10 Nifty Ways to Eat Organic on a Budget

Many people have the false belief that organic foods are a luxury that only a select few can afford. This notion is simply not true. While organic foods are more expensive than non-organic foods, they can be more affordable than you might realize. Finding ways to fit organic foods into your budget is really not much different than any other endeavor of frugality. So even if you’re on a tight budget, you can still manage to go organic if you follow just a few of these tips.

Research

There are probably many more options for buying organic food in your community than you’re aware of. Organic organizations and associations are good starting points. Simply go to your search engine of choice, and type your state and “organic” and see what you find.

Find out whether there’s a farmer’s market near where you live. Here’s a nice website that may help you to find a local farmer’s market in your area. Try these websites too: Organic Consumers Association, Organic Kitchen, and Eat Well Guide. They too are nice resources that you can use to find sources of organic food in your area.

Start Slowly

Remember, evolution is far better than revolution. Start off by just buying a small number of organic foods. The dirty dozen food list, is a great place to start. This list is often updated and consists of the top 12 foods that have the highest pesticides residues on them. Celery, for example, is always on that list. At the grocery store where I shop, organic celery only costs about 40 cents more than the non-organic celery when it’s in season.

Buy Store-Brand Organics

Many grocery store chains are beginning to stock store-brand organic products. Just as with non-organic foods, there is often little difference between organic store brands and organic premium brands other than the price. Therefore, these store-brand items are usually cheaper than their big name-brand organic counterparts. Furthermore, USDA certified store brands are of comparable quality to USDA certified premium brands because they are both required by law to go through the same process of certification.

The Local Farmer’s Market

The farmer’s market is a terrific local source of fresh, affordable produce and numerous other organic products. You’ll find a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that are usually sold at very competitive prices. In addition, produce found at the farmer’s market is often sold within 24 hours after being harvested. A tomato picked from a local farmer’s tomato plant, for example, will taste a whole lot better than one that’s traveled several thousand miles to reach your local supermarket’s produce section.

Buy in Bulk

It’s a terrific way to get more bang for your organic food buck.

Health foods stores sell many items in bulk containers, such as nuts, grains, beans, and lentils. If you store these goods in a cool, dry place, they’ll stay good for several months.

There are also lots of wholesale food stores that sell organic food. If you shop at one of these stores, buy your organic food in bulk. If you’re buying non-perishable items that have a long shelf life, this is a great option. It might even be cheaper than buying from your conventional grocery store.

If you find a good deal on organic veggies, try blanching. Vegetables, such as asparagus, green beans, spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower, are all great candidates. Buy the veggies in bulk, then blanch and freeze them. These frozen veggies will stay good for quite a long time. Blanching is another nifty way to save money on organic vegetables all year-round.

Buy Fresh Produce In-Season

The ideal time to buy organic produce, or non-organic produce for that matter, is during its natural growing season. That’s when the supplies of these produce items are at peak levels, and this drives down their prices. If you buy the same produce out of season, they can cost double or more what they would if they were in-season. On several instances, I’ve actually seen organic produce at Whole Foods that was cheaper than comparable non-organic produce being sold at the conventional grocery stores.

Buy Preserved Produce Off-Season

In colder weather, or when the produce you like is out of season, switch over to preserved foods. For example, instead of buying fresh produce, purchase the frozen, canned, or dried stuff. Besides saving you money, they often taste a lot better than the fresh stuff you buy out of season. For example, off-season store-bought tomatoes cost significantly more than they do when they’re in season, and they taste awful. You’re probably much better off buying the canned tomatoes instead when they’re not in-season.

Grow Your Own

If you haven’t done any gardening before, the key here is to start small. Some great starter veggies that are easy to grow include tomatoes, bell peppers, and radishes. The bell peppers, in particular, will save you a ton of money over what Whole Foods charges, for example. Also, the bell peppers you buy at the conventional grocery stores are loaded with pesticides. Whole Foods charges upwards of $3.00 each for one organic green bell pepper. That’s outrageous! One little bell pepper plant (they’re easy to grow, don’t get very big and they make lots and lots of peppers for several months), will save you a ton of money!

Befriend a Gardener

This can be a far better strategy than doing your own gardening. The bottom line here is that gardeners frequently have a big surplus of veggies and/or fruits that they’re often eager to give away. This is because even small plants can yield large amounts of vegetables and fruits. Therefore, if you don’t give the stuff away, much of it just goes to waste.

I used to do a lot of gardening myself, but this has been one of my best money saving tactics of them all for the past 5 or so years now. It beats the hell out of doing your own gardening for sure! My dad’s retired, so he has plenty of spare time on his hands to take up gardening. Also, my neighbor down the road, Milton, is a passionate gardener, and gardens all year around. He always has a huge garden, as gardening and drinking are his two favorite things in the world to do. He also has a very large fruit orchard.

