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May 04, 2008

Good God, Organic Food is Expensive

Organic_veggies_2 Did you see the article in the Business Section of the Chicago Tribune last Sunday about the price of organic milk going up?  Okay, if you didn't see it, have you been to the store lately to buy organic milk or anything else organic for that matter?  If you have, I think you will agree that buying organic can be an expensive proposition -- one that really turns a lot of people off from choosing organic products.

Don't get me wrong -- I am not looking for organic products on the cheap.  I generally believe that you get what you pay for (and the process of growing organic food often is more expensive than conventional methods).  I try not to get hung up on the organic label either -- I want to buy fresh, healthy, real food for my family, whether it is organic or not.  My food choices are also informed by the name on the label because I want to support companies and farms who are doing business sustainably

and responsibly.  But I cannot tell you how many times I have walked out of Whole Foods thinking, "How?  How?  How could what I have in my bag have cost that much money?  Is buying organic worth it?"

In my quest for good food, I have figured out a few tricks that make eating organic more affordable (and the first trick is to stay out of Whole Foods unless absolutely necessary).  Here is what works to keep our grocery bill reasonable while we gorge ourselves on delicious food.  We belongs to a CSA (short for Community Supported Agriculture) in the summer and fall months, which ends up costing about $27 a week for fresh, organic produce for a family of four.  This is one of the best food decisions I have ever made for our family.  The produce is always fresh and varied, and the weekly newsletter provides tips on how to store and use the produce so nothing is wasted.  Many CSAs also offer a winter share to keep the veggies (squash, winter greens, etc.) coming through the holiday months. In the summer, we try to shop at the wonderful, local farmer's markets when we can.  And Irv and Shelly's Fresh Picks is another good option for veggies, particularly in the winter.  For regular grocery stock-ups, we shop at Trader Joes for their affordable, kid-friendly, and organic products.  I buy bulk organic products from Costco like eggs, chicken stock and ground beef.  Another cost-saving option that I am experimenting with is growing some of our own produce in our yard (organically, of course).  This summer, with the help of my two little gardening assistants, I am going to plant my first real vegetable garden.  I chose to plant the veggies that we buy regularly at the store (like herbs, tomatoes, arugula, chard, lettuce, and zucchini).  I figure that growing the herbs alone will save me enough money to make the project somewhat successful ($2.99 for a tiny package of basil at the store?  Come on.).

I know that there are a lot of savvy grocery shoppers out there reading this.  Where do you go to buy fresh, delicious food to feed your group?  Do you know of a great place to buy organic meat?  Is there an organic bakery that you love?  Tell me.

Original post of Chicago Moms Blog.

Caitlin also blogs at A Hen and Two Chicks, where you can check in on the progress of her (way too) ambitious vegetable garden.

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