Organic, Fair Trade & Natural Products on a Budget

I am constantly picked on these days for being a organic, all natural, or preservative free junkie and spending time in local grocery stores double checking a company’s definition of “all natural” (which does vary and is abused). Yes, I love organic markets, natural food sections of grocery stores, local farmer’s markets and small natural product businesses. I especially love markets like Wholefoods where I can trust everything meets a high standard.

But, the thing everyone complains about is the fact that organic, fair trade and truly natural products are pricey! Most think it is some ploy just to charge more for something. And the reality is, some companies do paste “natural” on a product, put it in neutral colored packaging and only add a few earth grown ingredients in a long list of chemically synthesized compounds that maybe produced by living organisms. However, these are not the products I am referring to, these are:

  • Organic: For a product to be certified organic it must meet many requirements including (i) avoid most synthetic chemical inputs (e.g. fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, etc), genetically modified organisms, irradiation, and the use of biosolids (ii) use of farmland that has been free from synthetic chemicals for a number of years (often, three or more).
  • Fair Trade: A movement advocating the payment of a higher price to producers as well as higher social and environmental standards. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate, flowers and gold. The movement intends to provide market access to otherwise marginalized producers, connecting them to customers and allowing access with fewer middlemen. It aims to provide higher wages than typically paid to producers as well as helping producers develop knowledge, skills and resources to improve their lives. Fair trade advocates also seek to raise awareness of the movement’s philosophies among consumers in developed nations.
  • Natural Products: Plant, microbial and marine based ingredients that occurs in nature and  is not harmful to human and animal life when used correctly. (my own definition)

Cost is one of the main reasons companies use harsh chemicals, pesticides and poor ethics while producing their products and is the same reason people complain about organic and natural products. Preservatives keep items on the shelf longer. Pesticides and genetically modified seeds improve probability and dependability of crop production. Companies exploit sellers in developing countries to keep costs low and reap higher profits.

With this being said, we don’t need to go broke buying ethically produced and healthier products, we simply need to be informed and shop smarter. By buying locally we can reduce the pollution caused by transporting goods long distances as well as support paying farmers a fair price. Keeping an eye out for sales and utilizing manufacturers coupons can save hundreds a year. Buying produce during peak season also saves the consumer a great deal of money.

I love organic, natural and fresh produce/meats but due to a great deal of changes in my household and economy, I can’t afford to purchase these items regularly without planning, couponing and buying items on sale.

See here for more information on fair trade and Organic Products.