Organic Parenting on a Tight Budget
● By Rick McGarry
Despite economic problems, U.S. organic food sales have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $26.7 billion in 2010. As Americans wise up to the potential dangers of food additives and genetically modified foods, parents are seeking out organic products to feed their children. It seems the only deterrent of buying organic groceries is cost.
Organic foods traditionally cost more, but there are many ways around the extra expense. Buying organic doesn't have to mean we spend more on groceries. Livingston County parents can feed their children almost exclusively organic foods even on a tight budget, provided they are willing to compromise and put a little effort into it.
Conventional Grocery Stores
The Exploration Outing
Livingston County is home to many specialty stores that offer organic foods such as Natural View Market and Vitamin Planet. Howell Village Market, Curtis Grocery, and Jonna’s Market even offer select specialty organic items. Locally, even conventional grocery stores are stocking their shelves with more organic foods every week. A good first step is to go on an outing to a preferred grocery store with a small notebook and a pen. Parents shouldn’t buy anything on this trip but instead investigate the store and take notes of the brands that store carries and their pricing. At home, they can get online and check reviews, compare costs and search for manufacturer’s coupons. While researching, it’s fun to know that many organic brands offer free samples of their products on their websites.
Customer Rewards Clubs
When shopping at larger stores like Meijer, Kroger, Busch’s and VGs, parents should sign up for free customer rewards programs during their “exploration outing.” Based on products previously purchased, stores send coupons and sometimes even vouchers for free organic products.
Manager’s Specials and Clearance Mark-Downs
Kroger has amazing deals on their organic food if you can get in on a manager’s special. These are foods that are not expiring, but from the previous shipment that they want to move fast. Often reduced items will go for less than half the original price. The best sales can usually be found the evening after the delivery is brought to the store. For example, one local store explained that their organic eggs and dairy products get delivered on Sundays and Wednesdays. Because of this, late Sunday and Wednesday night as well as Monday and Thursday morning are the best days to get deals. Bargain shoppers can call ahead to learn expected weekly delivery days.
As wonderful as fresh fruit and veggies are, when on a budget, organic frozen fruits and veggies might be healthier than fresh non-organic produce. Organic food has more nutrients while conventional food has more chemicals. Even fruit and meat is regularly treated with artificial colors to make them appear fresher in the non-organic aisles.
Couponing can be a great organic food resource, but it’s important for parents to remember there is no cost savings when they buy something they don’t need. Great online sources for organic couponing are:
Other Sources for Organic Groceries
In the warmer months, our county offers a few organized Farmer’s Markets. Keep in mind that not all produce offered at Farmer’s Markets are organic. In addition, not all non-certfied organic farmers use chemicals or GMO seeds. Many still use heirloom seeds, but the cost to become certified is so substantial, it is still out of reach. Ask the vendor to be sure.
Head to the Farm; Cut out the Middleman
Livingston County also has natural local growers within our county lines. Some farms offer CSA shares where a family will buy a “share” of the farm. Some local farmers set up roadside stands and others handle shoppers by appointment. Their websites explain in detail what they offer. “Shopping trips” to farms double as a fun outing for children and cut out the added expense of the middleman. Our neighboring organic or chemical free farming resources include:
· Maggie’s Farm- Tiplady in Pinckney
· Motave Meadows- Pingree Road in Howell
· The Johnson Family Farm- Stockbridge
· Portage River Farm- Tiplady in Pinckney
· Michigan Garlic Farm- Sarah Drive in Pinckney
· Silver Moon Farms- Pettysville Rd in Pinckney
· Valley View Organic Farm- Hammel Rd in Brighton
Find other resources in the area by checking with Local Harvest online.
Alternative Organic Options
County residents can join Brighton Food Co-op and save a bundle on all sorts of natural groceries including toiletries and other essentials. Co-op members are expected to pay a very modest membership fee as well as meet once a month to help sort through orders.
Another resource available to Livingston County residents is Door-to-Door Organics, a delivery service that has online ordering.
How to Make Livingston County More Organic-Friendly
Livingston County residents are already making responsible food choices, if we weren’t, we wouldn’t have so many resources available. Here are some things Livingston County parents can do to help this trend grow exponentially:
· During every visit to a conventional grocery store, parents can request one or two new organic products.
· Parents can make a point to frequent local roadside stands and let farmers know that they will support the farmer’s efforts towards tending chemical free and GMO free crops, with or without the certification.
· Families can grow their own organic gardens by starting small and trading with neighbors and friends for a wide assortment of foods. Most low-income families using SNAP (food stamps) don’t even realize that they can purchase seeds to plant their own gardens with their bridge cards. For the price of one head of lettuce plus a little effort, they could grow enough organic romaine, spinach, and kale in flower pots to last the entire growing season!
Further Reading for Parents
Written by Dawn Papple. Dawn is a lifelong Livingston County resident and freelance writer. Dawn also writes for the Everything Birth natural parenting community.