Going organic has many benefits – from taste to more nutrient content to long-term health benefits (and savings). However, buying organic can leave quite a dent in your pocketbook. But it doesn’t have to be the case. With some research, a little footwork, a few changes in your shopping and eating habits, and some suggestions, your family could be buying organic foods for less than you think. A lot less. Here are few tips when budgeting organic food buying:
- Start by baby stepping into your organic venture. Buy only those items on the “Dirty Dozen” list (those with the most pesticide residue), for instance. Or buy organic when it comes to those staple items (those that you eat most often). In our home, it’s berries. My son loves berries, namely blueberries. And we eat a lot of dairy and spinach. So, we started with blueberries, spinach, and milk, and then branched out from there.
- Buy from a local farm or farmer’s markets. They are local, fresher, cheaper and taste better. Sometimes farmers grow organically but do not have the money to certify it as organic. So, even if they don’t grow certified organic produce, ask if they avoid chemicals. Also, ask to purchase misshapen produce (tastes the same and often with cheaper price tags).
- Find a CSA (Community-Supported Agricultural) program and buy a share.
- Grow your own. You can start small – some herbs or tomatoes, perhaps?
- Buy in bulk when it’s cheaper (make to calculate, as it’s not always cheaper). Join Costco or Sam’s Club (they have a lot of organic options), or ask your grocer if you can order in bulk. If you don’t have room to keep items in bulk, see if a friend or two will share with you.
- Find a co-op. I use a great one – Azure Standard.
- Buy in-season fruits and vegetables. These tend to be cheaper. Plus, you can always freeze and store some produce for the winter or off-season months. During the off-season, buy preserved organic foods in jars and cans if you can’t freeze. They are much cheaper than the hiked-up prices in the produce section.
- Look for sales and use coupons when available. I often use online coupons from Organic Valley and YoBaby.
- Limit buying processed and packaged foods, and certainly of the organic variety. Things like organic cereals, chips, and pastas often lose nutritional value when processed anyway, so opt for non-organic. Cook from scratch instead… it’s better for you and your wallet.
- Pay attention to what you can cut down or even cut off completely from your grocery list. (Sodas could be a start.) And why stop there? (Do you really need that new iPhone?)
- Watch portion sizes. We often overestimate portions and end up consuming a lot more food. This tip is doubly good for your waistline.
- Eat more whole grains, beans, and vegetables (which cost less) and less meat (which costs more).
- Eat out less. Buy less coffee at a coffee shop. It’s amazing how much you can save when you do these two things!
- Buy generic or store brands, if possible.
- Always have a grocery list, and stick to it.
- Consider meal planning.
- Branch out and research all your organic food options (grocery stores available to you, online shops, local farms, co-ops, etc.) to find out what items will be cheaper at which locations. [Use the Eat Well Guide to find fresh, locally grown and sustainable foods in your area. It’s an online directory that lists family farms, restaurants, grocery stores, CSA programs, farmer’s markets, and more throughout the US and Canada.]
Last, consider where your values and priorities lie. Would you rather nourish your family with tasty, nutritionally dense, high-quality, toxin-free foods that will benefit their health now and in the future? Personally, it’s worth the price.