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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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  • [January 15, 2016] - It's National Soup Month so this month's posts will focus on soups. Yum!
  • [February 1, 2016] - An interesting report on why you should always choose organic tea verses non-organic: Toxic Tea (pdf format)
  • Sticky Post - Warning: 4ever Recap reusable canning lids. The reports are growing daily of these lids losing their seal during storage. Some have lost their entire season's worth of canning to these seal failures!

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Frugal Kitchens 101 - The Cost of Organic Foods

Frugal Kitchens 101 A couple of days ago I had to make a trip to one of the nearby small cities and as always managed to make a few foodie stops.  One of those stops was at the Real Canadian Super Store (RCSS) which is owned by Loblaws as is No Frills, my regular grocery store.  RCSS is like a souped up No Frills with a lot of extras, more like a Walmart but less sundry and clothing.  There is a large selection of organic foods, a fresh deli and seafood counter and small coffee shop along with a wine store and bank.  I was interested in the organic section, specifically looking for Oak Manor organic flours, organic peanut butter and organic granulated sugar.  My gosh, talk about sticker shock!

No Frills is basic shopping with a few extras and limited organic foods.  Walmart's prices is about 5% higher than No Frills and they also carry a limited range of organic foods.  Sobey's that no longer is in town had a larger selection of food but their prices would drive the average grocery cart up by about 15%.  RCSS would be about 20% higher for the average cart but that price would significantly increase if buying organic.  For example, our Walmart has organic bananas at 10¢ per pound higher than non-organic bananas but RCSS regular priced non-organic bananas were the same price as Walmart's organic bananas and their organic bananas were 30¢ per pound more!  A 1 kg jar of Kraft peanut butter at No Frills goes on sale for $3.97.  A 500 g jar of PC organic peanut butter cost me $4.29 at RCSS.   On the flip side, local organic produce in season is the same price if not a bit less than non-organic in the grocery stores and usually lower priced at farm stands, farmers' markets and orchards.   Store pricing aside, the cost of organic food is higher than non-organic for many reasons. 

The home grower and hobby farmer can grow organically for less money than it would cost to use chemical pesticides and fertilizers, they don't incur any labour costs and for the most part the yield will be as good as if not better than using non-organic growing methods.  Farmers growing produce organically for commercial purposes and wanting to label their produce as such must meet stringent criteria (eg. land must be free of pesticide use for 10 years) and they must pay for certification.  In most cases for a viable organic farm operation, labour costs will be incurred and the yield will be less because the fields cannot be watched 24/7.  Manual pest removal practices that work well for the home grower and hobby farmer are not as easy for larger scale operations.  Seriously, it takes me about 10 minutes in the early morning to check my beans for Japanese Beetles and manually remove them but imagine the manpower it would take to do this type of manual removal daily in a ten acre field.  Essentially, the higher cost of organic farming and certification for organic growers is passed on to consumers.  Food manufactures are consumers of the organic produce.  The price of the raw product is more so that cost is passed on to consumers who buy their foods.  However, there is a myth surrounding organic foods.

Many view organic foods as expensive food only yuppies or back-to-the-land folks who hang out in health food stores eat, and because of that view the food producers and manufacturers can price organic foods higher.  Think about it, free range chickens eat a normal diet of insects and vegetation rather than being grain fed.  In other words, it costs the farmer less money to raise free range chickens that produce the same number of eggs in the same amount of time (about 1 egg every 14 hours) than it does to gain feed the chickens and yet, both free range chickens and eggs are sold at a higher price than the mass produced factory grain fed chickens.  The food manufacturers can really take advantage of this.  Yes, the raw product may cost them more (eg. organic peanuts) but the end product (eg. organic peanut butter contains only peanuts) contains no preservatives or other additives so the cost of production is lower yet they sell in smaller quantities at a higher price.  Another thing to consider, it is now common for organic producers to also use Fair Trade, Ethical Trade as well as promote sustainable farming and support eco-friendly causes (eg. endangered species, wildlife habitats) by donating part of their proceeds from the product to the cause.  Food manufacturers using the Fair Trade, Ethical Trade and Dolphin Friendly pay to use that logo and must ensure they are buying from growers meeting those specifications.  Other organic food manufacturers are co-ops owned, operated and supporting local growers which helps to build a stronger local economy.  They are smaller operations that produce outstanding quality in the foods produced so that is reflected in their price.

Organic growers, food producers and manufacturers as a whole are not only concerned about healthier, safer foods.  They are concerned about social responsibility and being good stewards of the earth.  More so, the consumer holds these same concerns and in fact are demanding that the food industry make changes.  Currently, the divide continues to grow between the organic and non-organic with many now preferring to buy organic.  Organic foods need not break your wallet.  They can be every bit as frugal as non-organic foods.  In some cases organic is less expensive than non-organic especially whatever you grow yourself.  In general, organic whole foods (eg. produce, meats, flours, sugars) like their non-organic counterparts are less expensive than organic convenience foods.  I kid you not, RCSS even had organic boxed mac & cheese!  Sorry, but even paying a bit more for the organic whole foods, the price is still less expensive per gram than buying the organic mix.  However, that does show that the popularity of organic foods is growing.  I did find the price or the organic pastas a bit high which could be off set by making your own using organic flour and free range eggs or buying on sale.  I know the Bulk Barn sells organic dry pastas that are considerably less expensive than the packaged organic dry pastas at RCSS so it pays to shop around.  The one caveat when buying packaged organic foods (eg. coffees, chocolate, pastas, cereals, flours, sugars) is to look for the Canada Organic/Biologique Canada certification logo or the USDA Organic certification logo on the package.   Legally to be labelled as organic the grower must be certified and the manufacturer can only used foods produced by organic growers to label their product as organic.  Buzz words like farm fresh, home grown, organically grown are not proof of an organic product, only the certification logo is.  Be leery of buying any produce labeled as organic at farmers' markets and farm stands as unless you know the farmer, you have no idea whether they are practicing organic growing methods or not.  If in doubt, always assume they aren't.  Not that you can't buy the produce if it not organic, just be sure it is organic before paying a higher price.  When it comes to organic foods especially meats and produce, it is very much buyer beware!

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