Organic Eating on a Budget - Danijela Unkovich shares her top tips

It's Organic Week, from 29th April - 5th May and we're chatting all things organic; including what organic means, regenerative organic agriculture, conventional farming and its impact on communities and health and eating organic on a budget. 

First off, we chatted to the incredible Danijela Unkovich behind Healthy Always about what organic means and how we can all eat more organic produce while on a tight budget. 

The rise of organic living has boomed in popularity the last few years. As consumers, we’re becoming increasingly more mindful, and interested, in where our products come from – who grew it? How did they grow it? What is its impact environmentally, socio-economically, and on our health?

Organic refers to a way agricultural products are grown and processed; that being, without the use of synthetic chemicals (e.g. fertilisers, pesticides, antibiotics), and with an emphasis on natural methods to control pest, disease and weeds. With organic farming there are also longevity consideration to food and agriculture systems – one that takes into consideration the health of the system as a whole, maintaining long-term soil fertility, biological diversity and the recycling of materials and resources. I sort of see organic centred around supporting nature to do its thing, rather than overriding it.

Growing organic, most particularly on a larger scale, requires effort – the growers environment must be understood, including everything from any historical issues, the health of soil and its management, seasons, machinery, crop rotation, sustainability, recycling of waste and more. There are also supply and demand issues – while sales of organic produce is growing, it still represents a very small amount of total grocery sales. Between this can come additional costs to the consumer – so, here are five tips on ways to eat organic, with a budget emphasis! 

  1. Shop at Farmers Markets. One way to really learn more about the food we eat is by getting to know who grew it. Shopping at nearby farmers markets, from organic growers, is a fabulous way to support local communities, and helps reduce the environmental impact of our food as it doesn’t have to travel as far from soil to plate – and often with this comes reduced costs. If you go at the end of the day you’re more likely to score a further bargain too!
  2. Buy in bulk. Buying in bulk is typically less expensive and can help you save money in the long run, especially for dry goods which often have longer lifespans. Aim to buy bulk, where appropriate, for items like legumes, dried foods and veggies with longer life spans e.g. potatoes or onions. Remember to buy only what you think you need and will get through – otherwise, you may risk food going to waste!
  3. Grow your own. Growing your own fruit and veg is a wonderful way to foster a deeper connection to where your food has come from food, while being a great way to reduce the costs of food! You don’t need to invest in a big garden, or put lots of effort in either – just start small and with a few varieties. I like to focus on the most cost effective items, like herbs and greens. You can grow anywhere from windowsills, to the driveway, or a small garden bed.
  4. Learn about the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen. There are some produce items that contain higher concentrations of pesticides and some that contain lower concentrations, which are conveniently listed by the Environmental Working Group and updated each year. If you want to buy organic, but are also mindful of budget, you can prioritise purchasing organic for items on the Dirty Dozen list, over the Clean Fifteen. For more information on this click here
  5. Eat seasonal. Seasonal produce is always going to be cheaper than produce grown afar, due to local supply and demand. When there is ample of a variety locally, prices will naturally drop; whereas produce grown and shipped halfway across the world will come with a higher cost. Look to read labels on where your produce is grown, and aim to buy NZ grown and seasonally. 
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