Organic Food without breaking the bank

By Henri Bittel Published 09/07/2020

If you are thinking of going organic (or maybe you already are) this nifty guide will show you the best places to buy it, and how to slash your carbon footprint.

Most Cohabs houses in Brussels are within walking distance of some great organic shops, and most supermarkets also now stock organic options.

So, is it worth spending your hard-earned cash on organic food? Keep reading and see for yourself.

Here are our 9 favorite places to buy organic food in Brussels

But first, what’s organic food?

You probably already know, but organic food is what we had before the invention of synthetic fertilizers in the early 20th century. Most food nowadays is produced with pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, GMOs, etc. so in the 1980s, some farmers starting using practices that respected the environment more.

The four principles of organic farming were born:

  • Health (for people and planet)
  • Ecology (working with nature and not against it)
  • Fairness (making sure everyone gets a piece of the pie)
  • Care (long term planning to ensure sustainability)
  • The European logo: Organic Food in the EU is certified with it.
    It’s not a perfect embodiment of the four principles, but it helps consumers avoid scams and it builds trust.

Products with the logo on are pretty much free of pesticides (which reduces your risk of cancer, brain damage, and other diseases).

Organic meat also guarantees some animal welfare standards and ensures they’re not pumped full of chemicals (who wants a steak full of antibiotics anyway?)

I think you can also taste the difference (and studies back me up), but you can always try it and debate it! Organic farming isn’t as land-efficient, taking 15-25% more space, but they’re getting better every year.

What about budget?

Okay, I’m not going to lie; it’s going to cost you more to eat organic, but it won’t cost as much as you might think, depending on where you go and what you buy. I’ve spent a lot of time checking prices at different places selling organic food around Brussels and have created a few guidelines for you.

The big supermarket chains sell organic food for a lot more than non-organic. If you buy all your organic food here, you’ll pay 90% more than non-organic!

Organic meat costs much more compared to non-organic.

The organic shops (I’ve listed a few later on) come in second place in terms of organic food cost.

The cheapest places are the organic markets, like the Marché des Tanneurs, where you’ll pay on average 45% more for your organic food.

What about the carbon footprint of organic food? Is eating organic better?

The short answer is no. Organic products end up with more or less the same carbon footprint as non-organic, except organic fruit, which is a bit better.

But, you can reduce your carbon food-print.

Beef is the worst offender when it comes to emissions, and a typical Belgian eats 15-20 kilos of the stuff every year (the French eat even more).

Cheese and Chocolate are the other big emitters, so maybe you want to cut down on the Camembert or pralines.

The average person creates 9.2 tons of CO2, (the equivalent of driving your car 92,000 km) of which 2.4 tons comes from food… and specifically 2 tons from meat, eggs, and dairy. But cutting out just beef would cut your food emissions in half. The EU is aiming to cut 20% off agricultural emissions by 2030, but kicking our steak addiction is surely much easier!

So what’s the take-home message?

Eat organic for the taste, and the health benefits, but if you want to cut your emissions, cut out the beef products (and you can keep eating cheese).

Henri

Fancy trying organic food? Here are some of my top places to buy organic food

These shops also aim to be zero waste, so bring your tote bag and reusable containers to fill up with everything from nuts and raisins to wine (bring your own bottle):

Bulk

The Bulk store is perfect for the Flagey houses.

Bulk is a family-run outfit, where you can find your standard crates of locally-grown fruit and veg, as well as sundries ranging from figs to cookies in little jars… and eggs a plenty! Bulk also stock gluten-free and special dietary foods, as well as vegan hygiene products.

Bulk, Rue Malibran 40, Ixelles

Bio C’ Bon and The Barn Bio Market

Bio C’Bon and The Barn Bio Market are ideal if you live in the Louise or Chatelain coliving houses.

Both Bio C’Bon and the Barn can be described as “organic supermarkets”. Both have stores across Brussels, and both take a zero-waste approach to shopping. Don’t forget your bags for nuts and cereal, nor your bottle to fill up with organic wine! You can also order online!

Bio C’Bon, chaussée de Charleroi 18, Saint-Gilles

Barn Bio Market, chaussée de Charleroi 92, Ixelles

SuperMonkey

SuperMonkey is located just next to the Cohabs Horta and Ma Campagne houses.

They’ll sell you an organic ultra-local beer, pasta from futuristic dispensers, and edible flowers (sometimes). Not sure what to cook? Their facebook page is full of recipes that use seasonal products as well as vegan and gluten-free options!

Super Monkey, rue de Tamines 18/22, Saint-Gilles

The Marché des Tanneurs

The Marché des Tanneurs is just a few minutes’ walk from the Parvis houses and Stephanie 108.

The Marché des Tanneurs feels like a proper market should. Big boxes of Fruit and Veg a-plenty! They focus on short value-chains, which means they can keep their prices low. Check out one of their videos here!

The Marché des Tanneurs, rue des Tanneurs 58, Bruxelles

The Roots Store

The Roots Store is just next to Ambiorix and Schuman

Roots is supported by the Brussels circular economy program (http://circulareconomy.brussels), so you can trust that they know their stuff. Here you can find all the usual organic food, as well as locally farmed meat, and innovative products (an indestructible sponge, anyone?) to lighten your eco-footprint.

The Roots Store, Avenue Michel-Ange 55, Bruxelles

Beescoop

Beescoop isn’t too far from Botanique, just like Les Idées a la Pelle.

Beescoop is a co-operative, but not as you know it. The shop is run as a not-for-profit enterprise, keeping costs low and allowing you to access quality, local produce. If you have some time on your hands you can even sign-up to work shifts there!

Beescoop, rue Van Hove 19, Schaerbeek

Les Idées à la Pelle

Les Idées à la Pelle, is your standard organic shop, with a twist. They work with too good to go https://toogoodtogo.be/ to put together packs of fruit and veg which need using quickly, for a reduced price. Pick up a bargain basket and stop food waste… sounds delicious!

Les Idées à la Pelle, avenue Louis Bertrand 25, Bruxelles

Färm

Färm also has shops all over town, so you’ll probably find one on your way to work!

Their motto is “change the world by eating”, so you’d imagine it’s local, organic and zero-waste… well you’d be right! Their meat and cheese counters will also leave your mouth watering. Luckily you can also buy freshly made ready-to-eat meals on the spot!

Färm, Avenue Rogier 383, Bruxelles

About the author Cohabs Member & Writer about sustainable development