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Top 10 Ways to Buy Organic Food on a Budget

buy organic food

The old adage that you can pay the farmer or pay the doctor is starting to resonate with the public. GMO-free foods are much more in demand, and are seen as more healthy. Buying organic food has become a hot topic over the last few years and shoppers are increasingly looking to incorporate more organic foods into their families’ diets.

The problem for a lot of people is justifying the cost of organic foods. Organic versions of some grocery items can cost more than double the price of a non-organic item. How can a family eat more healthfully without straining the budget?

Here are 10 ways to buy organic food on a budget!

1. Don’t Buy Processed Organic Food

One of the foundations of a healthy diet is staying away from anything that’s been processed. This is also beneficial in that processed foods are inherently unhealthy because of the many unpronounceable ingredients. Even when a packaged food claims to be organic, gluten-free, whole grain, natural, or any other adjective that sounds good, the fact is (with a few exceptions) packaged means it’s going to include ingredients that are not truly healthy. And the processing costs money, which makes it more expensive. To save money at the grocery store and to eat better, significantly limit packaged food purchases.

2. Buy Staple Organic Food in Bulk

Health food stores and even mainstream markets carry many kinds of organic staple foods. Instead of buying small packages, purchase items like nuts and seeds, flours, cocoa, oats, cornmeal, quinoa, and other pantry basics by the pound. Don’t buy more than you’ll need for 2-3 months to ensure stored food doesn’t get stale or lose nutritional value due to deterioration. In case you’re wanting to be vigilant against possible plastic contamination, store your bulk items in tightly-sealed glass jars. You’ll be safe from chemicals known to leech into foods from plastics, and your food will stay fresh longer.

3. Buy Organic Fruits & Vegetables at Farmer’s Markets

Farmer’s markets can be a great place to buy organic produce. Just be sure you speak with the proprietor and confirm which items are organic. You would be surprised that many farmer’s markets have NO organic items. Just because something is sold at a farm stand does not mean the farmer has sworn off pesticides.

4. Choose Organic Fruits & Vegetables That Are Local and in Season

If you want to save the most money on organic produce, try to stick with items that are in season. If an organic item has to be grown six states away or across an ocean, it’s going to cost more because of transportation. It also may not be as fresh as local, meaning your food will spoil more quickly because it has been sitting for longer.

5. Grow Your Own Organic Food

If you have a green thumb, a great way to save money on organic produce is to grow it yourself. Whether you’re advanced enough to establish a back yard garden or just want to keep a few pots of organic herbs on the patio, growing your own organic produce can be very rewarding. And potentially less expensive than buying at the grocery store.

6. Join an Organic Farm Co-op

Purchasing a share in a farm co-op can be an expensive initial outlay, but you’ll be receiving a variety of organic foods throughout the season. Since co-op shares are generally in the hundreds of dollars, consider purchasing a share with a friend and splitting the food. This reduces the potential for spoilage and cuts your share cost in half.

7. Learn to Can Your Own Organic Food

If you decide to join a co-op or grow your own organics — or if you find a fantastic price on your favorite organic tomatoes — having the ability to preserve your fresh vegetables can save money down the road. It’s easy to do and you can be eating organic throughout the year at a very low cost.

8. Buy the Cheapest Organic Food

Instead of buying every organic item on the shelf, consider focusing your family’s diet around foods that tend to be less expensive than other organics. These cheapest organics include brown rice, eggs, apples, carrots, and onions.

9. Only Buy “The Dirty Dozen” in Organic Form

Most shoppers with experience in buying organics are by now familiar with the “Dirty Dozen,” or the 12 produce items you should always buy as organics because they have the highest amount of pesticides. This list includes: apples, strawberries, hot peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, peaches, celery, grapes, spinach and kale or other leafy greens, nectarines, and bell peppers. If you can’t afford to buy everything organic, at least eliminate these items from your diet unless they’re organic.

10. Buy Grass-Fed Meats Directly From the Farm or Butcher

Instead of buying a few expensive cuts of meat (covered in plastic!) at the grocery store, locate a local butcher or farmer and purchase in bulk. By purchasing a “half cow” or large sections of an animal, you can freeze it and eat organic for months to come. The butcher will generally break down your purchase into portion sizes. To avoid hormone disruptors like bisphenol-A, freeze your meats in glass or metal containers or canning jars. Make sure any lids are BPA-free. Unfortunately, better packaging is not as cheap as chemical-laden plastics, but they help you achieve your goal of a healthier family.

As you can see, it IS possible to buy organic food on a budget; you just have to be creative and think ahead of the game. Have any other tips? Let us know!

12 Responses

  • Posted by Adrien Burke on Mar 15, 2014

    Budget? I can’t even afford the down payment on veggies at most farmer’s markets.

  • Posted by Jim Whiting on Mar 15, 2014

    All good ideas here …. and one more on me. Don’t fear the “ugly” fruits or vegetables. Lots of organic ain’t pretty but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. The regular stuff is hand-picked for “pretty” but you may be getting far more than what you bargained for … y’know?

