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Tips for buying organic food on a budget


In accordance with the nutritional trends in India, the word ‘organic’ has been in vogue for quite a while now. However, the one aspect that hinders 100 per cent proliferation of the organic lifestyle is the price point of organic food products. Nevertheless, if one is willing to do some recce of their vicinity and online shopping options and shop resourcefully, he/ she can enjoy the freshness and goodness of organic food, without burning a hole in the pocket.

Tips for buying organic food on a budget

The first step towards imbibing the habit of organic food is reducing the dependence on conventional supermarkets. Furthermore, in a bid to adopt an organic lifestyle, people mostly limit themselves to the organic section or natural foods
section in these super markets and end up paying a 300-350% premium for their wholesome food selection. Here’s where a little bit of research on organic food availability would come handy.

There are different places from where one can source organic food. Apart from the costly super markets people could also look for organic food products from health food stores, specialty stores, local cooperatives, farmer’s market, community-supported agriculture programs and convenience stores.

The reality is that the agricultural sector remains largely fragmented and disorganized, and one requires a nuanced understanding of the category to avoid paying large premiums for high-quality produce. While a majority of us are not hesitant to shell out some extra bucks for organic food, paying sky-high prices for a daily meal could prove to be an expensive affair. To keep such posh concerns at bay, here are few tips to keep your organic food budget under check.

Research: As maintained right from the beginning of this article, a little online research on the matter could add to your plethora of choices, as to where you could purchase organic food from. Perhaps you have more options in your vicinity than you ever thought of. Various organizations and associations in the state could be a good idea to start with. The key words for such online researches could the name of your state plus ‘organic food’.

Shop from the farmer’s market: In India, farmers mostly sell their produce through village level markets, fairs, mandis (wholesale markets) and co-operative societies, where the middle man mostly exploits not only the farmers, but also the consumers. In view of such corruptions, many NGOs and government bodies in India have started organizing farmer’s markets on a weekly basis. All you need to do is keep an eye out for such announcements and shop products directly from people who produce it, at affordable rates.

Join the community supported agricultural program: There are various community supported agricultural programs (such as WWOOF) and being a part of them by volunteering to help or attending informational events could open gateways to the world of organic food directly from farms. Raid the state food co-operatives: As mentioned earlier, many farmers sell their products through cooperative societies. Therefore many of the products lined up on the shelves of the co-operatives are organic and most of the products actually come from the local family farmers.

Bulk-buying could be another way: Wherever you choose to purchase your organic food from, buying them in bulk could be a great idea. All dry stores like pulses, beans, grains, nuts, etc., could definitely be bought in bulk and stored for few months. However, for better health of the food stored, it needs to be stored in a cool and dry place.

Apart from these tips there are other things that you could consider: like buying big when fruits and veggies are in season or simply grow your own food.

Why Organic is Expensive

While the above mentioned tips will definitely serve the purpose of saving a few bucks on organic food, the question still remains – “why organic food is more expensive as compared to conventional food?”

There are several reasons that make organic products relatively costlier. The general perspective on the price point of organic food is that it should cost less. A major chunk of the masses think that organic products should cost less because its production is devoid of various costs, viz., chemicals, synthetic pesticides and antibiotics. In an economy like that of India, which is slowly recovering, while many would prefer organic food over conventional food, many Indians can’t really afford food the former kind.

Although many understand the reason behind such pricing policy, a vast majority still wonders what’s behind that cost. Given below and discussed are some of the factors that contribute to the high price of organic food.

More laborious due to absence of chemicals: Modern day farmers are absolutely dependent on synthetic pesticides and chemicals in order to expedite the process of production. Not using these chemicals calls for hiring more workers for various field tasks like hand-weeding, cleaning up of polluted water and the remediation of pesticide contamination.

This point has been very well explained by Organic Farming Research Foundation, which said: “The organic price tag more closely reflects the true cost of growing the food: substituting labor and intensive management for chemicals, the health and environmental costs of which are borne by society.”

Fertilizers used in organic crops cost higher: Conventional farmers mostly use sewage sludge and chemical fertilizers owing to their inexpensive pricing point and cheap transportation cost. Contrariwise, organic farmers avoid using such fertilizers because they understand the harmful impacts for such chemical substance. In order to keep their crops more natural and chemical-free, right from the roots they use as compost and animal manure, which also has relatively expensive shipping costs.

Crop rotation in lieu of weed killers: Conventional farmers mostly resort to chemical weed-killers to prevent weed growth in the crop field, whereas organic farmers work harder and conduct sophisticated crop rotation to keep their soil healthy. Basically, post the harvesting season, an organic farmer may use the area to grow ‘cover crops” which add nitrogen to the soil to benefit succeeding crops. Likewise there are various other costs, viz., postharvest handling cost, cost of covering higher loss, organic certification and so on. However, the most important of them all is ‘Time’. As they say – Time is of essence and Time is money! Not only are organic farms typically smaller than the conventional ones, but they also, on average, take more time to produce crops because they refrain from using the chemicals and growth hormones used by conventional farmers.

The organic price tag more closely reflects the true cost of growing the food: substituting labor and intensive management for chemicals, the health and environmental costs of which are borne by society.

Looking Ahead

Considering the situation on the ground, it will be safe to say that organic farming has a long way to go, notwithstanding its benefits in terms of human health and natural health. Additionally, in order to cater to the ever growing population of the country, it has become mandatory to not only stabilize agricultural production but also to increase it further in a more sustainable manner. In a way that considers the long-term health benefits of humans along with the nature.

Furthering the point, there are many scientists who are of the opinion that ‘Green Revolution’ with high input use is stagnating and is now sustained with a diminishing return of falling dividends. In view of this, a natural balance needs to be maintained at all costs for the existence of life and property. The obvious choice for that would be more relevant in the present era, when these agro-chemicals that are produced from fossil fuel are not renewable and diminishing in availability. Additionally, it may also cost heavily on our foreign exchange in the future.

Organic food is richer in vitamins, minerals and fiber and retains the levels of nutrients for longer. Switching to organic food enables the body to be more resistant to disease as it will have higher levels of the essential nutrients needed to fight off infection. Therefore, the best thing about organic food it that it is healthier and can immensely cut down on medical bills. Eat healthy and live healthy!