I feel like so many good tips have been written on this topic, but here are some things that work to eat organic and keep costs down.
First, eating organic is not as expensive as eating non-organic foods. What!!?? Okay, when comparing apples to apples, yes, it costs more to eat organic than buying conventional, non-organic foods. But, here’s the catch: you aren’t comparing apples to apples. The apples may look the same sitting next to each other, but that conventional apple sitting there oh, so innocently, was sprayed with over 40 pesticides, grown from someone who had to wear a mask and traveled far distances to even get to you. The cost of disease and increased health risks for farmers, animals and consumers and the expense to our environment, which directly impacts all of us, far outweighs the small increase in our grocery bill.
At the end of the day people don’t choose organic to be trendy, although it may seem that way sometimes, people choose organic based on a value system and health investment you cannot put a price tag on. These values are based on the health of our families, our farmers, their families, farm animals, the environment and the consumer. There is an entire post to be written on this topic alone, but I will save that for another time ;).
You can read a little more on this here: 12 Reasons to Buy Only Organic
Onto eating organic on a budget!
I know, right? This is kind of a given, but it is key. Set yourself up on a monthly budget and then break it up for the week. Example, if your budget is $400/month, give yourself $100 to spend at the grocery store every week and only spend $100. Every time something goes into the cart, round up and mentally add it. If it’s $1.29 round up to $1.50 or even $2 if you want, that way you can add quickly without having to bust out your calculator. Plus, if you’re grocery shopping with kids, you can manage them while sticking to your plan. Rounding up gives you a little surplus at the end of your shopping trip for that cup of coffee or tea tea you might just need because you’ve been grocery shopping with your kiddos! 😉
Actually plan your meals. Truth: I kind of
suck stink at this sometimes, in that I bite off way more than I can chew (pun?) because I want to try so many new recipes and never get around to all of them in a given week. So, my new goal is to meal plan three recipes per week with at least one recipe saved for trying something new. And then whatever leftover groceries I have left, I will get creative around the rest of the meals for the week. Do whatever kind of meal planning works for you! Planning meals is as simple as picking out recipes, making a grocery list around those recipes + whatever other basic items you are out of and sticking to it! I just signed up for Plan to Eat, an online meal planner, during their Thanksgiving sale and it looks awesome. You can add any recipes from around the web and it spits out a grocery list for you as well as it allows you to share recipes with friends. I included budget saving meal plans on my sidebar as well. The deal is if you meal plan, you won’t be all over the place and can stick to what you have purchased. I’m working on this one myself.
Grow as Much Food As You Can
We aren’t near where we want to be with this one either, but even an herb garden in the summer and herbs in pots for the winter will save you money in the long run. Organic, fresh herbs are fantastic for cooking, but can get spendy if you are constantly buying them at the store. Start planning now for the next growing season and make a list of what produce you would like to grow and what it takes to grow it. Start small if you feel overwhelmed, a tomato plant, a couple of heads of lettuce, herbs and a veg or two is a great way to go. You can create a garden goal such as ‘I want to grow enough this season to be able to make a salad from my own garden.’ My Pinterest board ‘Garden State’ is where I pin all of my ideas. Feel free to check it out and re-pin to your heart’s content if you find ideas that inspire.
This is a simple one, yet it is easy to overlook when a grocery store seems more convenient. The great thing: Farmer’s markets are often cheaper than store-bought, organic produce! And, they are fun; we make it a family event on as many Saturday mornings as we can to get to our local farmer’s market. We get our coffee and breakfast there, enjoy the live music and atmosphere (my son loves the really tall juggler), and buy our produce for the week from our favorite vendors. You’d be surprised at the prices. Make it a point to stop by your local farmer’s market while in season, you won’t regret it.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is another great way to go. You buy into a local farm and get a portion of the their output based on how much you buy. You get a CSA box of produce and other food items delivered to your door or at a drop-off location nearby, or you can pick-up at the farm if it’s close enough. It’s a good way to support your area farmer, plus reap the benefits of fantastic produce right by you.
Check out Local Harvest to find a Farmer’s Market/CSA in your area.
It pays to buy in season. First of all, out of season fruits & veggies are kinda nasty. They have traveled far and just do not taste the same. Second, you will pay an upwards of two to three times as much for produce you can buy in-season. Sometimes, you just need a mango for something, even if it isn’t as sweet, but make a habit of it and you break the bank! Freeze your berries in the summer when they’re in season so you have them for the Winter or just buy frozen berries during the Winter to save on cost and preserve taste. The resources below can guide you to what’s in season in your area.
Epicurious Seasonal Ingredient Map
Shop Sales & Stock Up
This is also a basic tip, but one worth remembering. I always check the New Seasons ad before shopping and pick out what I can get on sale and stock up on the things I know I’ll use. Always.
Also, check out Organicfoodcoupons.com for organic coupons to use at your local retailer.
