want before opening the fridge. It takes more energy to bring down the temperature when the cool air leaks from the fridge.
7. Avoid dryer. Sun-dry your clothes whenever possible to conserve energy.
8. Plant a tree. Trees help reduce carbon dioxide and increase oxygen, which we breathe in.
9. Print on both sides of paper. This simple act reduces consumption by half.
10. Walk or cycle to work, go shopping or school. Leave the car in the garage. Good for environment and health.
11. Use energy-saving light bulbs. Don’t throw them in regular thrash. Dispose of them carefully as they contain dangerous mercury.
12. Send online greeting cards. Save trees and money.
13. Stop taking flyers handed out to you on the street if you don’t read them. It’s better not to waste the flyers than pleasing the person distributing the flyers.
14. Ask for a cone instead of a paper cup when you buy ice cream. Why not? You can eat the cone instead of throwing it away.
15. Turn the tap off. When you’re taking a shower, and if you’re soaping or shaving, stop the water. This adds up to a lot in the long run.
16. Buy in bulk. Stop buying things packaged in single use. Buy in bulk to cut down on packaging waste and shopping trips.
17. Recycle old books and magazines. Pass them around to your friends. Donate to libraries or charitable organizations.
18. Wash your car on the lawn. Not only do you prevent car shampoo from getting into your waterways, you water the lawn at the same time.
19. Easy defrosting. Do not use running water to thaw frozen foods. Defrost food overnight in the fridge or by taking it out a few hours before cooking.
20. Turn off the computer when not in use. Don’t let the PC on or connected the whole day. Computers don’t consume much energy but think about it, you’re only one of the million computer users. That really adds up if everyone saves a little.
21. Use a handkerchief instead of packets of tissues. You save trees as well as money.
22. Quit smoking. You can help curb air pollution and improve health.
23. Get educated. You can learn more about environment online.
24. Pay bills online. Or shop online. You avoid car trips. Save time and gasoline.
25. Take shower instead of using the bathtub to save water.
26. Unplug your cell phone as soon as it’s fully charged.
27. Use climate-friendly electrical appliances. An energy-efficient refrigerator can save half a ton of carbon dioxide a year compared with an older model.
28. Light up right. Use natural daylight wherever possible. Switch off lights when you leave a room.
29. Be a green shopper. Consider buying products that can be recycled or reused.
30. Compost kitchen waste. Instead of dumping fruit and vegetable peelings, decompose them naturally to make fertilizer. More info at ReclycleNow.com


Horizon is Deceiving Consumers

Well, this is not surprising. Horizon is being sued for their industrialized organic farming practices. As I have mentioned in other posts I am not very keen on supporting a company like Horizon….even if they are organic….which of course is up for debate as well. I only eat organic foods myself but I am very opposed to big agricorp coming in and industrializing the process…finding USDA loopholes, outsourcing our food to other countries, using factory feedlots where animals never see the light of day, and making the move back to monocultures which goes against the very idea of the organic foods movement. This has to stop!

Legal Complaint Filed by The Cornucopia Institute at USDA

Contact: Mark Kastel, 608.625.2042

WASHINGTON: One of the nation’s most aggressive organic watchdogs filed a formal legal complaint today (8/10/06) against the country’s leading organic brand, Horizon, alleging a well-financed campaign to greenwash milk produced at factory farms that fail to meet USDA regulatory standards. The complaint and call for a thorough investigation was filed with the USDA’s Office of Compliance.

The crux of the controversy, which has smoldered within the organic industry for over six years, stems from a small handful of industrial-scale dairies, managing 2000-10,000 cows, that are allegedly producing milk in feedlot conditions without adequately grazing their cattle as required by law.

These large factory farms, mostly operated in desert-like conditions in the arid West, have allegedly been doing more talking about pasturing their cows than the hard work required to truly produce organic milk, said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for The Cornucopia Institute, which filed a complaint. What is even more repugnant to ethical farmers and consumers alike is that large corporations like Dean Foods, the world’s largest dairy concern with almost $11 billion in annual sales, are apparently trying to use their power to deceive loyal organic supporters, Kastel added.

