How To Buy Organic Foods Without Going Broke

Step into any supermarket these days and you’re sure to find a wide variety of organic foods on the shelves. From produce, milk and meat to breakfast cereals and snack foods, consumers have their pick of certified organic products—a far cry from the time when you could only find organic items in natural foods stores. The demand for organic foods continues to grow. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic food sales have grown about 20 percent in the past five years, with 2006 sales expected to exceed $15 billion. More than half of Americans have tried organic products, and this number is expected to increase as more people become aware of the long-term effects of pesticides and chemicals.

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DEFINITION OF ORGANIC
An organic product is raised, grown, and processed without the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, antibiotics or hormones. Only farmers who produce food according to USDA organic standards and become certified by an independent third-party accredited agent can label their product as “certified organic” (with the exception of very small farms with sales under $5000 annually). The term “conventional” describes non-organic farming practices.

People buy certified organic foods because they believe organics are healthier than conventionally farmed foods. Take a look at these top reasons why many people have started to buy organic foods:
1. Eating organically grown foods is the only way to avoid the cocktail of chemical poisons present in commercially grown food.

2. Organically grown foods have more nutrients—vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and micronutrients—than commercially grown foods because the soil is managed and nourished with sustainable practices by responsible standards.

3. Organically grown foods generally taste better because nourished, well balanced soil produces healthy, strong plants.

4. Genetically engineered (GE) food and genetically modified organisms (GMO) are contaminating our food supply at an alarming rate, with repercussions beyond understanding.

5. Agricultural chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers are contaminating our environment, poisoning our precious water supplies, and destroying the value of fertile farmland. Certified organic standards do not permit the use of toxic chemicals in farming and require responsible management of healthy soil and biodiversity.

However, living an organic lifestyle can be expensive despite the drop in prices of organic foods. I want to share the top organic money saving ideas on how to buy organic foods that many have tried and proven. And let me tell you, I learned a lot myself while putting this list together.

FIND AND USE ORGANIC COUPONS

  • Check the websites of your favorite companies for coupons and special promotions, almost all of them have some.
  • Join your favorite company’s social media pages for special coupons and deals.
  • Check out various organic coupon sites. Some of my favorite examples include Mambo Sprouts, Saving Naturally, Organic Deals, Organicfoodcoupons, Healthesavers, Organic Deals and Steals for organic food/natural living coupons, and money savings ideas.
  • Whole Foods has coupons here every week for various products throughout the store.
  • Most stores take each others coupons, so don’t be afraid to use them all in one shopping trip at your most convenient or favorite store.

AT HOME AND IN THE KITCHEN

  • Stay organized. Plan out your meals for the week according to organic foods that are on sale and/or that you have coupons for.
  • Budget. Write out a weekly and monthly budget to help you keep track of both erratic spending and responsible spending. This will allow you to see your spending habits and help you prioritize purchasing organic food within your budget.
  • Do it yourself, rather than buy it. Make your own organic granola bars, kale chips, smoothies, juices to replaced store-bought with more overhead.
  • Check out the book “Wildly Affordable Organic” for organic menu planning on $5 a day or less.

USE YOUR FREEZER

  • 9 times out of 10 the organic frozen produce at the store is cheaper than fresh, especially if the fruit or vegetable is out of season.
  • Freeze all left overs using inexpensive mason glass jars or silicone ice molds for smaller portion.
  • Buy local produce when in season and freeze to save for out of season, for example in the spring and summer spread berries on a sheet pan and freeze overnight and then store in jars for the fall and winter.
  • Double recipes and freeze leftovers, this works great with soups and stews.

BUY IN BULK

  • Take advantage of the ‘buy one get one free’ sales or buy one get the other for a discounted price. You never know when it will go on sale again, so make sure to take advantage of it and store for later use. (This trick only works if you really love the product and it is a staple at your home – otherwise this could lead to wasted food)
  • Always buy packaged staples on sale
  • Buy unpackaged foods from bulk dispensers – I personally save a ton of cash by doing this, I buy everything from oat groats, to nuts, to dried fruit and lentils.
  • Bring measuring cups with you to the grocery store if you are buying from bulk containers. That way you can get exactly the amount you need for a specific recipe and you won’t be paying for extra.
  • Buy smaller organic spice packets or jars, old spices lose their medicinal qualities so it is smarter to buy in smaller quantities. For example, Earth Fare has little pre-portioned tiny ziplocs with herbs and spices available at the fraction of costs compared to a whole jar.
  • Find out what foods are in season and buy those in bulk, as they are significantly cheaper.

