Organic on a Budget

Making the choice to buy safer products squeezes a monthly budget. Most organics are about 20-30% more expensive than their conventional counterpart. Here’s a great example, it’s so tempting to just grab the cheaper one at the more than 50% less. What’s the deal with this!?
I’ve always been a savvy shopper. When we moved to Charlotte 8 years ago, we were living on one income with a baby and new house. Keeping the grocery and house bill to a minimum was challenging. I picked up tricks along the way. Once I went back to work, I slacked on my diligent saving, only because I was exhausted and was now forced to shop with the masses on the weekends and evenings. (The evenings were soon eliminated after a horrifying meltdown at the entrance of Target by my son who was 3 at the time and tired from a long day of daycare. I spent 20 minutes trying to get him to stop screaming and rolling all over the floor. It was mortifying. I vowed NEVER AGAIN after a long day of daycare.)It wasn’t easy managing the house, a toddler, a new job and find the time to clip coupons! But now with the new baby, the new expenses, and the new awareness of the bad stuff in everything we buy, I’ve had to challenge myself once again… turn on those SAVVY wheels and start saving! Saving will only bring me back down to the normal NOT saving, but hey I wouldn’t be able to afford organic healthy living without it. This lifestyle change comes with the added legwork for saving money, only because most people don’t or can’t stretch their budgets, without having to sacrifice something else… and who isn’t maxed out these days.

A few of my money saving tips…
Harris Teeter accepts competitor coupons, so collect store coupons wherever you can find them. Buy a few CitiPass (GoPlaySave) coupon books. In there, you’ll find Earth Fare and Healthy Home Market coupons. The clipper magazine sometimes have them. You will usually get $5-$10 off your bill.

Sign up on Each week you recycle, you get points in your account. 100 points will get you a $10 coupon for Harris Teeter. This is a totally free program. You will be compelled to recycle more in the meantime, win win.

Shop your farmers markets for produce, veggies, local honey and jellies, and just about anything else they’ll sell you. I LOVE my market, located at a gas station of all places. Providence Produce has some great stuff and I don’t think I’ve ever spend more than $15 a week for my week’s worth of produce. A must to save money.
When most of the markets are closed during the winter, it hurts the wallet, so more reason to stock up on those coupons. Harris Teeter has been offering a lot more organics these days, but you have to use the store coupon to offset the increase in price. I don’t clip coupons for GMO food anymore, but still do for the household and baby products. Be choosy about what products you clip coupons for.

Check your weekly flyers for specials, you can get some awesome deals. You have to look at your receipt too. They’re long for a reason… on the bottom, they list all these great sneaky sales that are not in the flyers. You have to use your loyalty card for them to work. For weeks, my local Harris Teeter had $3 off smart chicken.

There are also CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) . A CSA is a great way to easily get your weekly, in-season produce. You sign up to become a member and each week, the farm will drop off your box of goodies. I’ve been looking into the Poplar Farms CSA because they also sell eggs, dairy products, breads, chicken, and coffee.
Remember the produce is in-season, so you may not know what to do with it. Edible Charlotte has a seasonal magazine that has helpful recipes for those types of produce. But this is where I like the control of buying my own. There are some indoor markets, like the 7th Street Market and the Hillbilly Produce Market , but they aren’t on my way home from work, so it’s not as convenient as Providence Produce. But if you have the time and are in the area, it’s a great alternative to the grocery store.

For all things non-GMO like snacks, meats, and other goodies, like wine and beer, I shop at Trader Joes. Everything is comparable in price if not cheaper than many stores. And shopping at Trader Joes is really fun. I love discovering new products. I love asking the cashiers what they like to buy and I also find it funny how they comment on what I buy! Great store… I go in and let my older son run around desperately trying to find those weird stuffed animals they put on the shelves, while my little one eats all the samples they have out. You do have to watch out for some of what you buy there, sugar content seems to be a problem in our house.