  • Posted by sheila wyatt on Mar 15, 2014

    Healthy eating can happen on a budget, often times it is not convenient, or we just don’t want to make the effort. Organically grown fruits and vegetable can be expensive, but if one is serious about staying organic, one can grown these things themselves. Again, its a commitment and more effort, but how important is organic food to you to begin with? When one complains about the price of the produce, it is often because this is more money than they want to put towards food. In the big scheme of things, it is not all that much more.

  • Posted by Jafleur Racine on Mar 16, 2014

    I do not agree with the last point. Not to buy meat (even conventional) allows you to buy more organic with the savings made. This is even more relevant “trick”. 😉

  • Posted by Jer on Mar 16, 2014

    Wow, at this day and age, you would think we wouldn’t have to worry about all of the bolony! I mean, you have to watch EVERYTHING you do, whether you arer eating, bathing, wearing clothing….UGH! It’s enough to make you go jump off the nearest bridge! But there is probably added danger in the process of doing that as well! 🙁

  • Posted by Renee J. on Mar 16, 2014

    I take issue with quite a lot of what you say here.

    First, “organic” does not equal “100% pesticide-free”. There are pesticides that are organic in nature and are approved for certified organic foods. The rule of thumb for ALL produce, whether conventional or organic, is to WASH it when you get it home (no detergents or so-called “veggie washes”) or before use, and dry it or wipe it with towels or paper towels.

    Next, just because a few foods exist in GMO form (corn, soy, wheat, rapeseed, and a few other things), doesn’t mean that *everything* has a GMO counterpart. There are no such things as GMO berries, greens like lettuce or kale, tree fruit (except for that one experimental non-browning apple that no one wants to buy! LOL!), etc.

    Also, most plastics are now BPA-free and do a better job in preserving frozen foods. Check the product labels.

    And last, it’s a complete fallacy that it’s cheaper to grow your own. It may be fulfilling and satisfying to know you grew it yourself, but it’s definitely NOT cheaper. Unless you’re planning to start your own farm. And even then. Ask a farmer.

  • Posted by Krista on Mar 17, 2014

    Actually Renee, it is much cheaper to grow your own food. You may be paying more initially if you aren’t growing from seed, but once your garden is established it’s a lot cheaper to walk out in your yard and grab what you need, rather than going to the store.

    Plus, if you have a garden of a versatile ingredients, ie. tomatoes, and herbs, you can make multiple dishes. Thus, eliminating reliance on grocery stores for simple and cheap things like tomato sauces, soups, and salsas.

    The real key to growing your own food is knowing what you like to eat and understanding how and when to use your garden. You will waste your money if you buy a slew of veggie plants, herbs, and fruit plants that you don’t eat regularly or know how to cook.

    KGI.org has a break down of how much you could save a year if you grow your own. It helped me put my garden in perspective and taught me how to properly utilize it. You should check it out, maybe it will change your mind.

  • Posted by BillCutterz on Mar 20, 2014

    Thanks for the lively comments, everyone! There are some very good points here.

    Jim, yes… “ugly” fruits and vegetables should not be avoided. A great example is tomatoes. Organic ones don’t always look nice, but commercially-grown ones you see in the grocery store can be “gassed” to give them the deep red color.

    Jafleur, you make a solid point about not buying meat at all. It can result in a cheaper diet. Many people want animal protein in their diets and for those, talking to a butcher really can save money.

    Renee, yes… not all organic foods are angelic, and everyone should always wash any produce. The best way to know whether it’s worth it to buy organic is to follow the “dirty dozen” list. There are a lot of items that don’t have GMO counterparts, but a lot of people who want to go organic try to stay away from the ones that are primarily GMO (like corn, sugar beets, and soy) and are fairly vigilant about watching to see what other items may come out in GMO form.

    Krista, thanks for mentioning that growing your own food can save you money.

    When it comes to gardening, the cost is going to vary from person to person based on how elaborate the set-up is and what is grown, but growing specific types of produce can be money-saving. For anyone wanting to start off small, herbs are an inexpensive crop that can be cheap to grow and pricey at the grocery store.

    Thanks again for all the comments!

  • Posted by Diana on Mar 20, 2014

    Hunt?

  • Posted by Art Toegemann on Mar 22, 2014

    Whatever happened to butcher paper for wrapping meats?

  • Posted by Rodney Ehnen on Apr 9, 2014

    Growing your own food like Krista mentioned can save you money but is a costly investment. I’ve grown a 12×24 garden the last few years (for a family of myself) and minus the personal satisfaction I get from growing my own vegetables and fruits I don’t honestly feel as if the investment is returned to me in full. Now if I add in the salsa and pickles I can every year it maybe close the gap but now you’ve just added more additional cost.
    I would also add that just because it’s sold at a farmers market/farmers stand doesn’t mean it came from a local farm. You’d be surprised how many merchants sell products that imply “locally grown” but have been imported from all across the US or even aboard.

  • Posted by JRDenman on Feb 15, 2015

    Eating “real” organic food and staying away from the processed stuff (even organic) means you must be willing to cook. The only convenience food is to thoroughly wash organic fruits and vegetables to eat raw. Even a salad must be prepared. You may think you can’t live without microwaving those expensive little entrees, but you can and will be eating much healthier. The operative word here is “cook.”

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