When it comes to shopping, you may not be able to find, or be able to afford all of the ingredients from an organic source. If you can't yet go 100 per cent organic, start by picking a percentage of your food budget that you can live with, whether it be 10 per cent, a third, a half, 80 per cent. If you start off with some of the cheaper organic foods, like lentils, beans and grains, perhaps as a substitute for some of the more expensive food items you now buy, you will find your food bill doesn't increase by much if at all. Learning to grow your own organic vegetables if you don't already will also offset the cost of eating organic.
Vegetarian recipes are a valuable part of organic cooking because many vegetarians also eat organic and vica versa. Eating vegetarian can enable you to eat delicious, healthy food even when you are on a tight budget. Some meat eaters may feel they can't afford to live organically because of the price of organic meat - in this case, substituting vegatarian dishes for some of the usual meat meals can increase the amount of organic food in your diet, without actually increasing the cost by much, particularly if you already spend money on good quality cuts of meat.
Beans and legumes are a time honoured part of organic cooking. Many varieties of beans need overnight soaking, but once you have given it a go, this practice can easily become a normal part of your cooking week. It only takes a minute to get them in the fridge soaking overnight, and next day they can cook on the stove while you do something else. This can take anywhere between 20-180 minutes depending on the bean, so you will need to allow time. Another source of indepth information about many different kinds of beans and lentils and all you need to know about soaking and cooking them is the book Meals Without Meat by New Zealand kitchen wiz, Alison Holst.
Meat dishes suitable for organic cooks :
A great and easy way to eat meat organically is to serve it grilled with a baked potato and a green salad. Ideally, you would have your own organic garden full of different kinds of salad greens and herbs which can be thrown together without any fiddling and served with a dash of oil and lemon juice or vinegar. Learn to grill to perfection, preferably using gas, and provided you have a good cut of meat, it will taste like it does in the best restaurants.
Luckily, the traditional Kiwi standard of Meat and Three Veg is not incompatible with organic cooking as it is based on natural, whole ingredients, which once upon a time would have included home grown spray free potatoes and fresh vegetables straight from the garden - even if they were boiled into oblivion.
However, Meat and three Veg can easily be rescued from it's sodden reputation for a healthier version by steaming the vegetables until they are just piping hot - but not cooked - only seconds in the case of some vegetables.
NB for overseas readers : If you want to do the authentic version of this traditional national dish of New Zealand then you are obliged to give the veges (carrots, peas, cabbage) a good ten to twenty minute boil (originally, the time didn't matter so much as the fact that you (ie Mother) could go away and forget about them for awhile, perhaps put your feet up for a little break before dinner). Roast or fry the meat in plenty of animal fat and boil or mash the potatoes with lots of butter.
For the organic verson: Any kind of organic meat, grilled to perfection; one or two organic potatoes, baked, and three different kinds of organic vegetable, lightly steamed, ie - just piping hot but not cooked. Pay attention to presentation and you will greatly improve your appetite. Serve as is or if you prefer, with natural sea salt, pepper and a dash of something on the potatoes, perhaps yoghurt, sour cream, sauce or butter.
The best thing about this meal from the cook's point of view is that it does not require constant attention from the outset to the moment of serving, and does not require taste testing as you go, thus keeping your appetite intact. From the diner's point of view, it is ideal when you want something very plain, but can be spiced up with a homemade organic sauce.
Cutting Down on Preparation Time
You may find that more time is required in the preparation of organic meals, especially when you are learning new recipes. But there are tricks to cutting down on preparation time, such as making big salads, which depending on ingredients, can be eaten two-three nights in a row (this doesn't work if you have a house full of big eaters, but then if you do, there should be more than one person to help with the cooking - painful as it might be breaking in new cooks and having to eat their marvellous creations). Also, invest in Rapunzel Vegan Vegetable Bouillon for the many recipes which call for stock. These will help you whip up quick soups and add instant natural flavouring to quick top of the stove dishes like refried beans on rice.
Remember if you are new to organic cooking that you are wasting your time if you add anything that contains additives (packet soup mixes, etc). If you want to adapt any of your existing recipes for organic cooking, start by leaving out anything unnatural and choose those recipes which involve assembling a variety of fresh ingredients from scratch.
There are now more organic convenience foods liked canned goods and frozen chips available which help speed up the cooking process but you do pay for the service. Convenience organic food is also a bit of a contradiction in terms, as organics is very much about fresh, unprocessed food. However, given the choice between an organic convenience food, and the non organic alternatives, it's easy to see why they exist.
Sometimes recipes which seem complicated or fiddly are not that at all - they just have a mystique to them which is easily decoded with a bit of planning and a step by step approach. Sushi, for instance, may appear difficult, but it is in fact simple. Dried beans may be outside your experience, but if you can drive a car, or even catch the right bus, you can certainly tackle beans and legumes. And remember, it only takes a minute to get them in the fridge soaking.
See also Eat Your Way To Happiness For Everyone