There are many reasons to reach for more organic foods. You may want to eat healthier, consume fewer pesticides, or maybe you just like the enhanced flavors that often come with organic foods. Prices on organic produce and products have dropped quite a bit the past few years, but they’re still more expensive than traditional foods and they probably will stay that way, but there are some strategies you can employ to make buying organic a little easier on the old wallet.
A Gradual Transition – Ease into organic slowly over time. You don’t have to make the jump into buying all organic all at once. Start small and give yourself time to get used to the prices and your new budget. Switch to one new organic food every two weeks or once a month and then build from there.
Stock Up on Staples – You can buy dry organics in bulk at a big discount. Seeds, oats, quinoa, nuts, flour, cocoa, and other staples are available at low prices to stock your pantry. The dry foods may take a bit longer to prepare, but the savings are well worth the prep time.
Garden – Growing your own food, no matter how small your garden may be, is a pleasure and a good way to get inexpensive foods where you know exactly what has been done to them. Even one potted plant on a patio or an herb garden the size of a dinner plate in your kitchen can make a big difference.
Farmers’ Markets – Buying local saves tons of money in shipping costs and results in less fossil fuel waste. Farmers’ markets are a great place to find deals on organic produce. Not everything will be organic certified, but you can ask the farmer in person what pesticides they use. Many will use a minimal amount or nothing and just haven’t gone through the hassle and expense of the certification process.
Co-ops and Community Agricultural Programs – There are many programs out there designed to pool resources and save money. Co-ops use a group of people to get wholesale rates on produce or other foods and then they split the bounty. Many of these offer organic options at a slightly elevated price, but still well below what you would pay in a grocery store. Community agricultural programs let local people pay some of the costs of farmers in exchange for baskets of produce. Check online or ask around farmers’ markets to find if anything like these are going on in your area.
Cut Out Junk – Vending machines, sodas, fast food, and unhealthy snacks, these all add up to more costs than you may realize. Watch your junk spending habits. By cutting out all or some of these, you will have more room in your budget for organic food.
Don’t Replace Junk with Junk – Organic foods have their junk food versions too. These aren’t really healthy and they are more expensive than their slightly less healthy counterparts. There’s nothing wrong with giving yourself the occasional healthy treat, but avoid the junk, even if it wears organic clothing.
Limit Meat and Dairy – Meat and dairy are expensive and most Americans consume more than we need. Minimizing how much you buy by even a small amount will free up some space in your budget for higher quality foods. Try going meatless one day a week and then maybe two or three. It will be healthier for you in more than one way.
Think Lentils – When replacing meat in your meals, lentils and beans are far less expensive, healthy, and delicious. Try tacos, soups, burritos, stews, curries, and much more.
Comparison Shop – Even in smaller towns, more and more places are offering organic options. Shop around for the best prices.
Create a Menu – You can set up a menu each week and build it around the less expensive organic foods. This way you know exactly what to buy beforehand and you know it won’t hit your wallet too hard.
Prioritize Produce – Some traditionally grown produce ends up with more pesticides than others. Choose organic options for the ones you know tend to have more and buy traditional for the ones that have less. Here’s a list of some of the ones that have way too much pesticide residue and should be replaced with organic: apples, celery, bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, and potatoes. And here is a list of some of the ones that have very little pesticide residue: onions, pineapple, avocado, cabbage, sweet peas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, kiwi, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, and mushrooms. Just make sure you wash them and peel away the outer layers, leaves, or skins before eating them.
Buy in Season – Buy your organic produce in season and it will be far less expensive and healthier. Even organic produce must travel thousands of miles when it’s out of season. That adds cost and waste. Choose what is in season over what you really want. You will survive.
Preserve – Canning and freezing is a good way to make the deals you find last longer. Preserve the organic food you find in season and you can enjoy it later out of season when it would normally be more expensive.
Coupons – Organic foods have coupons too. They may be harder to find and not come around as often, but keep an eye out for them and use them when you get the chance.
Go Generic – Yes, organic foods can be found in generics too. Many stores are offering their own organic certified lines at a discount.
Big Box It Up – Big box stores are also beginning to carry more organic produce and foods. You get a discount buying it in bulk. Just make sure you can use it or preserve it before it goes bad.
Browse the Freezer – Frozen foods are often less expensive than fresh and they keep longer so you don’t lose money when something expensive goes bad.
Shop Online – The internet is a magical place where you can find products at a fraction of the price found in stores. Organic foods are no exception. You can find many of these online, just waiting for you to discover the savings.