How to Buy Organic Food and Eat Well for Less Money

by Guest Blogger on 2010-06-1815

Great tips on buying organic food at a lower cost.

The organic food market has become huge in the past five years. However, some consumers are still very skeptical about the whole “organic” craze because at times it seems like many foods are getting slapped with the organic label only to be charged at a higher price.

“Organic food” can mean a variety of different things depending on what the item is. For instance, it can mean that there are no preservatives or artificial junk in packaged food. It can also mean that dairy products are processed differently. For vegetables and fruits, it can mean that no pesticides or genetic altering is used.

After watching the documentary “Food Inc”, I decided to take a closer look at what I am eating including how’s it’s being prepared, how it’s being raised, and where it’s coming from. Meats were my biggest concern, and I now try to buy only organic beef that comes from cows that are naturally raised and grass-fed, chicken that’s raised ethically and with no hormones, and fish that are caught from the wild.

buy organic food
Image from BuyOrganic.com.au


All of that comes at a premium price and I’m willing to pay it. However, I’ve learned that there are some key ways to save money when buying organic food and I’d like to share some of those tips to help you eat organically and save money at the same time:

How to Buy Organic Food and Eat Well for Less Money

1. Look for options at your regular supermarket first.
Whole Foods and other premium supermarkets that are strictly organic are notorious for being about 20% to 30% more expensive than other supermarkets. Many of the other supermarkets stock organic alternatives that may be cheaper than the brands Whole Foods carries. Make sure to check these items out as you may be able to get great deals on organic food.

Even at Whole Foods, there have been a ton of sales lately that make their products a lot more affordable. Make sure to get the coupon booklet when you enter the store. On a side note, Whole Foods also runs some great dinner deals (e.g. in Chicago, every Wednesday they have $8.99 16 inch pizzas including 1 topping made to order).

2. Try your local farmer’s market.
I always check out my local farmer’s market for produce, especially for fruits and vegetables that are in season. This is a great option because you’ll get extremely fresh product at great prices. Not only that but you’ll be helping to stimulate your local economy by buying from local farmers and you get to interact with them too.

3. Grow your own vegetables in your backyard home garden.
You may not want a full-blown home vegetable garden in your backyard but certain spices and vegetables can be grown for relatively cheap and without much daily maintenance. The greatest benefit of growing your own produce is that after the upfront cost of buying the seeds, the rewards are endless as long as you water and take care of the plants. It’s also a fun side project or hobby especially when Springtime rolls around. Learn more about the benefits of a home garden and how you can save money.

4. Join a food co-op.
Joining a food co-op can really help you to save money on meats. Buy in bulk and if you have an extra freezer, freeze the meat and use it for the next month or two. Check out what kind of co-ops are available in your area by a doing a search online. This is a pretty neat concept and works well.

5. Choose to buy only organic foods that are most important to you.
My wife and I frequently shop at Whole Foods but only purchase meats and dairy. These foods are most important to us in terms of being ethically raised, farmed, and processed. If you do ALL of your shopping at an organic supermarket, you’ll spend about double on food unless you shop during the right sales and stay disciplined. In our case, we weren’t all that concerned about getting organic granola or organic tortilla chips. So for foods other than meat and dairy, we shop at Publix, a big discount supermarket chain in the Southeast.

6. Rethink your meals
Finally, try coming up with meals that use fresh ingredients but can be prepared in large batches. That way you can easily reheat and eat again. Also, try cutting out frozen ready made meals and TV dinners like pizzas and other frozen organic foods. These can cost nearly double the price of regular frozen foods, and you wanted to go organic for the health benefits too, right?

My wife and I weren’t perfect when we first started buying organic foods. We started spending about $100 more per month on groceries, and we wrote this off as just the cost of eating better. However, we’ve slowly refined our strategy and started buying at various different vendors which has then allowed us to bring our grocery costs back down to about the same when we were just buying from the local, big supermarket. If you follow some of the tips mentioned in this article and work your own strategy when buying organic, you’ll find that you will start eating better at less cost.

What are your thoughts on going organic? Have you found any effective strategies for spending less while still being able to buy organic?

Erik Folgate is an editor and blogger for the Money Crashers personal finance blog. Visit the site for more guidance and tips on saving money, investing, credit and debt, and more.

Copyright © 2010 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Samer Forzley June 18, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Awesome post.

We grow our own garden, and we do go to the local farmer market. Every year, I buy tomato, peppers, herbs, and make our own tomato sauce, ketchup, jam, etc… Nothing beats the taste or quality if you make it yourself from good ingredients. Unfortunately I feel that people no longer know how to make the basics and depend on store bough everything

ConsumerMiser June 18, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Erik,

Being a consumermiser, organic food is not high on my priority list. I am still trying to catch the organic wave, but I have not really bought into the benefits–especially given the premium price. I don’t taste the difference, but I see the price difference.

