September 1, 2014

8 Ways to Eat Organic on a Budget

We’ve all heard the jokes about “Whole Paycheck” when referring to Whole Foods and yet, with the growing awareness of GMOs, pesticides and negative effects of processed foods, there is an increased desire to eat healthy, organic foods. How can we eat the foods we believe are safer for us but not double our grocery bills?

It’s a common misconception that eating healthy, organic foods is expensive. Granted, some products will cost more, however, with a few changes in your buying habits you can fill your kitchen with food you can feel good about.

Here are eight ways to eat organic food without breaking the bank…

Look for sales and buy in bulk

Before hitting the store, check out the weekly sales and plan to purchase larger quantities of those items. All large supermarket chains make it very easy to compare prices online and to print out weekly circulars. Meat and seafood can be safely stored in the freezer for a few months, so stock up on your proteins when prices go down.

TIP: When returning home from the grocery store, create a quick marinade for your steaks or seafood in a freezer bag. Place the protein inside, seal up, and freeze. For a quick dinner during the week, grab one of the freezer bags the night before and place it in the refrigerator to thaw. Dinner will be on the table in a flash.

Here’s a great example of a deal I found this week. Whole Foods has a special on skirt steak. The cattle were given a vegetarian diet and not given any added hormones or antibiotics. The cost: $7.99 per pound. Shoprite is selling skirt steak for $8.99 per pound.

Use coupons

It used to be the case that coupons for organic products were nowhere to be found. However, with the growing desire to eat organic it is now possible to find coupons for a number of great products.

Here are a few sites where you can find some good deals:

Whole Foods

Mambo Sprouts

Organic Deals

Horizon Dairy

Cascadian Farms

As you can see, two of the links above are for brand sites. If you have specific products you like to buy, check out that company’s website. You may be surprised to find that they regularly offer discounts and coupons if you sign up for their newsletters.

Bypass the snack aisle

Buying convenience foods and snack foods in ANY grocery store is not cost-effective. Instead of loading up on chips, cookies, breakfast bars, and ready-made foods stick with whole foods instead. Take a Sunday afternoon to bake a batch of cookies with the kids instead of buying the packaged kind. Make your own soup (which will last for a whole week) rather than purchasing a quart in the prepared foods aisle. Marinate your own meats and make your own crabcakes rather than buying the items already prepped for you. You get the idea.

Need some inspiration? Check out these recipes:

SNACK IDEA: Peanut Butter Power Bites

COOKIE IDEA: Coconut Cranberry Macaroons with a Chocolate Drizzle

SOUP IDEA: White Bean, Sausage and Spinach Soup

Eat more produce

Buying high quality meats and seafood will often cost significantly more, so to trim the food budget why not try switching two meals (or more) per week from meat dishes to vegetarian ones. It will cost less and be healthier for you too! When I shop for clients with the intention of making 5 meat entrees, I might typically spend $130 for 20 meals. However, if I change the menu to all vegetarian meals, the price drops to around $95. A huge savings!

Be selective when purchasing organic produce

While it would be nice to purchase all organic produce, it often is not in the budget to do so. If so, be selective about which produce to buy organic and which produce to purchase from conventional farms. Those fruits and vegetables that are heavily sprayed and have thin skin should be at the top of the list when purchasing organic. Check out a previous post from the Do One Thing series for more information on the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.

Buy local, seasonal foods

We have become so used to getting any kind of produce at any time of year. However, while it is certainly wonderful to be able to eat strawberries and blueberries whenever the mood strikes, it is not very environmental friendly nor is it always very cost-effective. When possible, plan your meals around the produce that is currently in season. If you have a local farmer’s market available, buy your fruits and veggies there. Not only are you supporting local farmers but you are probably also getting a better price.

Buy generic brands

If possible, go generic. Whole Foods has some wonderful products under their generic brand called 365 Value that are very affordably priced. Other supermarkets like Shoprite, Target, and Walmart do as well.

Stick to a shopping list

Temptations abound at the supermarket! Everything is strategically placed to make us want to buy. So come prepared and with a full stomach! Before heading out to the grocery store, create a shopping list based on your weekly meal plan, the coupons you found, and the items that are on sale. Do not add anything to the cart that is not on your list as wonderful as it might look. Adding some cookies from the bakery, some nutrition bars, and some vegetables that looked so fresh and good will add significant dollars to your bill and will most likely lead you to either overeat or waste the food you purchased. Stay strong.

So what are your thoughts? Do you have any tips for making organic food more affordable? Please share in the comments below!

