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Monday, February 1, 2010

Guest Post:: Thinking Outside the Box for Organic Foods

When I first got married almost ten years ago and started my own garden, I realized that I would not be able to grow everything we ate. Therefore, I had to find alternative and affordable means for eating a natural and organic diet. Our family is ever growing as God continues to bless us with children; therefore, I had to find a way to eat pure foods and not spend a fortune! It is not only my health which is compromised by anything less, but also the health of my children and husband.

Local? Natural? Organic? Huh?
To help you decide what to purchase, I want to define some terms. Locally grown defined by most stores means what is in season and is grown in the "local" area which can be up to seven hours in distance. There are many reasons to buy locally. One of the biggest is you will most likely know the source. The source may not be organic, but can most likely be trusted to give you safe and delicious food. Our beef is NOT certified organic. However, I feel like it is comparable as we do not use hormones or antibiotics. We treat our animals humanely. We also feed it to our family as well. In addition, if you purchase locally you are supporting local small farmers who are being shut down by the huge corporations! You are also contributing to "green" living as the products did not come from as far away as conventional foods.

Natural food is defined as food that is not altered chemically or synthesized in any form. It may or may not be organic. In other words, fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy. There can also be products such as salad dressing, salsa, cereal, etc. which are made of all natural ingredients and minimally processed. However, natural does not refer to how the animal was raised or how the product was produced. A great example is an apple. The apple is all natural and has not been processed at all. However, you do not know how it was grown or what type of chemicals may be on the surface slowly leaching through the entire fruit!

As defined by the OTA (Organic Trade Association) "Organic food production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. Organic foods are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives or irradiation to maintain the integrity of the food."

I purchase natural food nearly 100% of the time meaning I typically do not purchase prepackaged, over processed foods full of preservatives, artificial flavors, and a list of other items which I do not know what they are or even how to pronounce them! I try to make sure the natural food is either locally grown or organic. I cannot always guarantee it will be as I do not always have the money to get those types of items. However, I have found other means of obtaining them. There are many resources other than the local grocery store chains for finding natural and organic foods at affordable prices! I have found several and have been able to keep my grocery budget for eight people to about $50 per week!

Here are my top ways of obtaining cheap(er) Organic foods:

1. Grow your own. We grow many things we eat. I did not begin with a large garden. We started small. A perfect place to start is to get a large container, potting soil to fill it, and something you like to eat either from seed or a plant. A good starter is either lettuce or tomatoes. They are easy to grow. For tomatoes, look for compact, dwarf, or bush varieties. These grow wonderfully in containers or hanging baskets and require little care! I will be more than happy to help you get started. Just send me an email! You can also contact your local extension agent!

2. Shop at Farmers Markets or Purchase from local Farmers/Gardeners. There are many people out there who have gardens and often have excess fruits and vegetables! I give away things from my garden each year. Last year I had so much okra, I could not store it all. I contacted friends and told them they could HAVE whatever they pick! Pick your own farms are also great resources for safe food which may not be certified organic. You can go to to find local farms in your area where you may pick your own food or who sell items. For Tennessee you can go directly to There are also farmers markets during the late spring through the early fall. Going at the end of the day you can usually get a better price, but not necessarily a good selection! The websites mentioned above should also mention some farmers markets in your area. We also sell beef. For more information, please contact me using the information at the end of this post.

3. Shop at close out grocery stores. United Grocery Outlet (UGO) is a great place to find very inexpensive and fresh organic foods and produce! You can find a store at There are several locations in East Tennessee including Knoxville, Lenoir City, Harriman, Athens, and Oak Ridge! At these stores, I have found many organic and gluten free items which were completely affordable without using coupons! Within the past few months I have purchased Glutino bread and bagels for only $1 a loaf or package! These items are at least $5 each at Kroger, Ingles, or Earth Fare! I have also purchased Organic apples for $1 per 3 or 5 pound bag and many other organic and locally grown items! UGO's items change from week to week, so if I find a good deal, I typically try to stockpile the item. UGO has rock bottom prices and does not accept manufacturer's coupons!

4. Email your favorite Organic Food vendor. You can always email or call the company who sells your favorite products and ask for coupons or other items they may have! I have received many free product coupons from companies such as Odwalla, Amy's Kitchen, Food for Life, and Meyenberg Farms!

5. Look for markdowns or manager's specials at chain grocery stores. Kroger and Ingles mark down their almost expired products every morning! Coupled with coupons and sometimes even without, I am able to get organic items including meat and produce for really cheap or for FREE!

6. Shop in bulk at local co-ops. You can find a local-food co-op or buying club near you by visiting

7. Ease into organic. Start by buying some of your favorite foods organically, and re-evaluate your budget. If you have children or babies you may want to start with just organic baby food. Otherwise, you can start with what you can find on sale or really cheap through the week!8. Learn to can and freeze your food! If you are purchasing in bulk, learn to can and freeze your food! You can contact your local extension agent or for Tennessee you can go to to find several different PDF files which contain information on growing as well as preserving your own food!

9. Start a local group for those who want to purchase organic. Anyone can start a yahoo group or face book fan page. Start your own and get tips from others who want to purchase organic foods as well. You can also go in together to purchase in bulk and both benefit from the savings!

Feel free to contact me with any questions: frugalfarmfamily {at} gmail {dot} com

Additional Resources

1. - My blog with information on organic deals, gardening, frugal living, and more!

2. - another blog which focuses only on organic deals!

About The Author:
Hannah is the owner of Frugally Farming Family, co-owner of Barringer Beef, and a graduate from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in Agriculture and Extension Education. She was raised on a beef farm and has been farming and gardening organically on her own and with her husband for over 10 years. She has six children who she home schools. They raise most of their own food as well as eat a gluten free diet. All of their fruit and vegetables are organically grown. She and her husband Tim began selling beef in 2004, and the business has continued to be blessed with growth. The beef is all natural and hormone and antibiotic free. They hope to be certified organic one day, but are not at this time.

She began blogging in March of 2009, after encouragement from a friend who thought she should share and bless others with her knowledge of living frugally as well as farming and gardening. After losing her grandmother in July of 2009 who was an inspiration to her, she began blogging as more of a therapy than a hobby and received many blessings in the process. She loves helping others and teaching others.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Hannah. She would love to hear from you!
May God bless you always!

1 Comment:

frugalfarmfamily said...

Thank you so much for the post! I really appreciate it. I hope it is helpful to you and to your readers! I will be more than happy to answer any questions if anyone happens to have any.
Thanks again!