I’m all for buying only fair-trade, certified organic, local, USA products, if I had my way that would be all that we would by. Unfortunately, my family is not made of money and we do have to cut corners sometimes. It’s not ideal, it’s not what my crunchy heart truly wants but it’s what the budget demands.
I still try to make the best choices with the budget I have however. I don’t just throw in the towel and buy the cheapest thing on the shelf. Some items have top priority and others are lower down on the list.
Ethical Choices on a Tight Budget
Food – I’d say that we buy 90% organic. Some items just haven’t made the leap to organic yet but I try to keep those items to the “not as important” ones. An interesting way that we do a bit better in the grocery department is our milk. I can’t afford raw milk, which would be my ideal and fits all my criteria but it’s just way too expensive for us. I have however found a local company that treats their cows right, practices organically even though they aren’t certified, is as close to raw as I can get, and as an added bonus the milk comes in glass containers! The milk is the same price as any other organic milk but it’s closer to my ideal. It took a bit more research and it’s a bit more annoying as they only sell in half gallons (couldn’t do a gallon of milk in glass, that would be much too heavy) but it’s worth it.
Personal Items – When I say personal items I’m covering things like toothpaste and shampoo to vitamins and feminine products. Most of our personal items are homemade now. Making these items ourselves definitely means they are local and USA made. It also generally means they are organic and fair-trade most of the time. Some items we do skimp on however, like vitamins. I do the best I can with our budget but vitamins is just one area that I cannot afford the best of the best. Someday perhaps I will, but for now I go with a happy medium of whole food vitamins that are mostly organic, they just aren’t perfect.
Furniture and what not – These are the hardest items for my family to splurge on. We are already on a tight budget as it is so buying any piece of furniture or house type item is usually something we have to save for. This usually means that buying organic, fair-trade, etc is just not going to happen. For me, toxins are my biggest concern. This means that even though we can’t buy my dream furniture, I do try to find furniture that is lower on the toxin list… like Ikea; not only are they really affordable but Ikea (being Swedish) is a bit ahead of the curve in the toxin department. I’m not saying they are perfect (and they are worse in the USA than they are in say Canada or Sweden!) but compared to most companies they are definitely better. True, they still use some chemicals and their beds have flame retardants but they are at least the “safer” ones. Ideal? No. However, when on a tight budget sometimes you have to make cuts and it’s nice to know that cheap doesn’t always mean toxin loaded. There is also of course, buying used. Buying used saves us money and usually means that the product has at least off-gassed a bit so it’s less of a toxin threat. It also means that sometimes I can buy my dream product because being the dream product used sometimes costs the same as buying a non-dream product brand new.
Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to buy the best of the best. I still do. For example bedding. I bought my boys organic bedding sets. I saved up my money till I had enough and then splurged. Why? Because I think bedding is an area to try to splurge on. The boys beds aren’t organic like I would prefer but they are also very used and so have probably off gassed by now which makes them a bit better than brand new conventional beds. It’s a give and take when it comes to shopping ethically and being on a tight budget. We do what we can and we try not to get caught up in what we can’t.