Years ago, before I knew about organics, I seriously thought that organic food was for those who wanted to spend more on their food. I couldn’t have been more wrong, but it just goes to show that there are so many misconceptions out there. Buying organic can put a huge strain on your budget, but if you play your cards right it doesn’t have to. If you decide to dive in and eat all whole foods, then you won’t be buying convenience foods, soft drinks, frozen dinners, or pretty much anything pre-made in a box which really adds up over time. My husband is in the military, so we have access to the commissary on base (the base grocery store where things are sold much cheaper than in town). Last year I started wondering if I was spending too much, so I asked my friends who shopped strictly at the commissary how much they spent. I found out that I spent less than they did! It encouraged me to discover I was on the right track. I’ve come up with my top eleven things I do to help make buying organic more affordable.
1. Buy in bulk when possible. I really can’t stress this enough. For example, I bake with organic whole cane sugar but it’s sold for $5.25 a pound at our local health food store. I found a few friends to split a 33 pound bag from Azure Standard and we paid $2.27 a pound (including the shipping!) You can also split bags of oats, grain, popcorn, etc.
2. Join a co-op. Here is where you can get substantial savings. Our co-op truck drops off the same organic produce sold at the local grocery stores, but we get it for a fraction of the cost. Check into the Local Harvest website for co-ops in your area.
3. Buy your meat directly from the farm. We’ve been doing this for years and have saved over $500 each year. Two times a year, I make an order with our organic farm and buy my meat at a fraction of the cost compared to the grocery stores. Best of all, I know exactly where the meat is coming from. You will need a large freezer to take advantage of this option – see tip 7. The Eat Wild website is a fantastic resource to find an organic farm near you.
4. Cook at home. Most dinners I feed my family of 4 cost around $12. You can’t even go to a fast food restaurant for that! Best of all, my family is eating good food that’s full of nutrients.
5. Grow your own herbs. One little package of basil costs $2.99 at our local grocery store (and it’s most likely irradiated). I spend that much on a plant each spring and harvest basil all summer long. My favorite herbs to grow are basil, thyme, rosemary, and oregano. I don’t have a green thumb but I’ve managed to keep them growing each year and always have fresh herbs to add to my dishes.
6. Be Discerning. If you can’t afford to buy entirely organic, choose wisely which items to pay more for. A good rule of thumb is to buy organic fruits and vegetables that have thin skins (like apples and berries). These foods tend to absorb the most pesticides and herbicides.
Here’s the list of the “dirty dozen” from the Environmental Working Group Website:
3. Bell Pepper
10. Grapes (imported)
7. Embrace the deep freeze. A freezer can cost as little as $150, or much less if you buy used. If you have an extra freezer you have the option to load up on items when they’re on sale and store them them later.
8. Buy in season. I really can’t stress this enough. I’ve seen too many people buy produce that isn’t in season and spend more money than necessary. Yes, we’re in an age where we can get any kind of produce at any time of year, but do you really need to spend $8 for a pint of strawberries in December?
9. Comparison shop. Compare prices of organic foods at a few local grocery stores. You may find that one store has more affordable fruits than vegetables or vice-versa.
10. Make your own dressing. Most bottles of salad dressing contain many preservatives and fillers and are quite expensive. Do an online search for recipes for your favorite salad dressings, make a batch and keep in a jar for easy use. You’ll only do this once a month, but reap the benefits at nearly every dinner.
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