Just by knowing a couple of great gardeners, I save all kinds of money on fruits and vegetables. I help them to cut down on waste and get plenty of freebies in the process! I get to reap the rewards of their hard work. 🙂 You can’t hardly beat that deal.

Shop Online

You can find some great deals with Amazon.com on the Amazon Natural & Organic section by using their Subscribe and Save feature. It can be canceled at any time and it’s another nice way to buy in bulk to save money.

There’s an internet health food store called The Green Polka Dot Box. They’ll give you free shipping on orders of $75 or more, and they’ve got a great selection. I haven’t tried them out yet, but have heard good things about them. They also offer a $50 coupon on your first order.

In conclusion, the key to saving money when buying organic is to be creative and really shop around, as there probably isn’t a one stop shop for all of the organic foods you want at the best possible prices. If you shop smartly, buy in season, and either grow a little of your own produce or make friends with someone who does, you can both save money on your food bill and eat healthy at the same time. Whoever says you can’t have it both ways is misguided indeed.

So, do you eat organic? What are you money saving strategies?

Guest Post Author Bio: This article was written by Donny Bruce. Donny is a software developer, a pool shark, a skilled chef, and a blogger. He is the founder of Extreme Money Saving, a blog dedicated to spending less money and frugal living. If you’d like to reach him, you can shoot him an email at extrememoneysavingblog@gmail.com.

 

 


Comments

10 Nifty Ways to Eat Organic on a Budget — 17 Comments

  1. I don’t eat a ton of organic – every now and then. I have to admit I don’t think organic strawberries taste that good – not sure why. These are very good tips – I really am hoping to start a garden this fall (at least make a garden bed!)

    • I haven’t noticed a big difference in the taste of organic strawberries. Strawberries typically do have a very high pesticide residue, however. If you look at the dirty dozen food list, it usually includes strawberries. That’s why I almost always opt to buy organic strawberries over non-organic strawberries.

  2. If you live in a city, befriending gardeners, finding a farmers market, or growing your own just may not be practical. But there are still ways to save. Frozen fruits and veggies keep almost all of their taste and nutrition without added preservatives. Our Costco store offers a few varieties of large bags of frozen organic fruits and vegetables. The cost is only a bit more per large bag than the non-organic, and that makes them just a few small cents more per meal/serving.

    • We buy those same bags. We have smoothies every morning for breakfast so it works out really well.

      I find you can still befriend gardeners in the city with all of the local farmers markets. Our city has a farmers market in every suburb making access easier.

  3. Here in the country, befriending people with gardens goes a long way. I have several friends who routinely give me extras from their gardens because they simply can’t eat it all. Frequenting road side vegetable stands is definitely cheaper than going to the market or buying from the grocery store as well.

  4. Another alternative is to look beyond the major chain grocery stores and into smaller operations and health food stores. I currently live near a health food store that also carries a nearly full line of groceries, all of which are organic and geared at the health-conscious, and almost always are cheaper than the major grocery stores in the area. The big stores know that you will go there on name/brand recognition and they can get away with charging more because of it.

  5. There’s another less expensive way to eat organic that I just recently thought of. Many warehouse clubs sell a rather wide selection of organic products, including store brands. It’s a lot cheaper than shopping at a health food store like Whole Foods.

  6. I went grocery shopping last night at just a regular grocery store, and they actually had a pretty good selection of organic produce. I bought some organic romaine lettuce as lettuce is typically very high in pesticide residue. They had organic broccoli, cilantro, strawberries, and a bunch of organic produce. I bought some organic peanut butter too. Demand is increasing for organic products, so grocery store chains are carrying increasingly more organic products.

  7. We’ve become huge fans of our local farmer’s market. Sadly, the supermarket here drove us to it. My broccoli had a sad wiggle to it one too many times…

    • Joe, you have the best sense of humor. You never fail to make me laugh. Wiggle in the broccoli– I am still laughing.

      I find our supermarket stock some organic stuff but not an organic alternative for everything which frustrates me. Our CSA definitely helps us deal with this.

  8. I love Whole’s food market. Even though it’s expensive, I respect their quality. My mantra is — eat less, eat well. So, organic food is costly, but if you reduce other junk food and eat less, organic food is the best for your vitality.

    • Well said Shilpan. I believe the same thing. To me the cost is worth it and there is definitely areas I can cut back on to make the organic stuff possible.

      We don’t have a Whole Foods where I live. I wish we did. Whenever I travel to a city that has one though I always visit it.

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