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When it comes to our bodies and ways to eat healthy, there’s a lot of information.
The keto diet is the best for losing weight.
Caffeine is bad for you until it’s good for you.
Avoid potatoes because they have no nutritional value.
It can be hard to keep up, but one thing that most people seem to agree on is to eat organic.
While eating organic food is touted as one of the best things to do for your health, the cost is a considerable barrier for many consumers who cannot afford organic food.
Check any number of grocery stores, and you’ll notice that organic brands and products are more expensive.
From organic meats to organic fruits, consumers are looking at healthy food that can be two to three times more expensive than conventional food and groceries.
What can you do about eating organic and making organic and natural products more affordable?
There are several ways to make organic groceries and eating healthy food accessible for all.
In this post, I share with you the best ways to eat organic on a budget.
By the end, you will be able to put food on your table and still have money left over.
Table of Contents
The Best Ways To Eat Organic On A Budget
What Are Organic Products?
Most people have a general idea of what organic food is.
Images of fresh veggies, local farms, and a farmer’s market might come to mind.
According to the USDA, products are considered organic food if no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers were used or applied three years before harvesting.
Organic meat and organic milk need to have come from animals fed natural feed and are hormone-free, meaning that they were not given hormones are antibiotics.
If these requirements are met for fresh and frozen foods, then the government puts a USDA organic seal or USDA organic label on the package to denote that the product has met the requirements.
Food labels that state their product are “natural” or “pasture-raised” should be taken with a grain of salt.
There is no legal definition of “all-natural,” so it can still contain processed ingredients.
The same goes for free-range.
All this means is that the birds were allowed to be outside for at least five minutes a day, not that they could roam all over the place.
While it may seem like you’re buying organic items and they’re healthier than processed foods, these terms are misleading and do not denote a USDA-approved organic food.
17 Ways To Buy Organic And Save Money
With some planning and research, eating organic foods and stretching your organic food budget can be a cinch.
Below are the best tips for how to buy organic on a budget.
#1. Choose The Best Organic Food To Buy
When you want to eat organic on a budget, the kind of organic foods and products you choose can make a huge difference.
The nonprofit Environmental Working Group publishes an annual list of the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean Fifteen.”
Both of these lists help consumers that are buying organic produce decide whether they need to buy organic.
The “Dirty Dozen” are the fruits and vegetables that rank highest in pesticide residue.
Consumers should forego saving money and spend more on this produce.
This year’s list includes fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, apples, spinach, and celery.
The “Clean Fifteen,” on the other hand, is the fresh produce that has the least amount of pesticide residue.
The list includes items such as sweet potatoes, avocados, and pineapples.
Frozen produce like sweet peas is also on the list.
With this in mind, it’s best to eat organic produce from the “Dirty Dozen” and go with the cheaper, non-organic produce from the “Clean Fifteen.”
Choosing these foods will save money and help you make better grocery shopping choices.
#2. Decide What Organic Foods You Need
Similarly, some organic products aren’t necessary for a healthy lifestyle.
Certified organic cookies and candies, seemingly a good thing, actually isn’t that different from buying regular sweets.
Even if something is labeled organic but processed, it won’t be that much healthier.
A better option would be to stop buying these items or make them a special treat you eat once in a while.
#3. Purchase In-Season
Another tip for people on a tight budget who want to save money is to buy organic food that is in season.
Buying organic fruits such as peaches in the summer will be much more affordable because fewer resources are needed to keep the produce alive.
For example, peaches thrive in warm weather and full sunlight.
Growing peaches in the winter will require artificial heat and sun, which can be a substantial additional cost.
Eating organic on a budget will require researching what products are in season.
Conventional foods let consumers eat fruits and other beloved items year-round, but it comes at a cost.
Many experts suggest that if you love a particular type of food or organic item, you can always buy a lot of it and then save it for another season via freezing, pickling, or drying it out.
#4. Opt For Frozen
Speaking of freezing, there are a lot of great organic foods that aren’t fresh.
There is sometimes a stigma that frozen isn’t as good as fresh, especially when it comes to organic food, but that isn’t true.
More consumers can afford organic food when they opt for frozen fruits and vegetables, which studies have shown have similar nutritional values.
#5. Check Out Local Farmers
Another way to save money is to buy directly from nearby organic farms.
Many of them will have organic foods, including organic meat and organic milk, that you can guarantee will be pesticide and hormone-free.