 

Comments

  1. This will definitely be a behavior change for my family. We are used to eating certain brands, and I admit to using quick and easy meals more often than I’d like. There’s a Whole Foods near me. I’ll start there.
    mrsrkfj (@mrsrkfj) recently posted..Bloggy Dare, Day 18 What’s Your Function?My Profile

    • That’s wonderful! I am a firm believer that to make any change in our lives, we need to start small. If you are currently not buying any organic products but would like to start, choose the one thing you think your family consumes a lot of. For us it was milk so that was the most important one for us to purchase first. Or you could also look over the list of Dirty Dozen and start with the most heavily sprayed item (apples) and work your way down the list – adding one new item each month. I wish you much success! Just keep focused when in Whole Foods. They are lots of yummy temptations! :)

  2. My tip is to make your produce stretch as far as possible. I always collect carrot, mushroom, onion, and celery trimmings in a gallon freezer bag and use them for making stock.
    Barb @ A Life in Balance recently posted..kids’ art dayMy Profile

    • Great tip Barb! Making your own vegetable stock is so easy but people often don’t think to save their produce scraps for soup. It’s a great way to stretch your budget and create a really flavorful broth too!

  3. – When you do eat meat, buy whole chickens. They’re cheaper per pound (at my Costco, it’s $2.29/pound for a whole chicken but almost $5/pound for the different parts already cut up) and you can use the bone to make stock after you cook the chicken. Just cook the chicken however you want (cut it into parts and cook as usual or bake it whole and pull the meat off for other meals) then put the bones into a crock pot with a few carrots, celery stalks, and an onion or two plus some salt. Some people add ginger and shiitake mushrooms. It’s pretty fail-proof so add whatever you like. Cover with water and let the crock pot do its thang overnight. The next day, remove all the bones and ladel the broth into a pitcher with a mesh strainer over the top to get any debris out. Stick the pitcher in the fridge until the fat has all gathered and solidified on top. Remove fat and you now have delicious, healthy, mineral-rich bone broth. It’s usually about $4 per quart for organic broth at the store and you got a much healthier & tastier version for free! :) The broth can be made with bones from other animals, too.

  4. I stockpile blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries in freezer bags in my freezer. When the berries are in season my family and I visit area farms that have pick your own fruit. We pick TONS of berries! I wash and freeze half the berries on a cookie tray, then put them in zipper bags to use all winter long. The rest we eat fresh. It’s fun and reminds me of summer every time I use the frozen fruit.
    Diane recently posted..Wordless WednesdayMy Profile

    • Wow! Another great idea Diane! Not only are you saving some money but you are creating a great memory with your family too. I have very fond memories of the times my mother, grandmother, cousin and I would go berry picking in the summer and the wonderful pies, jams and buckles that would result from our hard work. Frozen berries are great for throwing in the blender to make green smoothies too!

  5. Good tips here.
    One thing I did recently was contact a person I know with excess veges and bought a box of homegrown no chemicals added veges. It worked out to a lower cost than mainstream vege and she threw in 2 doz quail eggs. It was like having freshly picked backyard produce ;)

    Alternatively grow your own!! Which I want to do.

    Thanks for a great article.

  6. I enjoyed your article! A lot of people forget to go to the manufacture’s websites for coupons. Stoneyfield has a program where if you buy their yogurt, you enter the code on top of the tops on their site. you gain points and can redeem them for free organic products like creamer, milk and yogurt! Other companies will email you coupons when they have them. I get them from Alexia, Horizon, and muir glen. I also get catalinas from my grocery strore for organic products from my savings card purchases. they come out at checkout. for a while i was getting save $1.00 off 2 stoneyfield milk 1/2 gallons. I also freeze fruit when in season, and stock up on frozen organic veggies from trader joes and store brand items.

    • Brandi, thanks so much for the additional info about brand programs like Stonyfield and Muir Glen. Not only do they have coupons but they also usually run some great giveaways and provide useful recipes and food news on their websites. Definitely worth checking out!

  7. My doctor just mandated all organic produce for us. We’re on a strict budget so I’m scrambling. I’m coming in under budget so far (but this week was a bit of a cheat as we’re still eating what’s left in the freezer). I blogged about this topic a few days ago so there are a few tips on my website.

    One I forgot to mention is that we’re seeing that organic almond butter and organic peanut butter is less expensive (at least at our Earth Fare and Whole Foods) when purchased over at the bulk food bin instead of in the pre packaged jars. It seems fresher too.

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