CHOOSE ORGANIC BRANDS THAT SAVE YOU MONEY

  • Choose more inexpensive grocery store brand products like Trader Joe’s, Earth Fare, 365 brand, ShopRite, Wegman’s, Kroger, Publix, Harris Teeter. Regardless of the brand, they are all required to follow the same guidelines set forth by the USDA organic certification program if they contain the USDA organic seal and chances are that you won’t be able to tell the difference between a brand name and store brand.
  • Join grocery store loyalty programs for discounts. For example, if you join Earth Fare’s tomato bank program, you get a dollar back for every 100 points you earn.
  • Use your rewards cards always. Most convenient stores, grocery stores, and drug stores allow you to sign-up for a rewards or savings card that will help you save money on a few of your items at the checkout counter. Even if this time of purchase does not contain organic food, the extra money that you are saving on your items can be put towards buying it when need be.

BUY LOCAL

  • Local food can be significantly cheaper than food shipped from miles away.
  • Find a farmers market near you through LocalHarvest.org or the USDA – get to know your local farmers, create a personal relationship and negotiate prices.
  • Ask your farmer about his farming practices. Some farmers do not spray pesticides on their crops but do not seek USDA certification to keep prices lower.
  • Be the last person to leave the farmer’s market. Farmers will likely cut their prices at the end of the day, so they do not have to take their produce back to the farm.
  • Buy a share in a community-supported agriculture CSA program. It’s nice to contribute to a local farm’s operating expenses while getting a weekly box of fresh fruits and vegetables.

 GROW YOUR OWN FOOD

  • Plant an herb pot in your kitchen or somewhere convenient so you can always have fresh herbs on hand. Organic herbs are one of the most overpriced items at the grocery store.
  • Follow these tips from The Organic Consumers Association to grow organic food inside your home year round.
  • Once you start growing produce, give herbs, fruits and vegetables as gifts to family and friends (saving money on other material objects they might otherwise not use or collect).
  • Remember to buy non-GMO seeds, check out Sow True Seed for lots of options.

TRAVEL WITH ORGANIC FOOD

  • On a road trip use EatWellGuide.org to find out where to buy local, organic and sustainable foods from point to the other.
  • Remember, a pricey restaurant doesn’t equal organic or quality food – going to a grocery store and picking up some organic food will save you money and your health.
  • Bring your food with you in a cooler – even if you are flying. Did you know you can check a cooler?
  • Bring organic tea with you and ask for hot water. A cup of tea can cost up to $5 dollars, vs. $1 dollar you would tip the barista or server.
  • Bring filtered water with you wherever you go in a reusable safe water bottle so you never have to buy expensive bottled water.
  • Always carry snacks like homemade trail mix in your purse or bag for emergencies.
  • At the movies, bring your own organic popcorn and snacks if they do not offer them. There is no reason to pay a premium for conventional food.

STOP WASTING FOOD

Quick fact: Americans waste an estimated 1,400 calories of food per person EVERY SINGLE DAY.

  • Raw nuts and flours should be kept in the refrigerator to last longer without going rancid.
  • Line your refrigerator’s crisper drawer with paper towels to absorb excess moisture. They’ll absorb excess moisture which will help keep produce longer.
  • To repel bugs, place a bay leaf in containers of rice, flour and pastas.
  • Buy and keep bananas separated from one another, they spoil slower.
  • Repurpose vegetable pulp from juicing to add fiber to soups, smoothies or make crackers or bread.
  • Placed limp celery, baby carrots and radishes in water with a slice of potato to make them crunchy again.
  • Keep all organic citrus fruits in the fridge – they will last up to 1-2 weeks longer.
  • Do not wash organic dark leafy greens or berries until they are ready to consume.
  • Store herbs, spring onions, asparagus upright in a large glass filled with an inch of water
  • If you know you will not have a chance to eat it, freeze food before it goes bad.
  • Choose to eat less, use a smaller plate to help you control the amount of food you might eat or end up wasting.
  • Compost all food waste to put nutrients back in your garden (you will spend less on fertilizer).

If you know someone who’s struggling to buy organic because of cost, or that needs a little extra cash (like most of us!), please share this post with them. Have any more tips on how to save more on organic shopping? Please share them in the comments below.

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