While it may not be as cheap as a grocery store, farmer’s markets support your neighborhood farmers and will have a greater variety of organic food.
However, don’t just assume because you are buying locally, it means the food is organic.
You need to ask how farmers grow their crops and if pesticides or other chemicals are used.
#6. Join A CSA
Some cities and towns offer community-supported agriculture programs, or CSAs, letting consumers buy directly from farmers.
These tend to be quite affordable since the CSAs are often based on a pre-set payment plan for organic foods.
At the beginning of the season, you agree to a share amount you pay.
The larger the share amount, the more food you get.
Then, for a set number of weeks, you go to a pre-determined location and pick up your food.
The food you get varies each week as it is harvested.
So at the beginning of the summer, you might get tomatoes, cantaloupe, carrots, and more, and by the end of the summer are getting cucumbers, potatoes, lettuce, and more.
#7. Visit Farmers Markets
Another option is to visit your local farmer’s market.
These markets can be a set location open for a few hours on Saturday morning or a roadside stand.
Here you will have many farmers offering their food for sale, and you can find exactly what you need.
As a bonus, many markets also have people selling other organic foods, most times at a lower price than the grocery store.
#8. Consider Buying Seconds
What are seconds, you ask?
These are fruits and vegetables that are bruised or don’t look pristine.
Because these foods have blemishes, they can’t be sold in the grocery store.
If you can overlook this, you can save a ton of money.
And even if you have some issues with their looks, you can use the produce in other foods and never know they weren’t perfect looking.
For example, we buy a 10-pound box of apple seconds for $10 at the local farmer’s market.
We then make homemade applesauce and freeze most of it.
We make an apple pie or two as well.
You can do the same and even take vegetable seconds and use them in soups and stews.
#9. Find Online Farms
More and more farmers realize they can reach customers by selling their products online.
Plus, selling directly to consumers can lower their costs and make more money.
As a result, you can find many options for organic food online.
Not only can you buy produce, but also meat, and in some cases, dairy products.
Many offer subscription boxes as opposed to being able to pick individual items to buy.
But most offer a large variety of boxes, so there will be a version that makes sense for you.
#10. Pick Your Own Food
Another great way to save money is to visit farms that allow you to pick your own organic vegetables and fruits.
You usually get a lower price on the food you buy since you are doing the work of picking it.
As a bonus, if you have young children, they will love picking the food with you, so you can make it a family adventure.
Save time and money, and having fun is a winning combination for most people.
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#11. Grow Your Own Organic Produce
If you have the resources and the space, growing your own organic fruits and vegetables is a budget-friendly way to start eating organic.
The great thing about growing your own food is knowing exactly what is going into your soil and how your fresh produce is being taken care of.
You can also reduce food waste because you know what you’re growing and aren’t trying to estimate how much food you’ll need for an entire city.
And if you are short on space, consider indoor gardening.
While you won’t be able to grow as much food, you can at least figure out the foods you eat most often and grow them to help lower the cost of your food budget.
#12. Buy Store Brand Organics
Grocery store organic products can be another easy way to save money and get organic food on a budget.
The O Organics brand is a popular choice for cheaper organic food and is sold at grocery stores like Safeway, Vons, and Shaw’s.
The description for the O Organics brand says that all their products are USDA-certified organic and non-GMO.
Other places like Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and Costco offer budget-friendly ways to buy organic food on a tight budget, thanks to their store-branded products.
Many stores are now offering organic food at lower prices, so the next time you go shopping, ask where the organic section is.
#13. Use Bulk Bins
Using the bulk bins to buy loose nuts, grains, spices, and seasonings is another way to save.
Since you are cutting out the middle man and all the packaging, buying this way will save you a considerable amount of money.
And don’t let the word bulk scare you.
You can buy as much or as little as you need.
It isn’t a warehouse store where you have to buy a 10-pound container of cinnamon.
You can buy this amount if you only need five tablespoons worth of it.
#14. Shop At Online Grocery Store
Organic food has become more convenient thanks to several online grocery stores specializing in organic foods.
Companies like Thrive Market and Imperfect Foods offer consumers certified organic products.
Not everyone has access to organic stores or farmer’s markets, so finding organic food on a budget from the convenience of your computer is appealing.
Ground beef, fresh herbs, dairy products, and various other organic food items can be delivered right to your home just by shopping online.
Sometimes these companies will even offer organic coupons or free shipping, making it easier to afford organic food.
#15. Check Out Dollar Stores And Discount Stores
While it is not a guarantee that you will find organic food at a dollar store or a discount store like Big Lots, you get lucky from time to time.
