There’s a misconception that buying organic products has to be expensive. It is true that years ago, before the huge expansion of Whole Foods and the mainstream awareness of organic vs. conventional, buying organic meant paying more than conventional. However, the higher demand for these products has helped prices decrease and buying organic can actually be budget friendly. Of course, some planning and local knowledge will help keep your desire for organic food within your budget. Check out some tips and great local food stores below!
9 tips for budget friendly organics
Shop with the seasons
Buying produce when it is in-season in your area will make it more affordable because of the higher supply available. Also, it will be better tasting and more nutritious.
Packaged and processed food is always more expensive
Processed organic food is always going to be more expensive than buying whole foods. Whether it’s crackers, bread, cookies, veggie burgers, chips, etc., having the ‘organic’ label makes them pricey. However, instead of buying all of these items, what can you make instead? It is surprisingly easy to make some types of bread and crackers, as well as desserts, fermented foods, spice mixes, sauces, and so on. Cooking your most eaten items in bulk once a month and freezing will save money, you are in control of every single ingredient, AND your cooking will taste better than anything out of a box!
Use the dirty dozen and clean fifteen as guidance
When budget is a concern, using the Environmental Working Group guides will help you decide what to definitely purchase organic and what is safest to buy conventional.
Explore alternative ways to buy organic
Bulk Produce: For a lower price per pound you can buy in bulk either at a farmer’s market or directly from a farm. Each farm has their own procedure for purchasing, but they will usually need a few days to prepare your purchase. In this case, bulk usually means quite a lot – a half or full bushel, which is 20-60 pounds depending on the item. This large quantity can be split between group or is great for freezing or canning for the winter.
Bulk dry goods: Buying from a natural foods store bulk section is usually cheaper than the packaged per pound cost.
CSA: In most cases purchasing a CSA makes local, organic produce cheaper. The average per-week cost is about $30 and the value of the produce you receive is always over that amount. You don’t have the option to choose what you get, but it is a fun way to try new types of produce and have a wider variety of veggies in your diet. Check out this post for more info about CSA’s.
Buying clubs: Get a group together to buy from a farm in bulk and have it delivered to a central location. A buying club can work for produce or meat, and will usually cost less that farmers market prices.
Regular supermarkets are usually most expensive
Organic, ‘natural’, or any other type of label that fits into the “Health” section at a supermarket is almost always more expensive than buying it at Whole Foods or a another natural foods store. Unless there is a specific sale, I have found that just about everything I buy is more expensive at regular supermarkets.
Veggie nights are fun!
Creating meatless meals will lower your ‘organic’ food bill considerably. Organic, grass-fed and pastured meat is expensive but affordable if you don’t eat it every day. Every meat-eater can find some form of vegetarian meal to enjoy – experiment with different beans, protein-rich grains such as quinoa, veggie burgers, eggs for dinner, tofu or tempeh. The options are endless! And, very helpful to the budget.
Grow some of your own
If you live in a home with a yard or apartment with a balcony, you can grow some of your own food. Start with easy to grow items that you eat often. In our tiny fire escape I grew an abundant supply of salad greens, herbs, and tomatoes with minimal effort. The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible is a great resource to get started.
Farmers market deals
There can be great deals at farmers at the end of the day, such as two-for one pricing, because many farmers would rather not bring too much produce back to the farm. Going to the market later in the day might mean being flexible about what you buy since some products might be sold out, but there can be great deals.
Know the local stores and shop the sales
Whole Foods, natural food stores, and farmer’s markets will each have their own sales each week. Get the local flyers or email newsletter for where you buy your food and plan meals around the week’s sales. Going out of your way once in a while to get your regular grocery items on sale might be worth it. Make sure to stock up!
7 Natural Food Stores in New Jersey
Hoboken: Organic Basic Food
Morristown and Denville: Grassroots Natural Market
Newton: Sussex County Foods
Basking Ridge, Chester, Ocean, Shrewsbury: Dean’s Natural Food Market
North Haledon: The Health Stop
Ramsey: Organico Health Food Store
West Milford: Harvest Moon Health and Nutrition