The current legal complaint alleges that Dean’s Idaho farm, now managing approximately 8000 head of cattle, has carefully created the illusion of pasturing, by putting their cows out on green fields temporarily for VIP visitors, but do not routinely offer pasture that has any feed value.

I had the opportunity to visit, at the invitation of Dean Foods officers, their Idaho drylot dairy earlier this year, said Kastel. The majority of their cattle were in what they called their winter housing, which amounted to a confinement feedlot. They did constantly rotate cattle, during my visit, out to what they referred to as pasture but in actuality, it was just for show.

The Wisconsin-based Cornucopia contends that the unusual pasture crop that they were offering their cows mature oats, which had gone to seed and was about 2 1/2 feet tall was not palatable or digestible by cattle and did not legally constitute pasture as defined by the federal regulations governing organic livestock production. All the animals were doing was trampling down this tall crop and not consuming any nutrition. Instead, what they were really eating was highly refined feed from troughs in their feedlot, forcing them into a very high production and stressful existence, Kastel lamented. Photographs of the Idaho farm can be viewed in Cornucopia’s photo gallery.

The complaint also cited, as evidence, the fact that they were putting cattle out on to what they call pasture in conditions of extreme heat, well into the 90s, without affording livestock any access to water. If this is what Horizon is doing, their management doesn’t cut it under any valid definition of managed grazing, says Joel McNair, publisher of Graze, a magazine that reports on dairy grazing. Humane farming standards and common sense dictate that cattle have access to shade and water if they are going to be spending more than a few minutes in very hot and sunny conditions. At best cattle will graze very little under such conditions. At worst they will die.

In prior interviews with employees at Dean’s Idaho facility, their technique was referred to as a, dog and pony show to impress visitors. Through these interviews, Cornucopia staff learned that Whole Foods CEO, John Mackey, and upper management from the nation’s leading natural foods grocer, were exposed, on May 15, to the same kind of illusionary farming practices that Kastel experienced during his visit in late June. In addition, a number of journalists were given the same make believe pasture show earlier in June.

The Cornucopia Institute’s legal complaint also included allegations that proper pasturing was not occurring on the corporation’s other large farm on the eastern shore of Maryland. We have received expert testimony from a number of current and former employees, and outside contractors, who have told us that pasture had been eliminated this year as a primary feed source, stated Will Fantle, the Research Director for the Institute. In addition to first-hand testimony, we received photographic evidence of all cattle in confinement when pasture conditions and weather were ideally suited for grazing.

Along with requiring access to pasture, the federal organic regulations very specifically outline when cattle can be temporarily kept in confinement due to concerns about the animals’ health or environmental factors.

Our customers expressed skepticism that they were not getting what they thought they were when they bought a Horizon product, said Goldie Caughlan, a former member of the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board and Nutrition Education Manager at the country’s largest natural foods cooperative, PCC Natural Markets in Seattle. They said they felt misled by the Company’s corporate spin because organic milk by definition should be from cows grazed on pastures. She stated the co-op agreed with their 40,000 members and recently dropped all Horizon products in their eight stores.

With the pasture controversy growing too hot to handle, Horizon announced last December a number of modifications to their factory farms that would make them more acceptable in the eyes of the organic consumers. Officers of Dean Foods and Horizon officials have since been hopscotching the country by corporate jet in an attempt to stem the exodus of consumers and retailers from the brand. In addition to actions by retailers, the largest organic consumers group in the country, the Organic Consumers Association, called for a boycott of Horizon products earlier this year.

If that’s not enough bad news for the country’s largest marketer of organic dairy products, Dean was forced to face off with concerned investors at their annual shareholder meeting, and spent at least a third of the meeting time attempting to refute the concerns articulated by the consumer and farm advocacy groups.

It is important for Dean Foods to recognize that the concerns of investors focusing on corporate responsibility are aligned with their customers in the organic marketplace, stated Margaret Weber, Coordinator of Corporate Responsibility for the Adrian Dominican Sisters.

