The Cost of Not Eating Organic with David Eson of Isidore Foods

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Eating organic is better for you. But eating organic can cost you a pretty penny. Join us today for this interview with David Eson of Isidore Foods, who has been kind enough to let us in on how the food industry works, why eating organic is so important, and the best way to look at the cost/benefit ratio.

Eating organic is better for you.  But eating organic can cost you a pretty penny.  Join us today for this interview with David Eson of Isidore Foods, who has been kind enough to let us in on how the food industry works, why eating organic is so important, and the best way to look at the cost/benefit ratio.  He’s even got some expert tips on how to realistically cut costs that should hit a chord with all of my frugal friends!  

We all know that eating organic is better for us.  But why is it better for us?

Here are the top three reasons, in my mind, to eat organic.  First, the number and types of pesticides used on produce are greatly reduced when eating organic.  U.S. government organics law guarantees this.  Consumers need to avoid food coming from large farms servicing the biggest regional and national supermarket chains.

Second, due to healthier soils, organic produce contains on average 50% more vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other micro-nutrients than intensively farmed produce.  Our bodies need these nutrients to function properly.  Better farm soil improves our chances of getting them in our diets.

Finally, eating organic guarantees that your food is Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) free.  Again, U.S. law guarantees this.  This is especially important in meat consumption.  Nearly all feed lot and intensively-raised meat is fattened on GMO feeds.

The cost of eating organic puts a lot of people off.  What do you say to financial concerns?

This is a difficult question to answer because it is complicated.  It is complicated because conventionally grown food from large farms outside of our region are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers to grow food.

We subsidize these farms through government programs that do the following – guarantee them a minimum price for their food, provide below market prices for water usage and rights as well as their usage of land, offer loans with lower than market interest rates, clean up the pollution they create and generate new business for them through trade missions and policy.

Its hard to wrap your head around all of that because we do not see or touch any of this.

To try simplify my answer, I will use my own family as an example.  We have health coverage with a $12,000 family annual deductible.  It costs us $428 per month.

If we had a plan with a lower annual family deductible, say $2,000, than we would pay nearly $800 per month.

As you can see, the savings difference is nearly $400.  I would rather spend the difference on healthy food and stay out of the doctor’s office.  This approach is working for my family of five.

The alternative is to spend more money on health insurance so I can spend less at each doctor’s visit after I meet my $2,000 deductible.  Why do I want to spend my time at the doctor’s office so I can get the most out of my policy?  That sounds crazy to me.

There are tons of ways to take short cuts with food prices, but most of them aren’t healthy.  Do you have any real world ways to save on healthy or organic foods?

My family saves on healthy and organic food because we know when different types of foods are in season and we buy in bulk.  Remember, nearly 85% of all food costs come from beyond the farm gate expenses – distribution, packaging, marketing, etc.  If you buy directly from a farmer, you cut out a lot of these costs.

So a plan of action would be to determine what items you want to save on, find a regional farmer to buy them from and then determine the best way to preserve the extra bulk amounts you can not eat right away.

There are plenty of farmers’ markets and local food guides to help you find a farmer and many internet resources will help you determine the best way to preserve and store your items for use later.

As a kid, I was the youngest of 5 and lived on a farm.  Our family garden was 2 acres.  We picked, prepped and preserved nearly all of the produce that came out of our garden.  Of course we ate a lot of it, but my parents had a second kitchen in our basement just for canning and freezing.  Even now I can remember how good our garden produce tasted in the winter.

Remember, you pay for convenience but save money when you have the knowledge to do something yourself.

Thank you so much, David!  This is all information our family will be implementing on our quest to lead healthier, wealthier lives.  Readers, how do you approach your food?  Do you put health before cost, price before product, or do your own gardening?  How do you feel about the health care equation?  Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

David Eson grew up on a family farm in southwestern Ohio, and sold his first vegetables at the age of 13. He and his sister operated this enterprise for 6 years. David has been assisting farming families with distribution and market development since 1997. He has worked for the extension service and various non-governmental organizations, and now operates his own business, Isidore Foods LLC. Isidore Foods operates an Internet based business for marketing and selling local farm products. He currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with his wife, Wendy, and their three children.

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29 thoughts on “The Cost of Not Eating Organic with David Eson of Isidore Foods

  1. Hannah

    During the summer months, farm shares tend to be a very cost effective way to get a ton of vegetables at a price that doesn’t carry much of a premium over regular veggies. It’s a good solution if you have a brown thumb.

    Reply
  2. Ali @ Anything You Want

    This is such a tricky question for me. Right now, I am focusing on lowering food costs, which means I’m not buying much organic food. I think that if/when I have children, I might change this focus.

    I do think that Americans have a skewed idea of how much food should cost, and that organic food perhaps more accurately reflects the value of the food we’re consuming.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I think the subsidized system of cheap, mass-produced food definitely does skew Americans’ value judgments. Once you realize what you’re actually eating it makes sense to spend a little bit more, especially when you’re talking about health not just for today, but in the future. Interesting story here on how Americans 100 years ago spent about 1/3 of their income on food. Deals more with the grocery retailer side, but still interesting: http://www.npr.org/2011/08/23/139761274/how-the-a-p-changed-the-way-we-shop

      (Note: We don’t eat 100% organic yet, but getting better at it is something we’re striving towards. The price hung me up for a long time, too, but we’ve found it to be worth it.)

