I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date! Unfortunately, this is my most common mantra. I admit I have a problem with time management. Ask anyone that knows me well or has had an appointment to meet with me, especially doctors, and they will agree. My DH has been annoyed by this since meeting me 15.5 years ago. He just accepts it now though…I think. No matter how hard I try I can't be on time. There are a few exceptions: job interviews, airplanes, work deadlines, weddings, the births of my boys; and sadly that is probably about it. I don't set out to be late. I almost always think I have enough time to get somewhere for something in time. I am usually wrong. I have been this way at least since getting my driver's license when I was 16. I was never actually late for school (I'm too Type A for that), but I did walk, make that run, directly from my car to the classroom every morning. This trend has continued with age. In fact, I've gotten worse since adding kids to the mix.
How is one always late, you ask? In my case, there are two scenarios: In the first instance, I look at the clock and think, "Oh, I've got loads of time. I could fold the clothes, check email, pick up toys, paint my toenails, whatever." Once finished with said task, I look at the clock and realize I now have 20 minutes to take a shower, put on makeup, dry hair, get dressed, dress the boys, probably change a diaper, pack diaper bag, wrestle the little Darlings into the car seats and drive to a location somewhere in the metropolitan area of the Twin Cities. The second scenario is similar, but in this case, I have already gotten ready to go, look at the clock and think, "Oh I've got loads of time. I think I'll make a phone call, clean the windows, unload the dishwasher, read a magazine, etc." Then, when finished with said task, look at clock and realize, "Holy Guacamole, I should have left 10 minutes ago." Either scenario ends the same way: I arrive late. I know, I need some kind of time management guru to do intensive therapy with me. I have tried several techniques on my own. All of the clocks in the house and the car are set 20 minutes fast, but I can subtract 20 pretty easily to figure out the time. I'm smart like that. So, we have even tried setting different clocks for different times. Now that one really confuses the nanny. I try to convince myself that the start time of the event or meeting, etc is a half hour earlier than it is, but I can't outsmart my brain. Nothing seems to work, despite my good intentions.
Clearly, due to my time management disabilities and my crazy, busy, tight-rope walking, balancing act I call life, I need everything I do, especially grocery shopping, to be convenient and time efficient. I can't run to 5 different co-ops, natural foods stores, conventional superstores/discount warehouses and farmers' markets to find all the good deals being offered on organic products each week. It simply can't be done considering all the other important tasks that barely get done around here, like paying bills, washing clothes, completing work projects that actually pay me. But I'm not giving up yet, I have a plan for our family and lots of great tips to offer you, as well.
My Summer Plan
Here is my plan:
Grown own tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers and herbs, and maybe try a few new ones. Freeze pureed tomatoes and make soup from other veggies and herbs and freeze for winter;
Shop at local Farmers' Market and buy local, sustainable and some organic, produce, meats, cheeses, breads, etc;
Go to local pick-your-own berry farm and pick enough blueberries, raspberries and strawberries to eat and freeze to last into winter;
Go to local apple orchard and pick apples for eating and freezing in slices for winter baking; and
Check around for best deals for organic meat and poultry; stock up when on sale or have coupons
We always grow a summer garden, and it's our Saturday morning tradition from May through October to shop at our local Farmers' Market (OK, well, sometimes it's our tradition that mommy sleeps in and daddy and the boys go to the market and bring mommy a yummy muffin for breakfast). Going to the apple orchard in the fall is a family tradition that we love doing. I always intend to go the berry farms, but surprise, surprise, I run out of time, get preoccupied and miss the berry-picking season. Not this year, we are going to go, maybe several times! The biggest challenge on the list is the organic meat and poultry.
While I have been buying a lot of other organic products, I have not been willing to dole out the dollars for grass-fed, certified organic beef. However, based on my research and the comments I received after Monday's post I am going to try buying it. We have been missing out on the health benefits, taste and good stewardship points by buy conventionally raised beef. In order to be able to afford it, I will have to find good deals on the meat and/or eat less of it. Both are doable.
Tips for Saving Money on Organic Food
Here are some great, very user-friendly tips for saving money while shopping for organic products:
Prioritize your purchases.
If your main concern is eating healthfully, you can have the biggest impact buying organic peaches, apples, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, sweet bell peppers, celery, lettuce, spinach, and potatoes. Buying organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy can reduce your risk of exposure to the agent believed to cause mad cow disease and potential toxins in nonorganic feed.
- Join a co-op.
Most co-ops won't charge non-members to shop at their stores, but even if yours doesn't, there are great incentives to becoming a part owner. You'll get some profits back, become part of a tight community, have a definite voice in the day-to-day operations of the store, and support your local economy. Oh, yeah—and you'll get great savings. Not all co-op items are a steal, of course, but co-ops often give out special coupon books or run sales just for members that provide significant markdowns.
- Clip coupons.
Look through those weekly junk bundles you get in the mail every week, and comb the Sunday paper add-ons for grocery-store coupons. Plenty of manufacturers offer coupons for their organic products or general coupons that can be used on organics. You can also find store coupons ($5 off a $25 purchase, for example) that you can use to buy whatever you want at the retailer.
- Print coupons.
Manufacturers' Web sites and companies such as Mambo Sprouts offer downloadable and printable coupons for a wide variety of natural and organic products. Some are only a few cents off and won't save you too much, but many will knock a dollar or more off the purchase price, which can make those organics look a lot more appealing. Many major organic brands, including Stonyfield Farm, Annie's Homegrown, Organic Valley, Earthbound Farm and Health Valley offer coupons at their Web sites.
