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Organic on a tight budget

(40 Posts)
Backtonature Mon 02-Nov-15 16:44:40

Does anyone manage to buy organic on a tight budget? I am keen to stop ingesting hormones and pesticides for health benefits but our food budget is limited (£75 a week for 2 adults, a 5 year old and a 2 year old). I have written a list to prioritise what I will change first and see how far down the list I can get with my budget. First is milk which I can buy cheaply from aldi as they now sell 2 pint organic semi skimmed. The second is meat. Do butchers sell organic meat? Or will I have to go somewhere like tesco? What are the cheapest cuts? If anyone has any knowledge on this subject I would be so grateful of your help!

bilbodog Mon 02-Nov-15 17:56:39

In terms of meat the cuts which need long slow cooking are usually cheaper I.e. Lamb shoulder, braising or stewing beef or mince. Not sure whether butcher would be cheaper or not as some can be more expensive than supermarkets. For steak I currently buy flat iron steak from Waitrose which is really cheap and just needs flash frying and I cut into slices served pink in the middle. Dh loves it.

WestmorlandSausage Mon 02-Nov-15 18:10:31

Which hormones are you trying to avoid in UK dairy and meat production?

FWIW organically reared animals can be treated with medications/ antibiotics and organic crops can be treated with some limited pesticides.

You would be better trying to eat higher welfare/ locally sourced rather than wasting your limited budget on organic. Your butcher is a good place to start.

There is no difference between organic and non organic milk in the UK as far as I am concerned

Want2bSupermum Mon 02-Nov-15 18:20:18

DH works in the food industry for a slaughterhouse group. Basically your top concern regarding meat should be antibiotics according to my DH. We buy hormone and antibiotic free meat not organic. Often the meat which is hormone and antibiotic free is organic too but not certified as the costs are high to do this.

Milk production - from what I understand hormones are not allowed in the EU (they are not allowed in the US) and DH tells me that dairy people he knows through work told him that antibiotics are not in the milk as there is a time period where the milk is pumped and dumped after antibiotics are administered.

For fruit and veg start with the dirty dozen to reduce your pesticides.

987flowers Mon 02-Nov-15 18:46:34

How do you know meat is antibiotic free?

Want2bSupermum Mon 02-Nov-15 19:10:15

It says so on the label. The labelling rules are very very strict. How it works on the farm is the animal is tagged and segregated within the inventory system when the antibiotic is administered. They are then processed separately, I know for DH's employer they slaughter them on different days as a control measure and to avoid cross contamination.

DH's employer does spot checks at the farms as well as at slaughter to ensure compliance. They will take the vets records and agree the records to the records held by the farm and also the tags on the animals. All records from the vet, farm and tags must agree or the whole herd is considered non-antibiotic free. Here in the US, the USDA then come in and do their own tests at the farm level on top of what DH's employer does. The USDA fly their officials out to DH's employers farmers. Also, you have companies like Costco and Chipotle who do their own testing.

EWLT Mon 02-Nov-15 19:18:47

Obviously it depends by what you define as "on a budget" but I actually think it's possible to do it without spending a fortune.

Plain food/ingredients are relatively cheap IMO, so if you buy just ingredients, rather than products you can feed a family mostly organic without spending the earth.

For me, that means a meat box 2-3 times a year from Higher Hacknell and using HFW's policy of good meat, used sparingly and not everyday. A large weekly veg box and some lovely hearty vegetarian meals, thanks again HFW (Only just realised how reliant I am!)

Organic milk from Lidl, but I've had to draw the line at Organic cheese and butter because it seems a step to far price wise.

FWIW, my main interest in organic farming is to support those farmers trying to do their bit for wildlife on their farms.

WestmorlandSausage Mon 02-Nov-15 19:28:19

Want2besupermum demonstrates the problem nicely here. UK and US farming and food production systems are very very different!!!

OP all vetinary medicines in the UK come with a withdrawal period which mean that the animal cannot be sent for slaughter during this time. Organically farmed animals by and large are not treated any differently to non organic. They just cost more to rear as organic systems have higher costs associated with them, and the cost is subsequently passed on to the consumer.

Look for the red tractor logo on meat, it means the farm it comes from should have higher welfare standards and is subject to regular inspections which include medication use.

WestmorlandSausage Mon 02-Nov-15 19:34:34

EWLT All farms that receive government subsidies (which is most) have to 'do their bit' for wildlife on their farms, it is not limited to organic farming, and organic farmers certainly don't do it out of the goodness of their hearts or at personal cost to themselves.

The organic lobby have done a good PR job in convincing everyone that all the other non organic farmers are happily romping round the countryside destroying wildlife and pumping evil things into animals that are kept in dark sheds and never see the light of day. They forget to mention that this is technically possible (in that it isn't really under either system) under a lot of organic systems too.

Holstein Mon 02-Nov-15 19:35:02

Want2b- which supermarkets stock non-antibiotic meat then? I've never seen that on a label. We usually get meat (organic) from waitrose and sainsburys. To spend less, eat less meat. I make a lot of stews/casseroles as the meat goes further (and can make double, so freeze for another time).

circlelake Mon 02-Nov-15 19:52:13

Want2b is in the USA

Want2bSupermum Mon 02-Nov-15 19:57:25

Westmoreland DH's employer export to the US so even though the hogs are raised in the EU (UK, Denmark, Germany and Poland) they are subject to USDA rules if they want to use the label 'antibiotic free' in the US. When they say antibiotic free here in the US they mean antibiotic free from cradle to grave and don't have the cooling off periods that the EU allow. Many farmers in the EU are following the US rules as there is a huge premium for antibiotic free (about $1-2/lb depending on the cut and the meat). It is very hard to know who is and who isn't following the US rules in the EU because of the labelling rules not distinguishing between the two different standards of antibiotic free.