So if you regularly shop at these stores, keep an eye out for organic.
Every once in a while, you might be able to find organic bread or other pre-packaged food you can buy at a discount.
#16. Look For Sales
Paying attention to sales is another easy way to lower your costs.
Not only do you get your groceries at a reduced cost, but you can also meal plan around the sales to save even more.
Stores tend to offer sales in cycles, and if you can follow these, you can save a lot of money.
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So gather up the weekly sales flyers and make a note of what is on sale.
#17. Shop Around
If you have a variety of stores in your area, make it a point to visit each one and check out the prices.
You might be shocked at how much prices vary for the same foods.
In my area, a pint of organic blueberries ranged from $2.99 to $7.99.
The bottom line is that it pays to shop around.
And if time is a premium for you, make a list of the items you buy most often.
Then take a trip to each store and write down the non-sale price for each item.
Now you know where to shop to save money.
And if you still don’t think you have time to visit each store, consider shopping online and picking up your groceries curbside.
More supermarkets are offering this service, and many don’t charge extra.
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#18. Use Your Credit Card
Finally, consider using a cash back credit card when you shop.
Using a card that offers cash back effectively lowers the price you pay for your groceries.
For example, I use the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card and get 6% cash back on my groceries.
So each week, when we spend $100 on food, we earn $6 cash back.
Of course, to truly save money, you have to pay your bill in full each month, but if you are disciplined, this is easy to do and an easy way to save.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are a lot of questions about organic food and saving money.
Here are the most common questions I get along with the answers.
What is the cheapest organic food?
Now that you have some tricks up your sleeve on how to buy organic products on a budget take note that some organic foods are a great deal while still rocking the USDA organic label.
First up is beans.
Beans are powerhouse dried foods.
They are full of fiber, and a little goes a long way, so they will likely last you a very long time.
Beans are also easy to store and don’t usually have contamination from the BPA in cans.
Another great food on a budget, tea is easy to prepare and can be even cheaper if you buy the loose leaf kind rather than the bagged kind.
While fresh organic fruit can get expensive, the frozen kind tends to be cheaper and can last anywhere from six to twelve months.
They’re just as healthy as their fresh counterparts and can satisfy your fruit cravings even in the cold winter months.
The humble potato is one of the cheapest organic foods and fits nicely with any budget and diet.
Potatoes can be baked, fried, or boiled. The possibilities are endless.
Similar to beans, potatoes last a long time and are very affordable.
Olive oil is a staple in many kitchens worldwide, so it’s worthwhile to invest in organic olive oil.
It may not be the cheapest, but when you think about the size of a typical container, it can last a very long time.
Where is the best place to buy cheap organic groceries?
Some of the best places to buy organic include buying directly from farmers and shopping at discount grocers.
When you buy directly from a farmer, you cut out the cost of transporting the food to the grocery store and their mark up, saving you money.
Discount grocers tend to offer lower prices in general, and this extends to organic food.
For example, we shop at Aldi and buy mostly organic.
Our grocery bill comes to around $100-$125 a week, feeding a family of four.
If you don’t have an Aldi near you, look at Walmart.
You can eat organic food at a reasonable cost here too.
If you insist on shopping at traditional grocery stores like Wegmans, make it a point to buy the in-house organic product lines as these will be cheaper than name brands.
Why is organic food more expensive?
According to a study by Consumer Reports, buying organic can cost up to 47% more money.
The reason is two-fold.
First, they have to be grown naturally. In most cases, the items needed to grow the fruits and vegetables will cost more.
When costs are higher to produce the food, you can expect the price you pay to be higher.
Along with this is the price premium for being a healthier alternative.
Grocers charge more because more affluent people tend to buy organic.
It is like getting quotes for having your lawn mowed.
If you live in an upscale neighborhood, you are getting charged more because the landscaping company knows you can afford a higher price.
The cost would be less to have the same lawn in an average neighborhood.
Is paying extra money to eat organic worth it?
Yes and no.
If you eat the foods on the Dirty Dozen list above, it makes sense to buy organic.
But for other foods, organic doesn’t necessarily mean healthy food.
The best use of your money is to buy some organic food and then focus on eating healthier.
You can eat organic on a budget.
You have to realize that it will take a little effort, especially in the beginning, as you figure out the best places to shop and where the lowest prices are.
But once you do this, you can buy cheap organic groceries, allowing you to save money and eat healthily.