5 Simple Ways to Buy Organic Food on a Budget
Organic food used to be available primarily at farmer’s markets or in tiny corners of supermarkets, but eating organic has become much more popular over the past few years. There has been much debate about whether or not organic food is really healthier for you, but we certainly know that it is usually more expensive to purchase.
Organic farming encourages conservation of soil and water, and ideally reduces pollution. Different fertilization methods are used when food items are organic, which for many consumers means less chemicals and healthier produce. Some consumers also prefer organic meat because organic farmers avoid using growth hormones. Many fans of organic food claim that it is healthier and that it tastes better. If you have been wanting to jump on the organic food train, but you have been derailed by the expensive prices, here are ways to make organic food prices manageable.
1. Make a plan before you go shopping
This tip will help you save money every time you go grocery shopping, but it is particularly important when buying organic food. You never want to waste money by purchasing food you aren’t going to eat, but since organic food is often more expensive, you should be particularly careful.
If your grocery store only sells organic food in bulk, try to plan several meals that will include the same meat or produce item — that way you won’t waste food or money. On the other hand, although buying bulk can often save you money, if you want to eat organic food more often but you can’t afford to purchase it in bulk, you can start small and only purchase a few organic items. Some people believe that organic meat in particular tastes better, but you can experiment by trying a few new items each week to determine which organic items are particularly important to you.
2. Watch where you shop
Ten years ago it was difficult to find much organic food, but it is much easier now. You don’t need to go to a specialty store to buy organic food and often, if you do, you will pay more for it. Although organic food is usually more expensive than non-organic food at supermarkets, you will often pay less for it at a chain supermarket than a small independent grocery store or a store known for carrying specialty health items. Sometimes, you really are only paying for the name of the store.
In addition, farmer’s markets can be fun, and they are a great way to show appreciation to local farmers. Sometimes you can get a great deal at a farmer’s market, but many other times you will be paying more than you would at a grocery store. You can also consider a farm share, where you will support a local farmer and be able to pick up your organic food directly from the farmer. This can be a very healthy and cost-efficient way to get organic food, but it can also be pricey, so do your research. Many people share farm shares with friends in order to obtain the high quality food at a more affordable price.
3. Shop the sales
Yes, organic food does go on sale occasionally. You can watch your local flyers in order to determine when it goes on sale, and sometimes you can even find coupons for organic food, although they are certainly not available as often as other coupons are. Many blog sites highlight organic coupons, including the site Organic Deals. Organic cereals and granola seem to go on sale more than the fruit or meat, but you can still find deals on these items.
Plan your meals around which produce is in season and you will save a lot of money on organic produce. Meat is a little bit tougher to predict, but does go on sale sometimes. Many stores, particularly big grocery store chains, will mark meat off a large percentage when it needs to be sold within a few days or is about to expire: you can purchase the meat and then freeze it until you are ready to use it.
4. Determine which items should really be organic
If you have the money to purchase everything possible of organic foods, then you should do so if that is what you prefer. However, many people need to pick and choose which items to purchase organic. Beef, for example, has been linked to cancer when given certain hormones, and many people simply prefer the taste of organic beef and meat. Certain fruits like strawberries, peaches, blueberries, apples, and cherries usually have multiple pesticides, as do celery and peppers. However, items with really thick skins, like avocados, may not be as important when purchasing organic. Consumers who are trying to save money may also let go of organic cereal or other packaged items, and look carefully at ingredient lists to avoid unwanted additives instead. Check out the Environmental Working Group‘s guide for more information.
5. Grow your own food
Obviously not everyone has the space or the time to plant a garden, but if you are truly interested in organic food and you don’t want to pay for it at the store, having your own garden is a great option. You can start small and just plant a few fruits and vegetables, or you can go all out and plant a serious garden that will take care of your family’s produce needs, leaving some more to freeze for the winter. Careful planning will help you get the most out of your garden; vegetables like tomatoes and squash will provide food throughout the growing season, whereas carrots and radishes only produce one time. Although you will probably want to avoid pesticides since you are hoping for organic food, you will also need to learn how to protect your garden.
Whether you want to eat organic because you prefer the taste or you believe that eating organic food will make you healthier, you can save yourself a lot of stress by starting small. Plant a few fruits and vegetables in your garden; prioritize certain foods you want to purchase organic or join a farm share. Any little bit helps!