There are quite a few corporate farming networks set up like this as the meat is exported so the farms must be monitored by that country they export to.

Holstein DH wants meat to be bought from Costco, Kirkland brand or Smithfield (who is not his employer). DH sells into costco and the work involved in ensuring compliance to their rules is onerous. Smithfield are his competitor and he has a lot of respect for them and their farming practices. Costco are firm but fair and pay a good price for the product but in return expectations are very high. The reason we don't buy from DH's employer is because most food coming in is sold to restaurants and apart from samples everything is sold. We can buy it in the supermarket but buy meat from costco as it is quite a bit cheaper when buying antibiotic free.

Backtonature Mon 02-Nov-15 20:03:30

Thank you for all the replies so far. I will have a look at the dirty dozen. I have noticed a lot of chefs say they prefer local over organic, how can you find out how butchers meat etc is produced? I bought a chicken from my local butchers at double the price of an aldi one, I asked if it was free range and they said yes but it doesn't say on the label?

Holstein Mon 02-Nov-15 20:07:32

Ah, US-based? Never mind! smile
The food rules/regulations are different, aren't they? (before I even consider the airmiles involved!!)

Holstein Mon 02-Nov-15 20:09:05

Do you have any farm shops near you? Even cities have them on the outskirts.
There's a MN section called 'ethical living' which I'm sure has had discussions on this area before, organic suppliers, farm shops etc, perhaps an advanced search on that specific topic might throw up suppliers in your area?

Backtonature Mon 02-Nov-15 20:16:44

Yes there is a farm shop at the other side of town, I think it may be more of a "lifestyle" shop though rather than an actual farm if that makes sense? I think they grow a few veggies that they sell but the rest seems to be very expensive pre made items with a few local items. It might be worth a look though to see what the local items are.

Backtonature Mon 02-Nov-15 20:17:28

I will have a look on the ethical living section thank you smile

Sadik Mon 02-Nov-15 20:30:30

Not helpful for meat and milk, but if you can get together with others and form a buying co-op or similar then you can bulk buy from Suma or Essential at wholesale prices. I reckon by doing that you can get the basics (I buy things like oats / dried fruit / pulses / baked beans / tinned toms) as organic for the same price as non-organic from the supermarket.

Sadik Mon 02-Nov-15 20:32:54

Essential's info on setting up a buying group and the same thing from Suma

Want2bSupermum Mon 02-Nov-15 20:51:18

holdstein Yes they have different rules in the US but quite a few of the big corporate farming groups in the EU follow the US rules but don't say so on their packaging. If you want the US rules, which are stricter than the red tractor, your best option it to buy your meat from Costco because their antibiotic free labelling requirements are similar to the USDA rules but go much further with regards to animal welfare and environment standards.

Also airmiles??? Only samples to the best customers who have huge contracts have anything flown and once they made an exception and flew in meat for a US President. A particular cut was requested for a dinner and DH didn't have any in storage. Someone from the office happened to be flying over on holiday to NYC and DH had them bring in the meat with a certificate which was then picked up by DH at the airport before being driven by DH into Manhattan so I don't know if the airmiles in that instance counts! If in the EU and going to the UK it is moved primarily by truck with the water bit by ship. The meat is shell frozen (ie kept at about -2 C) if going from an EU country to the UK which is considered fresh which greatly reduces the environmental impact as frozen has much higher CO2 emissions.

OreosOreosOreos Mon 02-Nov-15 21:27:34

I average about £75 a week, for me, DH, DSS (12) and DS (2), and buy mainly organic produce.

We don't eat a huge amount of meat, but we have a huge freezer which helps as I can stock up on things when on offer (or reduced).

I mainly shop at Waitrose, as I find their organic range the most reasonable price-wise, but I also find Whole Foods quite good for meat offers.

I meal plan, which I think makes a big difference, and batch cook to make use of the freezer - I mainly make things from scratch, but I'll freeze prepped things to make my life easier.

Things like cheese I tend to buy when on offer - quite often sainsburys or Tesco do offers and I'll buy 4-6 blocks which will last us for a couple of months.

987flowers Mon 02-Nov-15 21:27:36

Oh it's interesting to see the difference between the USA and uk. I always buy British and look for the red tractor.

Holstein Mon 02-Nov-15 23:32:02

want2B- sorry- airmiles was a joke, about me shipping meat from US!

Want2bSupermum Mon 02-Nov-15 23:35:20

You know some seafood such as lobster from the east coast here is flown around the world. DH and I have a giggle about it and how crazy it is.

Drladybird Tue 03-Nov-15 09:12:46

Why not eat less meat and try more vegetarian dishes? I'm happy to suggest recipes that use less expensive ingredients such as pulses (e.g. lentil lasagne or you could use meat substitutes such as soya mince/ quorn?

We get a veggie box which I think works out cheaper than getting organic veg from supermarkets or individually from markets. We organise our weekly meals accordingly. Lidl have some organic lines (carrots, bananas and onions in our local store).

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