5 Frugal tips for eating organic


Many people struggle to add more organic foods to their diet, and do it in an affordable way. I have been working on this like crazy the last couple of months, ever since checking out Linda Watson‘s book, Wildly Affordable Organic, from the library. It is a wonderful resource, full of simple yet delicious recipes, and a big plan for cooking your meals from scratch, seasonally.

The author offers ways to do a little or a lot, but all will help you find ways to save money and add organic food to your diet in a frugal manner. Actually, the techniques and strategies in the book will help you save money on food whether you choose to buy organic or not!

Here are some pointers I picked up from reading. This is not a list copied directly from the book, but rather some general ideas that I have found useful.

1. Eat more beans! This is probably the most important strategy in the book. Beans are cheap, nutritious, versatile, protein rich, and filling. And did I mention they are cheap? By preparing my own beans, I have found a way to make the equivalent to a can of organic beans for under a dollar–that’s less than conventional beans on sale! I’m taking the time to cook them mind you, but using the crock pot makes it easy.

2. Cook from scratch. It’s amazing what a loaf of bread costs these days. I mean a high quality loaf of healthy organic whole-grain bread. Baking your own bread is just one example of how making it yourself from scratch can save you a lot of money, and give you a higher quality option. I probably pay less than a third of what a good loaf costs in many stores, for my delicious home made bread. And the same goes for casseroles, pasta sauces, pizza, etc., just to name a few possibilities.

3. Do the bulk of your cooking on the weekend. In the book she offers seasonal meal plans and prep lists for doing the majority of the work on the weekend. I’m not following her plans closely, but this strategy of doing what I can on the weekend has helped to make many things possible, such as making my own yogurt. By planning and taking the time on the weekend, it is easier to do more from scratch. Of course many things can’t be done this way, but giving myself a head start on whatever I can saves me time, and reduces the chance that we’ll have to run out for a pizza during the week.

4. Buy in bulk when you can. In the introduction, Linda talks about shopping on a food stamp budget. She tells of  how much more costly things like sugar and flour are in small packages compared to the prices she is used to with getting things in bulk. I find that even buying smaller quantities from a bulk food store can be cost-effective. But not always! Keeping track of prices and trying different stores certainly help me to decide where to buy, but buying in bulk doesn’t always mean storing sacks of food around the house.

5. Go plant-strong. Even if you don’t decide to eat as many beans as Linda Watson proposes, you can certainly reduce your grocery budget by choosing more grains and veggies, and less meat. I can buy a lot more plant food–even organic food–when I choose veggies, grains and beans over meat. We still do eat meat, but I get more value when I use meat as an addition to the meal, not as the main event.

I highly recommend this book! I checked it out from the library, but then ended up buying it because it was so useful. While I don’t follow her meal plans or cooking plans to a T, I have still found the book incredibly useful, and am trying more of her strategies each week. All of which is motivating me to save more money while eating more organic food.

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Rice and Black Bean casserole

Here is my recipe for a recipe so delicious you will swear it is full of fat and very bad for you. In fact it’s got lots of protein and fiber, and is pretty healthy. Not only that, but it’s very cheap and super easy! Get out your slow cooker for this one.

Rice and Black Bean Casserole

1 1/2 cups of rice

1 can, or 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans

1 cup salsa

1 cup sauteed mushrooms (optional)

3 cups broth or water

cheddar cheese, shredded

fresh cilantro

sour cream

Slow cooker directions: Combine rice, beans, salsa, mushrooms and broth in slow cooker and cook on high for about 3 hours, or until the water has been absorbed, stirring occasionally so everything mixes together evenly. Remove crock pot insert from casing. Top the casserole with shredded cheese and place in oven under a hot broiler until cheese is bubbly.

Conventional directions: Cook rice in broth or water. Combine cooked rice, beans, salsa and mushrooms, and top with cheddar cheese. Bake at 375 or until the cheese has melted and is bubbling.

Top with chopped cilantro and sour cream if desired.

This amount made two dinners for us (2 adults plus 1 preschooler), plus one lunch for my partner to take to work. It goes really nicely with avocado so I made a salad with that in it. You could probably eat it in a pita or a tortilla too. For a vegan option, omit the cheese and sour cream.

I’m planning on making more dinners with black beans since I bought a 3 kilo bag from Food Basics (about 17 cents per 100 grams). Any recommendations?