A quick note about the e-VICs… these are great for those of us who have husbands that blow our shopping budget on one trip to the store to pick up milk. They come home with crazy stuff, like $8 bag of cashews or $20 garbage bags or $6 ice cream (that’s not on sale, argh!!!) The eVICs are nice because you might get lucky and save the same product they go and buy when not instructed. The coupon comes right off the bill… so long as they use their VIC card! e-VICs = protection from husbands at the grocery store!

I used to shop regularly at Costco and Target. But I find those places black holes for buying unnecessary items. I’ll go in there to save a total of $5 on toiletries, only to walk out with a new book or toy for my son. Abstinence from both those stores is best for me and my wallet! Just walking through the red doors at Target is a budget killer! For little things, I’ll go to my CVS, at least there I’ll occasionally get CVS “bucks” for my next purchase. I’m still in Target way too much because hey, when you have kids, you have an additional birthday party budget along with the food budget. But that’s a totally different budget that I unfortunately DO NOT have any good tips or tricks for, so sad… it’s costly!

A few rules of thumb, buy organic when you can, stay away from processed food unless you know it’s not genetically modified, and also try to use less. When you get home, split your meats into two meals, freeze one. You don’t have to cook everything then throw away leftovers. Be mindful of how much you actually need for each meal. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or set unrealistic goals. We still need the government agencies that regulate our food to step up and start protecting our food supply. We can’t know everything that is in everything we bring home. And who has time for that? And there will be those days when you forget your coupons or can’t get to trader joes and need snacks for your kids’ lunches. Don’t let that “green guilt” creep in. Set reasonable goals and know that each day you make even a small change, it’s better than no change at all!

Quick update: My awesome friend Angie at SimplyYogini just sent me links to these great sites to find coupons and deals on organic products. I just used one to buy body wash, $6 off! Thank you Angie!!!
Organic Deals
Organic Coupons

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My search for a non GMO infant formula

I recently discovered that the formula I fed my son for 12+ months contains genetically modified corn and soy. Moms should know that there are GMOs* in nearly all infant formula being sold in stores.  A mom should be able to decide for herself if that’s what she wants to feed her baby.  If she decides that is not the kind of formula she wants, the alternative is to choose organic.  You can buy an organic brand to eliminate almost all GMOs in the formula, but you won’t be able to completely avoid them and find a truly organic formula.

While there are many organic formulas on the market, there is only one currently being sold in the United States that does not contain GMOs in some form.  Organic formulas have hexane-extracted algal DHA and fungal ARA oils.  The algae used to extract the additives is GMO algae.  The manufacturer that provides the DHA and ARA is Martek, the product, life’s DHA.  Please take some time to read the white paper created by the Cornucopia Institute on this matter. It explains how the additive was given the organic seal of approval in great detail, beginning on page 19. This additive is not only found in organic formula but many other products labeled organic as well.  A full list of products can be found on their website.

Below is a list of infant formulas containing life’s DHA which is both genetically modified and typically manufactured using a known toxin:

Earth’s Best Organic Soy with DHA & ARA (Hain Celestial Group)
Enfamil LIPIL (Mead Johnson Nutritionals)
Enfamil Next Step (Mead Johnson)
Isomil 2 Advance (Abbott Laboratories)
Nestle Good Start Supreme with DHA & ARA (Nestle USA)
Parent’s Choice Organic (Wal-Mart)
Similac Advance (Abbott Nutrition)
Ultra Bright Beginnings Lipids (PBM Products, LLC)

Searching for an alternative

In my search to find a good organic alternative, I chose Earths Best because it is a company listed on the NonGMO project website.  But I noticed that their formula wasn’t listed as a non GMO verified product and that it does contain DHA/ARA.


