Eating Beyond Organic for Cheap
I want to take the time today to address a question many ask: How do we eat beyond organic for less than the costs of eating conventional?
First off, let’s define what “beyond organic” means. Organic production rejects the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, but still uses other variants for the similar purpose. “Beyond organic” goes one step further and looks for ways to work with nature rather than against her to achieve the same goals. To me, producing “beyond organic” food means healing the planet. It increases soil carbon, creates pollinator habitats, supports bird and wildlife populations. When we go beyond organic, we can move away from always trying to control and dominate. There’s a farmer’s saying that speaks to me:
“ I am sick of growing things that want to die and killing things that want to live.”
But back to the question at hand: How do we eat foods produced in this way for cheaper than conventional? Each of us consumes roughly 1,000 pounds of food per year. For my family of four, that’s almost 2 metric tonnes of food, which can seem pricey. But what many don’t realize is that we pay a heavy premium in the conventional food system for unnecessary extravagance. Do we really need access to fresh avocados or lemons all year around at many times the normal cost and environmental impact?
Beyond Organic for Cheap: Buying in Bulk
To eat cheaply, we adopt the same strategy large corporations use for keeping costs low: purchase in volume. Every year we set aside a lump sum to buy ALL of our meat, usually in the Fall. Because we have built relationships with producers that produce amazing food, they reward us when we buy large volumes. This approach gets us all of our annual chicken, beef, lamb and pork in one go. We then store it all in energy efficient freezers that cost little to operate. Bulk is the way we go for dry ingredients, too. We purchase nuts, grains and seeds direct from producers at a fraction of the regular cost. They get stored in our root cellar and are used throughout the year. But what about fresh vegetables?
Beyond Organic for Cheap: Growing Year Round
Every year Michelle grows a kitchen garden around our house. Instead of needing access to urban lots or tending lawns that cost money, we made the decision that our property should serve us, not the other way around. In the front yard we have a food forest, with apples, cherries, saskatoons, strawberries, raspberries, currants, perennial onions, asparagus, rhodiola, rhubarb, honey berries, sea buckthorn, ostrich fern and sorrel; in the back we grow tomatoes, potatoes, sunchokes, squash, lettuce, kale, chard, rosemary, basil, thyme, eggplant, mache/corn salad, garlic, and beets. The two systems produce all the vegetables we need from June 15th to November 1st. Every year our yard reduces our food bill by turning soil, sun and rainwater into beautiful, fresh produce. As Ron Finley says in his amazing TED talk, “growing food is like printing your own money.”
When the cold comes and the systems go into dormancy, we move our greens production indoors and cultivate microgreens. For cents per tray we use our already heated house to both filter our air and satisfy our “green tooth”. In the winter, the only things Michelle and I end up buying from the store are dairy products (cheese and cream), onions and garlic (we can’t produce enough of them yet) and oils.
Sourcing beyond organic foods affordably is easy and when we get into the habit of doing it, we encourage more and more people to get into earth-friendly farming. If done properly, growing food is fun, healthy, and inexpensive. Most importantly, the food ends up tasting 10 times better! Not only that, we can recycle our unused nutrients back in to the soil with simple composting methods, which makes our gardens healthier and more successful every year!
Here is a list of some of our favourite food suppliers:
There’s many more, if you have any favourite suppliers, please list them below!