Food is expensive. Organic foods are really expensive. For some of us, it’s non-negotiable and the cost doesn’t matter. For others (probably most), it’s hard to justify organic when the price is drastically different. Eating well on a budget is totally do-able. Here are three simple ways to save on organic food.
Save on organic foods tip # 1: Shop Bulk
The bulk aisle is a great way to save, especially when it comes to packaging. Not all bulk is cheaper, so pay attention, but for many items, it’s definitely the way to go. Especially check out beans, nuts, legumes and spices. Some stores also have oils, vinegars, honey, nut butters, dried fruit, granola, cereal, candy and other options.
The best thing about bulk is only buying what you need. I like to refill spice jars/containers. I once filled one of those small plastic containers with organic dried basil for less than a dollar. That’s huge savings over buying a new container full. We attempt to refill anything we can – olive oil, almond butter, rice, honey, soy sauce, etc. It’s usually cheaper and cuts down on packaging waste.
Make sure you bring your own containers and weigh them prior to filling. That is called the tare and most places will deduct that weight to make sure you’re only paying for the items you’re purchasing.
Save on organic foods tip #2: Prioritize organic fruits and veggies
While going strictly organic is noble, sometimes it’s just not possible or economical. If you’re doing a combo shopping, with some organic and some conventional, make sure you know the dirty dozen. Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out the dirty dozen. These are the 12 items to only buy organic. Some fruits and veggies are treated with different chemicals and the chemicals react differently in them, making some more potentially dangerous than others. Check out the dirty dozen and clean 15 here.
Also look for stuff in between. I’ve seen pesticide-free or natural on labels before. This usually tells you that the farm isn’t certified organic (which is a lengthy and costly legal designation), but practices more sustainable methods. Especially if shopping at farmers markets, talk to the farmer or stand worker to understand their practices. Sometimes conventional doesn’t mean laden with chemicals.
Save on organic foods tip #3: Compare prices
You may not want to drive all over town buying partial groceries at various stores, but sometimes it’s worthwhile to seperate. For example, Costco carries select organic items, such as grass fed beef, natural chicken breasts, lemonade, etc. You will need to weigh the cost of membership against potential savings, but especially for families, this could be a viable option.
For those in smaller towns, check out all the competition. Compare prices and selection at your grocery stores and although part of me feels slimy for even saying it, I hear Walmart has a decent selection as well.
If you have a co-op in your area, ask about what membership means. All co-ops work differently and have different member benefits. We used to belong to a co-op in Minnesota where once a month you could get 10% off all purchases. I would do a bigger shop on those days. The co-op in my town in Colorado has a low yearly membership fee, but if you work a four hour per week volunteer shift, you get 20% off. Considering we do 95% of our shopping there, this discount equals $30 or so a week in savings.
Perhaps the most cost-effective route for you is different. Don’t forget about CSA shares, buying meat directly from farmers and farmer’s markets or growing your own food.
Does this all take a little more time and potentially a little more money? Yes. But is it worth it? That is up to you to decide. Each person’s shopping list and preferences vary, so take these suggestions into account and make the decision that’s best for your family.Did you find these tips helpful? Share your experience with saving on organic food in the comments.