So I emailed Earths Best to find out if the formula is completely organic and if they do use any GMOs.  I got this response:

Dear Ms. Stadler,
Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding our Earth’s Best® Products. We strive to maintain the highest quality products and your satisfaction is very important to us.
All Earth’s Best® organic products are produced without the use of GMOs (genetically modified organism) in accordance with the USDA’s National Organic Program. All ingredients used in our organic products do not contain GMOs. We use the only forms of DHA and ARA approved for use in infant formula which are produced from all natural, vegetarian, and non-GMO sources.
Thank you for your continued support. If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us at 1-800-434-4246, Monday through Friday from 7AM – 5PM Mountain Time.
Mouhamed Consumer Relations Representative

They state that the only forms of DHA/ARA are produced from non-GMO sources, but Martek’s site lists their formula on their product lists. That was confusing to me, so I called Earths Best customer service to speak with a real person.  The customer service rep said that their formula is completely non GMO.  

I asked him specifically if the DHA/ARA additives are manufactured by Martek.  He put me on hold for a few minutes.  He came back and told me that the DHA supplement used in the formula is made by Martek but without GMO.  So I asked him, are there two versions of Martek’s DHA/ARA additives, one with GMO and one without?  He said they could not verify their product as non-GMO if they used anything with GMO.  Okay well, the Earths Best formula is not officially verified by the non-GMO project. 

He said I would have to contact Martek and ask them, so that’s what I did.  I wrote an email to Martek asking them to please confirm they do, in fact, have 2 types of DHA/ARA additives.

Email to Martek Customer Service (sent 10/22/2012)


I have a question about the DHA/ARA additives that you provide to Earth’s Best Infant Formula.  I called and asked them if the DHA/ARA additives are made with genetically modified organisms and they said no, many times.  But in all the research I’ve been doing, I see that you derive the DHA additive using hexane and GMO algae. The customer relations person I spoke with at Earth’s Best said they get a “Non-GMO version” of your additive for their formula.  Can you please verify to me that you do, in fact, manufacture a non-GMO, non-toxic DHA additive for infant formula?  I’m desperately trying to figure out how to feed our little ones a pure formula when breastfeeding is not a possibility. 

Thank you for your time,

Cathy Stadler

No response yet.
What to use then? 

Baby’s Only brand by Nature’s One doesn’t seem to have any ingredients that are chemically or genetically modified but unfortunately, it is not recommended for babies under 12 months because the DHA and ARA in their formula are water-extracted from organic egg yolks. And infants should not be exposed to egg until 12 months of age.  This formula does not contain Martek’s hexane-extracted algal DHA and fungal ARA oils.

You can also purchase a German formula Holle from Amazon

Another solution, find a local milk bank to purchase other mothers’ breast milk.

At the very least, choose organic over regular.  I didn’t see one from Enfamil, but there is a Similac Organic if you purchase these at Costco or another big box store. 

Moms should know the formula they give their baby is not what it seems to be.

I paid a lot of money for formula thinking that it was the best, having no idea that while the list of ingredients says one thing, what’s really inside is a genetically modified creation of that ingredient.  I assumed that it was fine, that it came from all natural ingredients.  I was wrong and had no idea.  The companies who make our baby formula do not have the decency to tell us what we are really buying. 

There are moms out there that struggle with babies that can’t digest their formula.  They try one formula after the other, and still see the obvious pain on their infant’s face. It would be nice to know that the GMOs in that formula could be causing the gastrointestinal distress.  These are little babies with little tummies. 

For more information and what you can do to help

Share this information with all the other moms that you know that use formula. 

Check out some of these links to educate yourself about the Genetically Modified Organisms that have been in our food supply since 1996.

And  if you don’t have time, just read some of these quotes…

“Unlike more than 60 other countries—including the European Union member states, Japan, Brazil, Russia and China—the U.S. has no law requiring labeling of GE foods. As a consequence, U.S. consumers are unknowingly purchasing and consuming GE foods every day, despite the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does no independent testing for their safety.

“Consumers assume when they purchase organic products that they are supporting a higher environmental ethic. The use of hexane as a processing agent in organic food production is a betrayal to these ideals.”

*GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) are plants or animals created by merging the DNA from different species.  They were developed to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide.  Nearly all infant formulas use milk from cows injected with growth hormone and derivates of GM corn. The FDA doesn’t require safety studies on GM food.  To read more about this, go to

Update: 6/20/2013

People have reached out to me asking where to buy the Holle Infant formula and it seems you can’t purchase it on Amazon anymore. I was able to add it to a shopping cart on this site here: BioLogisch. I also found these sites: Little Organics and Bioliving. Shipping might be delayed so be sure to purchase enough to last.

I found a review for Holle formula on this blog, which has some other great information and insight: BadPwny. And found this article from Natural News about the use of genetically modified organisms in the DHA additive contained in infant formulas (even the organic ones).

I think it’s shocking that right here in the US there is no infant formula that does not contain some form of genetically modified organisms. We should all be aware of this fact and also have other options or alternatives. Are those options only overseas, where they actually protect their citizens from potentially dangerous chemicals in their food supply?

I reached out to Earth’s Best and Martek once again asking to clarify that the DHA additive is not a genetically modified ingredient and still no response.

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My Journey

I’m a mother of two boys, one 8 and one 16 months. I do the best I can. I try to feed my boys a healthy and well balanced diet. I conscientiously serve meals to provide the best nutrition, with a picky eater, that has been very challenging! My journey has been a slow one. It began a few years ago when I noticed my younger sister using Aveeno for her daughter’s bath. We had a quick conversation about our childrens’ eczema and she recommended that try it. I was using Johnson & Johnson Head to Toe since I brought my son home from the hospital 5 years earlier. I bought Aveeno and also switched our laundry detergent to All Free and Clear from Tide. Up to this point, my son always seemed to be sick.  He was always coughing, he had eczema in the crook of both arms that he would itch till bleeding, I believed he had exercise-induced or some preliminary form of asthma.  He had pneumonia twice, strep, countless respiratory viruses, and was on numerous antibiotics through all of this. I was shocked that a baby could get so sick, but was told that babies just get sick all the time.

The day I made those minor changes was the last day I can remember seeing the eczema, it cleared up right away. The colds lessened in frequency and intensity. I didn’t hear my child coughing as much as I used to. I realized that by changing two things in my house, I had made a major impact on my child’s health. As relieved as I was, I was also devastated. How could I have done such a thing to my child, and why more importantly, did I not know about it?

So here I am on this journey, learning something new every single day. It was very slow in the beginning. I thought it was more of a lifestyle choice, not a necessity. While I’ve been learning about the chemicals in our household products, I stumbled across something even bigger that is in a majority of the food we eat, Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs.

“GMOs are plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology.  This experimental technology merges DNA from different species.  Virtually all commercial GMOs are engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide.  Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe.”

I didn’t know anything about this, never heard of it at all, but for the last 16 years, I’ve been eating GMO foods. I then watched videos

and read blogs

and even went to a seminar,

and I’ve realized today that I have not only been hurting myself by eating this food, but I’ve passed it onto my boys as well. My 16 month old son has just eaten GMO formula for 12 months straight, it being his only food source in the first 6 months of his life. I didn’t buy the store brand, I paid for the most expensive brand, thinking I was doing the best I could, even if it meant stressing about bills. Here I am believing in it, not knowing for a second that this could hurt my child. Upon finding out about what was really in his formula, I was shocked and furious.  Moms should know and have every right to know what is in the formula they feed their babies.

Millions of dollars have been spent to stop that legislation proposed in California that would make it mandatory to label GMO foods.

We need to stop assuming that when something is approved by the FDA or regulated by the EPA, that it is safe.  I’ve learned along the way that it is up to me to figure out what I’m bringing home from the store. We need to find out where we can make healthier purchases for our babies and it has to be within our means. Those options are out there.

And we have to start talking to each other about this, at the playground and in our social groups. We need to understand why it’s so important. Think of the drastic increase in all the diseases and chronic illnesses over the last few decades… it’s got to make you wonder. Could it be what we eat, the products we use on our bodies, the cleaning supplies we use to keep our homes germ free?

