This post has been updated to (hopefully) give you real-foodists even more helpful ideas to save money. 🙂 It contains affiliate links- that means if you make a purchase through a link, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks so much for your amazing support.
Love buying organic but hate the price? I feel the same way. I cringe when I see a sticker that’s double, sometimes even triple the price of conventional food. However, I still feel it’s very important to avoid pesticides and GMOs as much as is possible within my limited budget. So what’s a girl to do?
We’ve all heard about buying the dirty dozen organic and buying the rest conventional. Helpful, yes. But what if I could do better than that? Here are some other ways to get your organic for less:
1) Check for markdowns. My local health food store has a basket of marked down organic produce at the end of the aisle. Once I scored organic pink lady apples for $0.49/lb, 6 oz. of organic pre-sliced portabella mushrooms for $0.99, and organic broccoli sprouts for $0.99. Slightly blemished or less fresh produce can save you big. Also, check the meat aisle for cuts close to their “use/freeze by” dates. I’ve gotten organic, grass-fed ground beef for less than conventional beef this way. Just be willing to be flexible with your meal planning in order to make the most of your discounted finds.
2) Compare local farmers. Farmer’s markets can go either way. Sometimes the price is jacked up, and sometimes it’s very reasonable. However, it’s entirely possible to buy quality food for less from an individual than from a grocery store. For example, I’ve bought my organic pastured chicken eggs for $3.00/dozen from a local lady rather than the standard $5.00+.
3) Look for “organic practices.” When shopping from a farm stand, you can always ask about their practices. Some farmers don’t use pesticides but aren’t certified organic yet. Consider all aspects of crop management: pesticide usage, GMO’s, crop rotation, soil management, etc. You can often get a more affordable product that is still much healthier than conventional.
4) Buy in bulk. Buy a 1/4 of an organic, grassfed cow to put in the deep freezer for the year. It will definitely save you cost per lb. Or purchase a whole bushel of organic apples and can them or store them for winter use.
5) Consider an organic CSA program. Community Supported Agriculture boxes are getting more and more popular. Basically, you buy into a season’s worth of produce from a local farm at a discounted price for buying in advance. Most CSA programs also require you to put in a work commitment at the farm as part of your payment. This can be a fun and educational process for families who care about knowing where their food comes from.
6) Check big box stores. Okay, so I’m all for shopping local. I really am! But sometimes the prices of organic food are ridiculously high at a specialty health food store. If I just can’t afford it, I’m willing to look around. Oftentimes, you can find at least some organic variety at big name stores, such as Walmart, Target, or Costco.
I like Wegman’s because they offer a good compromise: Wegman’s often features local famers’ produce at a much lower price than small stores, and they also carry store-brand organics. This can really cut the bill down considerably. I’ll often buy the bulk of my organic produce at Wegman’s, then stop by our small businesses to pick up a few favorites- eggs, locally brewed kombucha, or a special treat. (And no, this isn’t sponsored. I just genuinely enjoy shopping there.)
UPDATE: Since birthing a third child, the 35 minute drive to Wegman’s is something I can only work myself up to do once every few months. I’m mostly back to shopping at the smaller closer stores and getting what organic produce I can there. We have also bought laying chickens and learned how to make kombucha, so I no longer need to procure eggs & booch. 😉
7) Check discount stores. We have an area discount grocery store that offers tons of organic options on average at 40-60% off. It’s worth checking if you have one nearby.
8) Try a membership site like Thrive Market. Think of applying a Sam’s Club membership principle to specialty organic products, and you’ve got the idea of Thrive. I don’t buy from them frequently because I make so many things from scratch (so I don’t usually need pre-made organic tomato sauce), but for the things I do need (natural laundry and dish soap that actually work, for example), I’ve found Thrive to be less expensive than other discount sites like Amazon. I tend to place a bulk order every few months to fetch those things that are hard to find elsewhere.
9) Grow your own. I have to say, this one is my favorite. Know where your food comes from, take pleasure in the work of it, learn something while you’re at it, help restore the earth and your mini-ecosystem, and save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year. A few years back, for my family of 3 (at the time), I only spent about $30/wk at the grocery store all summer long because of our productive garden. Sound appealing? (Keep your eyes out for when this summit becomes free again! We’ve found it full of very helpful information.)
UPDATE: Besides gardening, we’ve also found raising animals to be a valuable part of reducing our grocery bill. As mentioned before, our laying hens give us organic, free range eggs at a fraction of the price of similar store-bought eggs. Our goat gives us delicious raw milk and the cost of her feed is less than keeping a cat (though whether or not we’ve saved money on her overall is debatable). We are also hoping to be able to process more of our own meat in the coming year.
How do you save on organics? What’s the best deal you’ve gotten? Share in the comments!