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5 Healthy, Organic Items & Affordable Alternatives

The following post is from Kate of Modern Alternative Mama:

source: Mel B.

Okay, let’s be realistic here. Every time you turn around, there’s a new threat out there.  Something else is going to kill you because it has chemicals in it. And sometimes the solution to those going-to-kill-chemicals is…well…expensive.  I don’t live on an unlimited income, much like pretty much everyone else I know.  That means that sometimes I just can’t afford to do everything “organic and healthy” that I wish I could. I’m guessing many of you are in the same boat.

Today I’m going to share some healthy, organic things that I wish I could do…but can’t afford.

I’ll also share some solutions that I’ve used instead, hoping they are good enough, and that God will protect us the rest of the way.

Buying Organic Clothing

I have to buy clothes for 2 adults and three (soon to be four) rapidly growing children.  On a tight budget.  Organic clothing can cost $30 – $40 per outfit. My clothing budget is realistically about $200 per year, and that has to buy two sets of clothes (summer/winter) for all the kids plus shoes.  There’s no way I could afford organic!  It would be nice, so that I could support the organic cotton (and bamboo, and hemp) industry as well as keeping any pesticide residues off my kids, but it’s just not happening in the real world.

Instead: I buy almost all my kids’ clothes at Good Will and other thrift shops.  It’s incredibly cheap (I pay an average of $0.50 per item) and the clothes have been washed several times so that a lot of the residues are already gone.  Then I use a natural soap (soap nuts) to wash the clothes so they stay as chemical-free as possible.

Buying Organic Beds and Bedding

These things cost a lot of money.  Organic crib mattresses start around $300, and might be up to $500.  (I have two cribs because both #1 and #2, and #3 and #4, are under 2 years apart.)  Twin beds are more like $1000 and queen/king mattresses for adults?  Forget it.  Sheets are around $30 – $40 for cribs, and larger beds are in the $60 – $100 range.  Everyone with small children knows that you have to have a lot of extra sheets because they wet the bed, get sick, spill stuff, and so on.  There’s no way!  (Someday we’ll save up and at least buy an organic bed for us, the adults…someday.  Us, because we’ll use it for a really long time, and the kids won’t use theirs very long, comparatively, before they’re grown and gone.)

Instead: I buy good fabric when I can and make crib sheets — it’s very easy.  The rest I just buy on sale and wash really well and hang out to dry (if the weather cooperates) before using.  Wool toppers can be placed on the mattresses to help prevent off-gassing (and are lots cheaper than organic mattresses).  We also saved my bed and my husband’s bed from when we were kids and are using these…so at least there aren’t brand-new mattresses off-gassing under the kids all night.  Then, I just pray that this is good enough.

Buying All Organic Food

I wish I could.  Organic grapes are over $4/lb.  A lot of other organic produce is similarly prohibitive.  I’m trying to get my grocery budget down from what it is right now, so expanding my purchasing of organics isn’t happening any time soon.  We have to make choices, just like anyone else.

Instead: I try to focus on cheap, dirty-dozen items.  I buy a lot of organic potatoes, carrots, apples (local/in season they are cheap), lettuce, celery, and a couple other things.  I buy things low on the pesticide residue list conventionally — broccoli, onions, peas, garlic.  I avoid corn and other items that may be GMO in general (buying organic if I really must have it — my husband likes his corn chips sometimes).  I source meats from local farms that aren’t certified but I’m happy with their practices.  I get my raw milk from a local farm too.  I usually kind of “look the other way” on butter and cheese, sourcing local and grass-fed when I can, or at least buying these at health food stores where they don’t allow growth hormones or antibiotics (the non-organic butter usually isn’t any more expensive than the regular butter at a grocery store).  Is it perfect?  No way.  But there’s that “praying this is good enough” thing again….

Buying All Organic Personal Care Products

These, too, are expensive.  And you need as many “products” as you would with the conventional stuff — shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, face wash….  The baby wash I was buying was $8 for a 12-oz. bottle.  The kids like to grab it when I’m not looking and dump half of it into the bathtub (plus there are three of them).  Yeah…that’s not happening.

Instead: I’m not going to compromise and buy the cheap drugstore stuff.  I make all of my own products (or mostly).  I giant bottle of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap is not expensive (I paid $9 for a 32-oz. bottle) and it’s perfectly safe on babies and adults.  I make my own oil cleansing blend and face lotion (both pineapple-infused) instead of some expensive facial-care system (if you need to, you can also make a simple sugar scrub).  I don’t generally use deodorant; I just make sure to shower as needed (but you can make your own if you want).  I use a ‘no poo method for my hair most of the time, and definitely for the kids.  (It’s super cheap and naturally tear-free.)

Buying All New “Stuff”

I have some non-stick baking pans around.  Okay, kind of a lot of them.  I don’t have the money to throw them all out and replace them!  Not to mention that the ones I really want — glass or stoneware — are very expensive.  If I happen to be buying a new one anyway of course I choose a better option.  I did throw away my one non-stick skillet because it was the only one I had; my others are stainless steel (with a few cast iron thrown in).  I have various other non-optimal items in my home right now, that were given as gifts or purchased before I knew better.  It would be nice to buy all new “stuff” that’s top quality, but I can’t.  I research each new purchase now and over time I’ll slowly replace everything, but it’s not going to be tomorrow or even next year.

Instead: I use my glass baking dishes when I can instead of non-stick.  Use muffin liners or parchment paper to cover non-stick or aluminum baking sheets or muffin trays.  Look for some thrift store cast iron if you’re really needing a new option or two.  There are lots of ways to “make them work” without hurting your family.  And if you have what you have and no way around it?  Just keep praying…we can only do the best we can!

What are some organic things you wish you could afford…but can’t?  Best tips for using what you have safely?

Kate is a wife and mommy to 3 and is passionate about God, health and food. She has written 7 cookbooks and is planning to release more in 2012. When she’s not blogging, she’s in the kitchen, sewing, or home schooling her children. You can find her at Modern Alternative Mama or contributing to Keeper of the Home.