A while back a reader asked me point blank:
Organic food. Is it worth it?
My answer? It’s a long story.
When I was living in D.C. in 2010, I was obsessed with organics. I had recently moved there from Orange County, where I had to drive 3 miles just to find a lousy Ralph’s, to a place where I could walk to a Whole Foods and two Farmers’ Markets within a mile.
I was in heaven. I felt so European, shopping for groceries on a near-daily basis, picking up freshly-baked bread and organic persimmons and sustainably raised salmon. It was bliss.
But it was also expensive as all get-out. I was only cooking for one and my grocery bills neared $100 a week; one month I actually exceeded $500 (hey, I was Paleo at the time, and I ate a lot of bison). I remember bringing three Granny Smith apples to the register once and realizing I had been rung up for $4.59. FOR THREE APPLES.
When I got back to L.A. and moved in with Nick, I realized I was going to have to change my ways and find strategies to be more frugal, especially when cooking for two. I turned to cutting coupons (which led to buying more crappy, processed food) and shopping the Manager’s Special shelves (which I still do – and am a damn ninja at doing) at the grocery store, and only venturing out to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market as an absolute special occasion, feeling guilty about my $7/dozen local eggs the whole way home.
I had to find some balance.
Nowadays, I do my best to shop for organic, sustainably raised and grown food – but don’t stress too much if I can’t afford a $24/pound filet of wild halibut. Here are some of the ways I make it happen in my household:
1) Register for a CSA box. Before I had Amazon Fresh (see below), I used FarmFreshToYou – but all the services are wonderful – they deliver beautiful, seasonal, all-organic produce from local farmers direct to your doorstep or office. It’s easy, forces you out of your comfort zone (it was the first time I’d ever seen/eaten romanesco!) and is reasonably priced to boot. It’s like the lazy man’s Farmers Market.
2) Hit the Farmers’ Market, but take cash – and set a budget. I used to go to the CFMs all willy-nilly, buying crazy things like handmade empanadas or goat’s milk soap. And while these things are great, I’d get home after spending $75+ and realize I didn’t have greens for the week. Before you go, make a rough list of what you need (i.e. “green veggies” or “portable fruit”) and take out cash in the exact amount you are able to spend. No impulse buying, all focus, all organic. Well done you.
3) Check out Amazon Fresh. We actually don’t get a CSA box anymore because Amazon Fresh is so amazing with its organic produce delivery. You can actually select organic vs. non-organic produce, see the cost difference, and make your own choice from item to item. This is great for us since we really only stick to organic on the Dirty Dozen (the 12 foods known to be most riddled with pesticides) and buy “normal” on the Clean 15.
4) Try Blue Apron. Per my previous post on recipe delivery services, Blue Apron provides fresh, often local and organic (though not exclusively) ingredients to make clean, healthy, and restaurant-quality meals at a fraction of the price. While I know not every single item is certified organic, I know that Blue Apron is committed to sourcing the finest quality ingredients from top local producers, and honestly, that’s enough for me right now.
5) Engage in organically-focused grocery shopping. With the recipe and food deliveries we receive on a weekly basis, you must think I never go to the grocery store – but you’d be wrong! The high cost of sustainably raised and grown meat and fish means that I am often up in my local Sprouts and/or Whole Foods trying to find what’s on sale – and creating meals around those products. A website called Eat Wild (available now for a few states, including California) helps you find where to buy exclusively grass-fed products.
Do you try to buy organic? Why or why not?