      Reply
  3. Tonya@Budget and the Beach

    Thanks for the info! I don’t do organic on everything, but I do on some things. I do make sure health is a top priority in my life because like you said, I’d rather spend it on food than doctors visits and medications.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      We’re in the same boat. Probably a bit behind you, Tonya, because you were one of the first financial bloggers I read who unabashedly spent more for the health reasons! Which I’m realizing more and more is super smart. Who cares about how much money you have in retirement if it’s all going to medical costs?

      Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Glad you enjoyed it, Will! Maybe we’ll have to send David to your old forensics team. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Liz @ Friday Night Shenanigans

    Wow a lot of great information. Unfortunately my problem is that there are very few fruits and vegetables that I like, but I’m always trying to find new ones that I like, it is a process though.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I’m a bit picky, too, but with the ones I enjoy I’ve been trying to do better about organic lately. Another big thing is our meat… Thinking about the feed animals are consuming before they’re brought to market can be a little disturbing. We’re actually missing out on some massive business with China because of how we feed our pigs. They don’t want to buy them.

      Reply
  5. Katie @ Moneynuggets

    We all know organic food is much healthier but it can be really expensive. In order to eat healthy and save money, I buy a mix of both organic and non-organic food for now. Buying from the The farmer’s market is a great idea – I will be giivng that a go.

    Reply
  6. houseoftre

    We shop the farmers market and have a small garden. I’m thinking about purchasing a farm share this year. Have you ever tried one?

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I have not. There was an attempt at a co op in my family member’s neighborhood, but we fell off the wagon. (We were over there a lot for a while.) Don’t know if it’s still going at all, actually. Have to check up on that. Let me know what you guys end up doing!

      Reply
  7. vmorgan456

    We have a huge organic garden (canning beans today) and I always buy from the farm fresh eggs. We buy from the farmers market but that doesn’t mean it’s organic and our milk isn’t organic. The price puts me off I guess but when you put it in this perspective I need to reconsider.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I thought of you on this one as a shining example! And the perspective definitely changes things. So true about the farmer’s markets. You have to always be aware of what you’re purchasing.

      Reply
  8. Mel

    I think it’s interesting David grew up on a farm – the kind of knowledge that is just second nature to him probably makes all of this very easy for his family. I’m such a city slicker, it would really be starting from scratch to figure out how to can and preserve leftover fruits and vegetables.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Agreed. I don’t have the greenest of thumbs, but there are skills in life worth learning as a new trick for old dogs. For me, this is one of them. I’m hoping to get better at it when I have a house and my available growing area isn’t limited to a shady patio!

      Reply
  9. RAnn

    I enjoy the farmer’s market. For the first time in my adult life I planted a vegetable garden this year. I think I got it in too late because though my plants look healthy, I haven’t gotten much produce. One tomato plant died; the other has lots of blossoms but no fruit and my cucumber plant has begun setting on, but they don’t grow very big before turning yellow

    Reply
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  11. Hayley @ Disease Called Debt

    This was a really interesting read. I’d love to eat organic but my budget hasn’t really had much room for it in the last few years. When I think about the financial cost of not eating organic, for me in the UK, things are different. I’m really lucky to have the National Health Service (NHS) which is paid for by my National Insurance contributions. It’s a very low cost compared to the health insurance needed in the US. With that said, the potential costs to my health by not eating organic are certainly worth considering.

    Reply
    1. Femme @ femmefrugality

      Truth! You are a lot better off when it comes to health care. And although I haven’t been to the UK since before I can remember, if the rest of Western Europe is any indication you guys have better food options more readily available. In this case, I personally would take the argument a little further… If securing wealth is all about quality of life, what contributes to quality of life moreso than our health? Whether or not having health insurance is an issue, spending retirement (or the present) in the doctor’s office isn’t a preferable way to live.

      Off my soap box. As noted in other comments, this is something we’re striving for but have not yet 100% achieved. I do agree whole heartedly with the argument. Now we just have to buckle down and finalize plans for better implementation. David’s tips are definitely helping.

      Reply
  12. prudencedebtfree

    There are areas of my life that are impacted by our frugal, debt-destroying mission in a way that makes me feel unsettled. This is one of them. I am one of those people who buys groceries with cost and convenience pretty much the main concerns. Yes, I buy healthy food – but not organic. Almost never at a farmers’ market. I have a hard time seeing how I can make the shift to a different way of operating before both money and time are in more plentiful supply. I want to make that shift though.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality

      I hear you. It took us a long time to start making the shift. Farmers markets are such a good deal we’ve been doing those for a while. We’ve still got to kick it to 100%, but getting closer.

      Reply
  13. our next life

    We pay extra for organic, because we agree with all of these important reasons listed here. But it’s a struggle to keep paying more every month when we’d love to cut our grocery budget! We do our best to shop seasonal produce, which is cheaper, and to shop sales. It helps, but the reality is organic will keep costing more for the foreseeable future!

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality

      Let’s make a pact to not think of it as raising our grocery bill, but as cutting our future healthcare bills! Thanks for being an example…even when it’s a psychological struggle!

      Reply
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