Sunday, July 22, 2012

Eating Organic on $150 a Week

Okay, it's week two of our challenge and we've been shopping for organic milk, flour, grains, fruit, veg and bread.

 I organised to have a box of fruit and veg delivered early in the week and based our meals around what it contained and what I already had in the pantry.

We were delivered potatoes, carrots, apples, some cherry toms from Brisbane, mushrooms, pineapple, bananas and leafy greens. All of these items were organic and had been sourced from the East Coast of Australia. 

We ate roasted organic, free range chicken and vegetables, slow cooked beef casserole, biodynamic beef sausages with mash and greens, scrambled eggs from our chooks aaaannnnnd pizza from the best pizza place in town (neither organic or biodynamic but totally delish).

It was undoubtedly much more expensive to buy organic produce in the way that I did this week*, with 1kg of organic flour coming in at $5.50 and the same for 2L of milk. I kept within the $150 budget and found that our meals were much more simple than they would typically be.** There were less trips to the shops for fanciful items and when I did pop in I tended to buy less simply as a result of the reduced options.

I've spent hours researching and talking with friends about eating organic food and have found that I have only just scratched the surface. I need to dig a little deeper into this issue and over the coming weeks I'll fill you in on my findings.

Through investigating more closely these issues, there are a number of things that have become apparent which I plan to look into:

  • The issues surrounding certification
  • Ethical frameworks behind choosing organic over produce farmed in other ways
  • Organic and it's relationship to food miles 
  • Ethical consumption of organic/biodynamic meat and meat in general

I'll also be asking some of my favourite bloggers about their food choices and the reasons behind them.

If you know of any great resources or have opinions on any of the above mentioned issues I would seriously LOVE to hear them!


* if I bought organic from the farmers market or in bulk or from a co-op it has the potential to be a similar pice to non organic, supermarket bought produce, and in some cases cheaper. 
**although you can't get much more simple than the old tin of beans, can you?


  1. This is so interesting. We can't wait to be growing as much of our own as possible. My children are huge eaters (athletes) so i'd love to get down to under $150 a week, but my hungry soldier husband is back living with us again & 4 growing children, it's unlikely. Unless we live on herbs & eggs from our garden?? We put chia seeds on everything, delicious, especially in juices homemade. This is a really interesting experiment, looking forward to the results. We have a great local Farmer's Market in Canberra, makes organic & ethical so easy. Love Posie

  2. Hello Em, great to watch this journey unfold. A blog I turn to for some local, ethical, organic, homegrown inspiration is witches kitchen. Linda Woodrow is a permaculturalist who has published books here in Australia. I love how she explains a meal based on the above principles as well as their nutritional value. They may not always be the prettiest meals but they're nourishing.
    Good luck!
    Mel x

  3. I find the prices at my local supermarket of organic fresh produce to be 'reduced to clear' quite frequently... it is worth a visit on a Tuesday and Wednesday (quiet days - not pension or pay day). Usually it is even cheaper than non-organic on these days. Rach xx

  4. Can't wait to see what your research unveils. I'm particularly interested in ethics when it comes to organic vs food miles.

    $150 does not go far at all on the 'good' stuff, does it?

  5. We only eat a meat based meal once a week...I feel good about eating organic meat and I don't feel too bad about spending big bucks on organic meat since it is just one meal a week.

    I have been also trying to pay attention to seasonality and only cooking with ingredients that are in season...this definitely ties in with the idea of food miles too.

    Once you start thinking about it there really is a lot to consider!

  6. I cannot believe you can do it all for $150! I am finding this all very interesting.

  7. I've been so waiting for this post. I'm so curious about how other families do the day-to-day stuff. I've been checking out this place but haven't tried it yet perhaps I will go for a visit later today! Does the milk taste different?

  8. I'm really interested in following your findings on this. I'd love to buy organic 100% of the time, but, it's cost prohibitive for us. We're a meat eating family so organic eggs & milk & fruit & veges & meat = $400 shop at least! Then if we stuck to green cleaning as well ... yikes! We try to do our best but the reality is that what's on special (organic or not ... generally wins).

    Instead of eating organic I've been trying to buy local instead. Local milk, local flowers and local fruit and vege. I don't even know where to start on buying ethical or local meat. But what I'm doing is at least a start ...

  9. I'm interested to follow your findings Em. Mostly I am so focused on producing food that my complicated food allergy and intolerance children can eat that these other factors just go in the too hard basket but keen to learn more. melx

  10. You should chat to my friend Michelle about this- we were having a good talk about this today. She's looking at making a career from her organic and raw food knowledge, she knows her stuff.
    I believe she had a button on your blog maybe last month?
    Here's her blog

    Rach x

  11. Em, I forgot to add about the different possible ways of cutting costs/dealing with local/organic/chemical free. Of course it depends on what is available to you where you are at as well. We've tried a few things. 5 years ago I had an extra job at an organic farmer's market. The discount made it less pricey but the markets can still be great for finding your local producers, even those who may not be certified organic but are chemical free (controversial, I know! haha).

    We also used to belong to a Community Supported Agriculture style, subscription based thing called Food Connect. It was the most convenient, and relatively affordable way, to tick the local (250km or so radius?) and organic or chemical free boxes. There's one in Sydney but not sure if reach where you are. They also have quite an extensive 'extras' list up here that helps with grocery shopping. The beauty of this is how connected your family becomes to the life of the farmer and the challenges that go into growing this stuff for us.

    Now we are part of a member based bulk buy group. While not quite so convenient (I have to choose my own fruits and veg! and I can't just grab the box and leave), we are getting food connect produce at wholesale prices (every week I feel lucky about this), as well as doing bulk dry goods orders together and getting them at excellent prices to. This can happen because we are member-run and there is no wages that need to be covered etc.

    Fortunately, the bulk buy group is based a few streets away so we just walk up there with our nanna trolley and fill up each Wednesday evening.

    Ok, enough from me!!

  12. I am really enjoying reading all these posts, so informative. I am taking a similar path myself and looking more into what we eat, choosing more organic and local produce and trying to stick to a budget. Which I find most difficult!! So helpful, thank you. xx

  13. Great post Emily - thanks for the thought provoking post. You have inspired me to blog about our food journey to organic food - please pop by if you get a chance. I will be following your progress. Natalie x

    You may also find this interesting

  14. Oh my goodness, where do I start??
    I love this journey and I'd love to help you with your research in any way we can, being organic farmers and all.


Thanks so much for your words of encouragement, advice and solidarity.

xo em