We have a saying out in the country, You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, said Kastel. We had been in discussions with Dean Foods for months trying to help them understand that no matter how much they spend on attempting to greenwash their factory farms, that scale of production will never be ethically acceptable to organic consumers.� While the company does buy organic milk from three hundred small farmers, some estimates place the firm’s reliance on factory farm milk at nearly 50% of its total supply.

The Cornucopia Institute stated that they still hold out hope that Dean Foods will shift their strategic direction, selling their holdings in corporate-owned factory-dairies, and shifting production, like the majority of their competitors, exclusively to family-scale dairy farms. �We stand ready to assist them if they decide to make that change to their business model, Kastel said in closing.


A copy of the legal complaint filed with the USDA can be viewed at www.cornucopia.org/HorizonComplaint8-06.pdf.


How to be a savvy organic shopper

by Tiffany in Healthy Eating, Organic Bites

Mother and daughter shopping for produce in supermarket

Reprinted from the Pocono Record

July 06, 2006

YONKERS, N.Y. — An investigation Consumer Reports has found that shoppers don’t need to buy organic foods across the board to get added health value. The report tells shoppers which organic products are worth seeking out — and which ones are not. Consumers can pass on organic seafood and shampoo, for example, because their labels can be misleading.

The full investigation appeared in the February issue of Consumer Reports. The complete report, including a list of organic products that are worth buying and which are not, is also available on www.ConsumerReports.org.

Here are some of the recommendations Consumer Reports gives shoppers about organic products.

Organic products worth buying to avoid chemicals found in the conventionally produced versions: Fruits and vegetables, such as apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, spinach, and strawberries. The USDA’s own lab testing found that even after washing, some fruits and vegetables consistently carry much higher levels of pesticide residue than others. Meats, poultry, eggs, and dairy products are also worth seeking out.
Organic products worth buying only if price is no object, include: processed foods and certain produce items, such as cauliflower, sweet corn, broccoli, mangos and sweet peas. Multiple pesticide residues are, in general, rarely found on conventionally grown versions of these fruits and vegetables, according to research by the Environmental Working Group.

Organically labeled items not worth buying include seafood and cosmetics. Whether caught in the wild or farmed, fish can be labeled organic, despite the presence of contaminants such as mercury and PCBs. The USDA has not yet developed organic certification standards for seafood. And while the USDA claims that organic labeled-cosmetics follow the same standards as food, Consumer Reports has found indiscriminate use of synthetic ingredients and violations of food-labeling standards.

The article also found that because of inconsistent and often weak government standards, organic-sounding labels could be confusing to consumers and even meaningless on some products due to lack of enforcement.

Even among the most meaningful and verified organic labels, there are subtle but important differences. If a product is labeled “organic,” at least 95 percent of its ingredients must be organically produced. There is one important exception, however, and that’s organic labels on seafood. Such tags are meaningless because the U.S. Department of Agriculture has no standards to back them up.

Also meaningless is the label “natural” or “all natural.” No standard definition for these terms exists except when it’s applied to meat and poultry products, which the USDA defines as not containing any artificial flavoring, colors, chemical preservatives, or synthetic ingredients, and even those claims are not independently verified.

Consumers interested in learning more about the health and environmental benefits of organic foods can visit www.GreenerChoices.org. Information about food labels is available at www.eco-labels.org.

Organic Without Breaking the Bank

The experts at Consumer Reports found many ways to save when buying organic, including:

Comparison shop. Doing price checks for regularly purchased organic items pays off: Consumer Reports found the price for the same jar of organic baby food ranged from 69 cents to $1.29 among several grocery stores in the suburban New York City area.

Go local. Find organic growers at most farmers’ markets. A USDA study in 2002 found that about 40 percent of those farmers don’t charge a premium.

Join the farm team. By buying a share in a community-supported organic farm consumers may get a weekly supply of produce in season for less than non-organic supermarket prices.

Order by mail. National providers will ship items such as organic beef www.mynaturalbeef.com. Other helpful sites are www.eatwellguide.org and www.theorganicpages.com.