I realize organic food is supposed to be healthier, safer, contain less pesticides and chemicals, etc., but I am not sold yet. I guess I need to check out Food Inc. What did the show Food Inc. contain that made you reexamine your what you eat?

-ConsumerMiser

Bane Hellister June 19, 2010 at 10:36 am

Great Post,

Many local farmers in our area run their own produce stands during the growing seasons. We have gotten to the point that pretty much all of our vegetables come from these local produce stands. I have heard about the Food Inc. film but have yet to see it. I’ll add it to my weekend list.

Thanks
Bane

basicmoneytips.com June 20, 2010 at 5:59 am

My family farms (grain crops) however, we do not have an organic farm. It may be something I want to look at one day.

However, I do like the idea of organic on somethings. Such as fruits and veggies. Also, we buy organic milk for our young son. Past that, I do not worry with organic.

Organic on a Dime June 20, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Wonderful post! Watching Food Inc. also made us re-evaluate where our food was coming from. I started a blog about buying organic and local food while still on a tight budget. It is a bit harder to find organic deals, but it can be done! Instead of focusing on an “only organic” purchases, I try to have my family eat less processed foods and buy organic products/produce high in pesticide residue, but buy conventional products that are not so high.

OrganicTrade June 21, 2010 at 3:35 am

Thanks for sharing these great tips on how to buy organic and save. In addition to the strategies you propose, consider these helpful hints on how to go organic and stay within your budget:

-Use coupons.
-Check out private label (“generic’) brand products.
-Sign up for customer loyalty programs at your favorite grocery store.
-Cook at home.
-Join a buying club.

Alice June 24, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Awesome post, I have shared it with my readers as well as my personal website, TheFinancialNanny.com.

So very excited to have found your blog tonight!

CreditShout June 25, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Great tips. I’m always saying that I want to eat organic food but can’t seem to dish out the extra cash for it. Growing vegetables in your own garden is great, that way you know exactly how your food is grown. Looking for coupons is also great, there are so many websites now that offer printable discounts.

Natashia July 23, 2010 at 8:57 pm

These are great tips which I follow myself.

Another few things to remember is that one of the major reasons to go organic is to minimize exposure to pesticides. Some fruits and veggies hold these chemicals more than others – They’re usually referred to as “The Dirty Dozen”:

peaches, apples, peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, grapes, pears, spinach and potatoes.

How I remember the list is if the skin is thin and/or edible and you eat it as is, it should be organic.

The items with skins are a good bet that you can go conventional and still have a low intake of pesticides ( bananas, onions, avocados, kiwi, etc.).

You can check out http://www.COG.ca for really great organic information.

Jennifer Wilson August 26, 2010 at 5:41 am

I also thought that eating organic food will cost me so I didn’t eat so healthy until now. These tips seems that could change my point of view on this and i will try to take them into consideration! Thanks!

Art of Food September 24, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I started out with a raised bed that measured 4 X 8 feet, i now have 4 the same size at home and last year took on an allotment after 3 years on the waiting list.

Can honestly say it’s one of the best things i have ever done. Fresh seasonal food almost all year round with nothing on it other than rain water and sun.

No matter how much room you have, you can grow something – Give it a go.

Ryan @ French Macaroons October 28, 2010 at 9:43 am

For about 1 month I have been eating completely organic meals at whole foods during lunch. Your tips are great for someone like me that would like to prepare my own organic meals, but cannot justify spending the premium to be able to afford it! I would love to have my own garden, but that time doesn’t permit :(

-ryan

Carlos Gallastegui December 22, 2010 at 12:56 am

Really great tips and advice. I do agree that organic food is more useful and healthy but at the same time it is more time consuming and a bit more expensive. So it is your choice either you would like to save time and money or if your health is more important and you are ready to invest into it. Thanks for the overview!

Bruce January 28, 2011 at 10:50 am

I recently joined a company that provides a 6 month supply of grass-fed, natural raised beef, chicken, pork, and other meats along with fresh caught, flash-frozen salmon, ahi tuna, mahi, and swordfish. We serve Arizona, Colorado, and Texas only at this time and have grown to over 2 thousand customers in the past 2 years. Our food package also includes flash frozen organic veggies and fruits. Flash frozen is important as it locks in the maximum nutrient value you can get. The cost? It works out to between $3 – 4 per serving, servings range from 4 oz to 10 oz. Our meats are highest rated and definitely superior to what can be found in the local organic markets. The frosting on the cake? You dont have to shop anywhere near as much, and meal preparation time is cut significantly with individually wrapped servings that thaw in a fraction of the time. How much does it cost to go to and from the market? Gas price is on the rise, but based on the latest figures I’ve seen, it costs about $0.75 per mile for a mid-size car. So, do the math and see if $40-60 per week spent on a food service like ours is going to save you time, money, and stress along with providing you a more nutritious, healthy food supply. Pretty good deal in my book.

MPB January 1, 2012 at 10:31 am

I’ll definitely follow your great tips. I want to find cheaper organic foods in our area. Thanks for reminding me! :)

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