There’s a certain satisfaction that comes from figuring out clever ways to save money. And with organic food, it’s extra-specially fulfilling because being able to get premium products on a budget is the best. (Hey, it’s what we live for.) While organic foods are typically more expensive than their conventional counterparts, there are easy ways to make it more affordable. So, don’t be discouraged if you don’t have deep pockets. Here are 8 easy ways to eat organic on a budget.
#1 Dig up the deals.
Okay – this might be obvious, but it’s worth mentioning regardless. Check your favorite companies’ and grocery stores’ websites for coupons or special promotions. Make it even easier by signing up for their newsletters. There’s also a growing list of places you can buy natural and organic foods online. Watch for their promos (especially on shelf-stable or freezable items) and then buy a bunch. Groceries delivered to your door? Yes, please.
#2 DIY instead of buy.
Convenience foods like canned soup and mac-n-cheese are definitely a time-saver, but if you buy the ingredients and make it yourself, you’ll save yourself some money. Plus, you get complete control over what goes into them, so you can avoid preservatives and artificial colors and flavors, swap in sugar substitutes, and more. And honestly, it usually tastes better, too!
#3 Consult the EWG’s “dirty dozen” list.
The dirty dozen are non-organic fruits and veggies that are the most contaminated by pesticides (you can download the EWG’s app for iPhone or Android and take it with you to the grocery store). If you can’t buy them organic, opt for other fruits and veggies. (Though, if your kid’s craving something on the list – no need to avoid them altogether. Fruits and veggies are always good for you!) EWG also creates a “clean 15” list which are non-organic items typically found to have little-to-no pesticide contamination — feel free to buy whatever is on that list to make your meal. No matter what you bring home, always give produce a good washing.
#4 Go for bulk.
Before you buy any pantry items, swing by the bulk bins to see what’s available. You might be surprised at how much money you can save simply by bagging it yourself. Plus, it’s better for the environment!
#5 Veggie-fy your meals.
Meat and dairy are typically the most expensive items on your grocery list. Opting for organic makes it that much more costly. Try any of the bazillion recipes online for vegetarian (or even vegan) meals. Start with one day a week (maybe jump on the Meatless Monday train?) to free up more money for organic produce, grains, etc.
#6 Look for store brands.
Fast fact: USDA Organic = USDA Organic. The standards for claiming organic are the same no matter what the brand or food or store. They all have to play by the same rules. So look for the store brands or more “generic” brands which usually cost less than the big name brand options.
#7 Make a meal plan.
Yes, it takes time – but in this case, time is money saved. Without a well thought out grocery list, you’ll end up trying to think of meals on the spot (that you will inevitably forget at least one ingredient for) and simply tossing random food into your grocery cart. It’s not only a recipe for frustrating, chaotic mealtimes, it’s also a recipe for food waste – which is money down the drain.
Did you know that 40% of the food in the U.S. goes uneaten each year? This tragic waste happens at all parts of the supply chain, but the greatest percentage is caused by consumers. When something gets moldy or you don’t eat your leftovers, that’s food (and money) down the drain – not to mention a waste of all the resources (water, energy, etc.) that went into creating your cuisine. Reduce your waste by buying only what you need, using (or freezing) foods before they go bad, and eating up those leftovers.
#8 Hit the farmers’ market.
Not only are farmers’ markets a fun outing for the family, they’re also a treasure trove of affordable organics (and other unexpected surprises). Find a farmers market near you through LocalHarvest.org or the USDA.
Use these insider tips to get the very best deals:
- Get friendly with the farmers. Unlike your typical grocery store or co-op, farmers’ markets are open to a little price haggling. Getting to know one another puts you in a better negotiating position.
- Ask about farming practices. Some farmers don’t get formally USDA certified organic (which can cost a pretty penny) to keep prices lower. On top of that, people have to farm according to certain standards for 3 years before even seeking certification. Help those farmers out! If you ask, you might learn that they don’t use conventional pesticides or GMOs or all the things you’re trying to avoid with organics. Since they can’t formally claim they’re organic, you can get their produce priced competitively to conventional options.
- Arrive and stay late. Farmers often offer deep discounts at the end of the day, so the food doesn’t get too old-looking to sell and they don’t have to haul their food back to the farm. You won’t get the best pickings as far as selection, but you can get fresh, tasty, organic food at prices you’d never see at a grocery store.
Have more ideas for eating organic on a budget? Share them in the comments!