Buy in Bulk/Make in Bulk
Shop the bulk aisles and stock up when your favorite bulk items go on sale. Bulk items include:
- Dried Beans
- Flax seed
- Dried fruit
- Fair Trade chocolate
- So many more great, organic items in the bulk bins
Stock up on bulk items and store your bulk items in mason jars & other bigger glass jars or containers and refill when necessary. Pick a day and make big batches of food to freeze. Make a big jar of trail mix for a quick snack, make muffins and bread and freeze extra, make pasta sauces to freeze, peel and cut squash and freeze the raw pieces and/or steam squash, make puree and freeze the puree. If you are a meat eater, throw seasoned turkey meatballs in a slow cooker and freeze the meatballs, roast a whole chicken and use the leftovers for other recipes and make bone broth/chicken stock with the carcass, take your dried beans and make slow cooker beans to freeze so you have them for soup and Mexican dishes, etc. Taking a day here and there througout the month will keep your freezer stocked full of inexpensive, organic options and give you more time down the road when life gets busy!
Find Local Treasures
Do you have any local treasures in your area that you can take advantage of? Do a little research and ask friends where the best bulk prices are for organic products. In Oregon, we have a Bob’s Red Mill Warehouse as well as Dave’s Killer Bread and many other local favorites that support organic eating on a budget. Dave’s Killer Bread offers day old bread at a discount and the prices at Bob’s to buy in bulk can’t be beat. Check your local area for great finds!
Make The Basics from Scratch
Make these basic items from scratch and you will save big time on your grocery budget. For pancakes, waffles, muffins and baked goods, you can store the dry ingredients in glass jars with directions on how to add the wet ingredients, then you always have them on hand and ready to go.
- Cereal, grain free
- Gluten-free Bread
- Gluten-free Muffins
- Gluten-free Pancakes
- Gluten-free Waffles
- Salad Dressing
- Pasta Sauce
Here is a link to more ideas: 45 Healthy Foods to Make and Never Buy Again
*Update: COSTCO & AMAZON
Definitely shop at Costco if you have one. The running line in our household is ‘Costco allows us to support our local farmer.’ Without it, we wouldn’t be able to do so. Costco has a long list of organic produce, frozen fruits and veggies and even organic meat and wild fish. Organic coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, salsa…look through the aisles closely and you will find a bigger selection than you might think!
I heart Amazon. Saves me time & money and I like getting Amazon boxes on my doorstep, not gonna’ lie. I put together a shop to show people just how much you can buy on Amazon, it’s pretty crazy. Click here to get an idea. If you can buy everything locally made by local, small businesses, do it! I’m not sure this is completely possible on a sustainability factor, although it used to be and I wish it still was the case. Now, a lot of whole foods items aren’t sold locally and even if they are they are not made by small businesses. What’s the difference between shopping on Amazon and Whole Foods that is down the road? I’m not sure there is a difference at this point. Whole Foods is a huge corporate business. Maybe you will disagree with me on this one and that’s okay, just know not everyone can buy everything locally, they may not have access, and may not be able to afford it. And, just like Costco, for us shopping Amazon helps our family save $$ and allows us to support our local farmers and farmer’s market with the limited budget we do have.
3 ways to save on Amazon:
1. Get Prime. 2-Day free shipping is awesome and you can split Prime with other households making it a no-brainer.
2. Shop Amazon
3. Sign up for Subscribe & Save and get up to an additional 15% off already great Amazon prices. This is a fabulous option for items you get on a regular basis. You can have them shipped in increments of 1 to every 6 months. Love this. We get our dishwashing detergent this way. No, I haven’t started making my own yet. 😉
Eating organic on a budget is possible. I hope this list is helpful in saving you on your grocery bill!
Be a part of the Freshly Grown community. Like FG here on Facebook.
If you want more ideas on how to eat organic on a budget, check out:
Deliciously Organic’s 15 Tips for Buying Organic, Real Food on a Budget
Happy Eating’s 5 Steps to Eliminating Processed Food for Good.
*I understand that we have a problem of access to quality food in this country. I have seen this over and over again in poor areas, where the access to fresh produce and organic food is restricted to those who can afford it. It’s not right and it’s injustice at is finest. Change needs to be made so that all can have access to fresh, quality food.
This post has been linked to Small Footprint Fridays
I deeply appreciate this post and your efforts advocating for healthier food for everyone, but I am compelled to share this recent article about Amazon…. just as something to consider.
Melissa, thanks for this! I will definitely read up on it. I know Amazon has only gotten bigger over the years and bigger is usually never better. What is so hard for bloggers is we make next to nothing and Amazon is a great way (and for some the only way) to actually get paid for all of the countless hours we research, write, develop recipes, photograph, edit, market all of our content, etc. and it is not anything extra to our readers. But, it doesn’t mean we should continue with Amazon if it is against what we believe. I will have to check into more for myself. Thanks again for bringing this to my attention.
Great tips! Buying organic foods doesn’t have to be hard on anyone’s pocket. I hope other readers will find these tips useful, too!