- Buy in bulk.
Here's a good guideline: Even if you think you're buying a lot in bulk now, buy more. I don't mean more in terms of quantity (although that could also save you money, especially on nonperishables); I mean more in terms of variety. At co-ops and health-food stores, particularly, there are things sold in bulk that you may have never considered buying out of a container: cinnamon, baking powder, rolled oats, molasses, and cooking oil, for example. In the vast majority of cases, the per-ounce price for a natural or organic bulk item is far cheaper than the packaged price.
Look for store-brand organics.
Examples include Whole Foods Market's 365 Organic Everyday Value, Safeway's O Organics, Stop & Shop's/Giant's Nature's Promise, Kroger's Private Selection Organic, Trader Joe's, and others that often cost less than national name brands. Costco, for example, says its private label Kirkland Signature organics offer at least 20 percent savings compared with the leading national brand.
- Buy in season.
You can almost never tell what's in season and local and what's imported from thousands of miles away when you go to the grocery store because everything is grouped together. But Sustainable Table (a featured website in this post) and similar sites aim to change that by letting you plug in your location and season and showing you a list of the freshest stuff available in your area. And when something is fresh and in season, it's usually cheaper than it is at other times of the year. You can save a lot of money on organic, local food by buying it during peak harvest times.
- Join a CSA.
The prices of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares can seem intimidating ($400+ for one share) until you do the math, break down the weekly costs, and realize that you're purchasing enough vegetables to sustain your family for an entire season for just the cost of a few trips to the grocery store. If it's still too scary to dole out that much at once, try splitting a share with another family or purchasing a half-share instead of a full. Most CSAs grow their fare organically, even if they're not certified by the USDA. Local Harvest (another featured website in today's post) will show you a list of CSAs in your area so you can choose what you want.
- Shop farmers' markets.
Farmer's Markets are a cheery relic of old times and a throwback to community values—plus, they offer great food at fantastic prices. If you want the freshest organic and natural produce available in your area, you can find it at your local farmers' market for prices that undercut every store around. To really save, go right before closing, when merchants are more likely to cut deals on items. Markets are also a good place to pick up organic jams, jellies, and baked goods.
- Grow your own.
You don't have to start a full-fledged garden. All you need are a few organic seed packets, or organic seedlings, some good soil, and compost, and you're ready to go. Early spring is the perfect time to think about growing, so start now! Even if you don't have land space to garden, start a few herbs or a tomato plant in pots. Before long, you'll have a bumper crop that will keep you going all summer for just pennies.
- Cook more.
This might seem like a paradox—cooking more means you have to buy more fresh produce, after all—but it's a lot cheaper than eating out.. Depending on how often you go to restaurants or pick up fast food, see if your family can cut those meals to just once a week or even once a month. That way, even if you buy organics that cost a little bit more, you'll still be saving money.
- Check out sales.
Think organic food never goes on sale? Think again. Many co-ops and health-food markets carry almost exclusively organic items, and they have sales just like big-box stores do. The sales aren't always dramatic markdowns, but they do make natural foods a lot more affordable, so swing by these stores every so often and see what they have to offer. And with that said . . .
- Shop big-box stores.
Don't shop the big guys exclusively, because they don't always offer the best selection of organic stuff (or even the best price points), but it's not uncommon for them to undercut the competition, so you shouldn't rule them out. Some big-box stores even make deals with local farmers to sell natural, local produce at prices that aren't much more expensive than you'd find at the farmers' market.
- Go vegetarian.
Meat is expensive. You don't have to take the full-out vegetarian plunge, but if you do, you'll likely save even more, especially if you can convince everyone else for whom you buy food to eat less meat, too. Finally, if you care about sustainability issues, buying less meat is one step you can take to dramatically reduce your carbon footprint.
- Fresh isn't always best (or cheapest).
Frozen, canned, and dried natural foods often have just as many nutrients as their fresh counterparts, and they're almost always cheaper. If fresh organic strawberries are too expensive to buy by the pint, check out the cost of frozen, and try those instead. During the summer, when fresh organic produce is bountiful and affordable, stock up and freeze some of your supply to use during the rest of the year.
The great things about these tips is that whether you follow 1, 5 or all of them and whether you buy all organic products or just a few, you can save money on your grocery bill.
I love this site. It has so much great information about finding a local CSAs, co-ops, family farms and particular products, etc. Check it out:
Looking for a Farmers' Market near your home? If you live in the Twin Cities, you won't have to look far. We have a multitude of beautiful, fresh, yummy Farmers' Markets, but I digress. Check out this link in the UDSA website to find a local Farmers' Market:
The Sustainable Table is another great site with all kinds of great information from shopping for to preparing meals with sustainable foods. For all your sustainable needs:
Lastly, if looking for the USDA regulations regarding food label standards or general information about produce, meat, dairy, poultry, farming, etc go to the source, the USDA:
I loved all the tips and comments after Monday's post. I can see this is an issue you care about. Try making your own plan for how you are going to eat more organic, local, sustainable food this summer. I would love to hear what your plan is and if it's working. One more thing, check out the ads on the right side. There are some good resources for buying organic. Click on a few that interest you, and Mama can afford to buy more wholesome, organic meat and veggies for my darling growing boys. On Friday, I will post a bit of Motherly Advice. Next week's post is the much awaited hazards of using your cell phone while driving. Over and out…