Organic food is priced higher than conventional food, because of the labour that goes into producing it.

Choosing to buy organic can seem out of reach for most people, but this is not always the case. If you haven’t made a conscious decision to improve your health, buying organic foods will seem like a luxury, and you’ll have countless excuses as to why you won’t.

After making the decision, however, it becomes easy to clean and clear your cupboards of all the things that have been in there for years. This refers to your cosmetics, cleaning products and food. You’ll soon realise how much stuff you don’t need and how much is bad for you, which means you probably won’t buy them again.

This frees up some cash for the organic food and products that are actually good for you.

Yes, organic food is priced higher than conventional food, because of the labour that goes into producing it and the small (but growing) number of people who insist on organic food, but there are ways to counter this. Here are some ideas on how to shop and enjoy organic foods on a budget.

Growing your own food means it's free from chemicals and it saves you money.
Growing your own food means it’s free from chemicals and it saves you money.

1. Grow your own food

Nothing beats picking food from your garden and knowing that they are free of chemicals and pesticides. You’ll have fresh food readily available all the time! And there is no such thing as not having green fingers – you just need to Google a guide, follow instructions and practise. These days there are companies who even come to you and help you design and start a veggie garden. It may be a big investment to start, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll appreciate the savings and convenience. You can start small by growing in pots and with the foods you love. Then experiment with new veggies you’ve never tried. You’ll be amazed at what you can grow in pots and small spaces. If you’re lucky, you might even have a neighbour or a colleague who’s doing the same, and they can assist you with useful info.

2. Find a local, door-to-door delivery service

Most organic fresh produce is grown on farms outside the urban areas, which can make organic food seem inconvenient. Luckily there are people and companies who source accredited organic farms and their seasonal produce and deliver it right to your door.

3. Buy in bulk

For pantry items, be on the lookout for deals in health stores by subscribing to their newsletters. Buying in bulk is generally cheaper and saves you regular shopping trips. Decant some your products in glass jars and line them up nicely in your pantry or cupboards. This allows you to easily see what you have, which reminds you what to cook or use, thus avoiding waste or products going off.

Blueberries can be frozen up to a year.

4. Freeze your fresh produce

Freezing your fruits and vegetables is one way of preserving your produce while still retaining the nutrients and flavour. Besides cutting down on waste, another benefit it gives is variety of produce, especially out of season. For example, blueberries can be frozen up to a year, meaning that you can enjoy them in smoothies year round. Not all fresh produce is good for freezing, however, and some may need to be prepared by blanching or cutting to portion size for ease of use afterwards. If you’re unsure, Google it.

5. Buy in season

Fruits and vegetables taste better in season. It’s also true that fresh produce is cheaper in season due to its abundance. This is obviously a good time to try new recipes with veggies or fruits you have never eaten before. It’s also a chance to learn how to preserve any excess through practices like drying herbs, canning or fermenting in order to enjoy the food when it is out of season.

6. Eat less meat

The recommended amount of protein from meat per person per week varies depending on who you consult. It can also be influenced by your body mass index or gender. Although meat can form part of a balanced healthy diet, it is also linked to a host of health issues like increased cancer risk, heart disease and diabetes, high cholesterol and gut health. If you do choose to eat meat, buy grass-fed. While it is more expensive, it’s preferable to eat better quality meat less often. For the rest of the time fill up on protein-rich plant-based foods.

7. Loyalty rewards/ cards

Subscribe to loyalty rewards programmes at your local organic or health shops. Those shopping points go a long way.

8. Pre-plan

As daunting and pedantic as it sounds, there are great benefits to planning your week’s meals. A concise shopping list will help you stay focused and hopefully less likely to spend money on items you don’t need. Planning ahead ensures you buy what you need in order to have meals ready in time – no unnecessary snacking or ordering of takeaways. Meal preps are also highly recommended if you’re trying to lose or control your weight. And don’t forget to use your leftovers!

9. Join a stokvel

A stokvel is a South African tried-and-tested communal way of saving money. In this case, you and your friends or colleagues come together to order directly from the organic farm and pay bulk prices, which are usually cheaper. If you’re lucky the farm will also deliver to you and save you petrol and time. Alternatively, negotiate with a door-to-door delivery service for a bulk order.

Shopping online means less time, stress, and petrol spent when you need to shop.

10. Shop online

Shopping online is fast becoming the norm for many people and with good reason. It means you can compare prices from various distributors and get your shopping delivered to your door. Less time, less stress, less petrol and again, less distraction and spending of money! Plus, “shopping around” is much more fun when done in the comfort of your PJs and couch.

The good news is that the global trend is seeing organic foods become more affordable. Why? As more people take responsibility for their health and question what goes into the food they eat, the bigger the demand, which means organic food becomes less of a premium product. The small steps to changing your diet make all the difference, but it’s not a race. Make sure you feel comfortable with change and make the journey an enjoyable one.

Siyabonga Mngoma
Siyabonga Mngoma is the owner of Abundance Wholesome Foods. She is passionate about global food systems and promoting organically grown foods as she believes we can tackle lifestyle diseases through diet. See more of her work on www.abundancewholesomefoods.co.za. You can follow her @abundance_wf on Instagram and Twitter.