As a dutiful Boulder-area transplant, I too drank the organic, cold-pressed, blessed-by-hemp-farmers Kool-Aid and wanted to begin to eat responsibly by choosing organic and natural food that will save me from disease and ultimately save the world.
A few years ago I picked up Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” and while I appreciated the philosophy of his rules (don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize, eat stuff you can pronounce) I thought “Yeah, yeah, yeah… but what about people like me?” People who care but who can’t afford on a regular basis to get real in the Whole Foods parking lot, pay $80 for six things and get the heck out?”
Pollan gave me my answer: Buy less food. I read that sentence over and over again. Really? Buy less? Am I allowed to do that? In the era of Costco gallon jars of condiments and restaurant servings as big as your face, it was startling to see someone actually say buy less food. Invest your food budget into better-for-you kinds of nomnomnom and no longer be swayed by large amounts of cheap, processed products (the kinds of stuff we should be eating less of anyway). Spend the same, get a little less in quantity but much more in quality.
OK! This is something that jibes with my frugal lifestyle. Frugality does not mean cheap. Frugality is spending your hard-earned money wisely, and what better way than investing in what goes in your belly? I suspect a lot of Boulder foodies already buy into this, literally, but hey, it doesn’t have to always feel like Whole Paycheck.
Enter Eileen Conway, a Boulder blogger who’s tapped into mad deals of the local organic and natural groceries. Her blog, “What’s Cooking in Boulder” (whatscookingboulder.blogspot.com) started out as a weekly menu emailed to her friends based on the sales and specials at Boulder’s natural groceries and the farmers markets. These are her tips:
Get in the know online: You can sign up for email alerts on the websites for Sprouts, Sunflower Markets, and Whole Foods, which can give you a heads up on weekly sales fliers and special sales in stores. You can also get coupons at these websites. Another great coupon source is Mambo Sprouts. Also check out the Facebook and Twitter pages of stores you love — and visit What’s Cooking in Boulder blog (duh) and follow her on Twitter @WhatsCookinBldr.
Mark your calendar: Conway says Boulder’s natural food stores have different sales cycles that are easy to track. For example, Sprouts and Sunflower comes out every Wednesday. Whole Foods usually goes with a two-week sale, also starting on Wednesdays. Vitamin Cottage holds longer sales, up to six weeks long.
Use a shopping list: Conway says she originally created her weekly menu to go grocery shopping only once a week (even though she enjoys grocery shopping — me, too!), but she’s “continually surprised at how many of my overscheduled friends are also keen on visiting more than one store for the sake of getting good deals.”
Buyer, beware: Just because something has a SALE sign doesn’t mean it’s a good price. Try to be in the know about how much your usual items cost.
Be realistic. “Balance quality and price in a way that fits you best,” says Conway, who’s not a total organic purist. For example, she buys organic for the Dirty Dozen list of veggies and fruits but will buy conventional, non-organic produce from the Clean 15 if it means a lower price, and, she adds, there has to be room for cravings.
How do you keep it real? Share your tips. Follow @melsidwell on Twitter.