Do this for your family, your brothers and sisters and their families, your mom and your dad. When people say we ate all this and we’re fine, remind them that this is new, only 16 years ago the first seed was introduced into our food supply.  Read what you can, and make up your own mind. There are tons of sources online, from the to the non-profits trying desperately to get this message out. Once you start reading the articles, blogs, and watching the videos, you will have a better understanding and be able to make much better choices for your children.

Download the TrueFood app to find out where you can buy non GMO foods.
I also have the GoodGuide app for home and beauty products.
Both free!

Moms should know that milk is not purely milk anymore, that soy is not simply soy, and that sugar is being replaced with corn and soy derived sweeteners, none of which have ever been tested or regulated.  And yet these GMOs are trusted enough to put in our bodies without understanding the long term affects. Find out for yourself, make informed choices, and most importantly have fun in the journey.

Other sources:


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Little Changes … and getting Organized!

I’m trying to eliminate all the chemicals and nasties out of my home.  The thought of switching out all my products and food is daunting, considering how much STUFF I have and use on a daily basis.  I created a simple checklist in a notebook so that I could see it all on paper.  It was much easier to see everything I use rather than try to think about it.  I didn’t want to miss anything or to continue feeling overwhelmed about all of the stuff I need to replace.  I’ve been making small changes here and there and wanted to get a good look at my progress so far and see what else needed replacing.  After doing this checklist, I realized that I don’t use as much stuff as I thought I did, and that I was well on my way to reaching my goal. 

Then I created a “fancy excel” checklist to keep around to check off items as I go… see what I have replaced so far and what I still need to do my research on.  This checklist below is an example of our personal bath products.  I’ll also create one for kitchen and cleaning products.  Food might be more difficult because we all eat so many different things, but a checklist with the basics will be a great way to start. 

You can make small changes, one thing at a time, and know you’re headed in the right direction.  I’ve found myself picking things I’ve never considered before and enjoying this new adventure.  I almost feel like I’m in a different country trying to navigate the foreign products.  It has been fun and I know in the meantime, that I’m doing a great thing for my family!

Next up… diapers and wipes.  I just received my trial package of diapers and wipes from the Honest Company.  I am very excited to see how they hold up on my 17 month old!  Another great resource is, she has a list of natural products that I’m really excited to try.  

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Cradle … Oh Crap!

When my second son was born, he had a bad case of cradle cap or what seems to always come out “cradle crap”.  It’s dry scales of skin on a baby’s forehead and scalp area.  It didn’t seem to bother him at all, but I thought well, I must do something about it!  So a great friend of mine offered her cradle cap care that she was given for her first child.  She said  that it was calendula oil and that was supposed to help with cradle cap.  I tried it for many days, but the cradle crap was still there, no change whatsoever.

During this time, I was researching a better wipe for my baby as well.  I’ve become more aware of nasty chemicals in our everyday products and I was using websites to help me find the brands that weren’t big offenders.  During this search for a nice wipe, I found that my cradle cap care was an offender!  I was so shocked to find all these horrible chemicals in what was supposed to be an all natural treatment.  I was surprised to learn about the fragrance, the silica, the parabens, etc… I was putting all these chemicals on my newborn baby, only a few weeks old!  (Check out the ingredients for this product here: I did some researching online and found that olive oil could work as a treatment.

Each night, right before bath time, I rubbed some olive oil on my little one’s head, and no, I did not put him in a pot with carrots and celery… I let it sit on his head about five minutes, long enough to make lots of silly jokes with my family.  Then up we went to the bath, using a baby comb, I combed the cradle cap right off his head, gave a rinse and within a week or two it was almost completely gone!  And his head was not itchy or dry.  It was shocking to me that something as simple as olive oil would finally treat the cradle crap!

My lesson in all this, don’t assume because it’s sold in the baby section that it’s okay to put on your newborn’s skin.  Do some research, check out or  Look closely at the ingredients, don’t trust the “All Natural” labeling, be your own advocate for you and your family’s well-being.  And don’t look past using what you have in your own kitchen pantry!

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