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9 Ways to Buy Natural Organic Food on a Budget

By Myscha Theriault

usda organic labelFor nutritionists and eco-friendly shoppers, seeing “organic” on a label makes an item very attractive, but on the other hand, that same word usually scares away people with tight budgets.

Believe it or not, eating organic food does not have to be expensive. Over the past few years, the growing interest in organic food and its many benefits has led to more competition and increased availability. Organic options are more accessible, and if you’re concerned about where your food comes from, affordable organic items are very welcome choices.

These nine tips can help you pick up plenty of organic products without getting you uncomfortable with your grocery budget.

How to Buy Organic Food on a Budget

1. Buy Unpackaged Foods
More and more grocery stores have package-free bulk dispensers for items like nuts, beans, lentils, coffee grounds, and even cereal. You can buy the exact amount you need at a lower price point than the packaged counterpart of these items. Since you’re not paying for a big brand name, you don’t waste money subsidizing fancy packaging or big advertising campaigns. Plus, if you bring your own bags, you’re also helping out the environment.

2. Buy in Bulk
Organic foods still seem like niche items in exclusive stores, so many people don’t think that buying in bulk is even possible. But it is! You can purchase everything from grains to fruits and nuts in bulk. As long as you have room to store bulk items (i.e. long-term home food storage), you can save a great deal of money. In addition to warehouse stores, your local grocery and natural food stores probably have bulk aisles.

3. Stock Up on Pantry Items
Have you ever been to an organic bakery? You might die of sticker-shock while waiting in line for your oatmeal brownie. But if you have a hefty supply of organic flour, cocoa, nuts, oatmeal, cornmeal, and dried fruit, it’s easy to whip up your own organic muffins, polenta, or an oatmeal bar at a fraction of the price. Some of the most popular stores that offer a large selection of organic foods include Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market.

4. Skip Processed Items
This is one of the most obvious ways to improve your food budget. It’s also one of the most overlooked ideas, even when it comes to organic food. Organic doesn’t always mean healthy; you’ll find organic chips, candy, and frozen pizzas for nearly four times the price of organic produce. Swap out the organic snack crackers for a pound of organic carrots and hummus. You’ll be eating healthier and saving money at the same time.

5. Look for Store Brands
In addition to their standard generic lines, chains and boutique stores alike are now carrying their own generic line of organic products. My neighborhood Kroger, for example, carries organic diced tomatoes, pasta, beans, peanut butter, strawberry fruit spread, ketchup, mustard, and many other products for much lower prices than brand name organic items.

organic fruit vegetables

6. Shop at a Farmers’ Market
While growing your own food can be cheap and exciting, there are going to be times when you have immediate needs. In this case, you should seek out a farmers’ market in your area. Of course, you need to make sure they have organic choices before you start to fill up your basket. Since you are buying directly from the person growing the produce, you do not have to worry about supermarket mark-ups.

Finding a farmers’ market that is close to home is easier than you may think. To get started, visit LocalHarvest.org.

7. Buy “In Season”
If you want to save on fresh produce, purchase the fruits and vegetables that are currently in season. In the summer months, for example, fruit is easy to come by. To find out what is in season, visit a local farmers’ market and see what type of produce is plentiful. If you can’t figure this out on your own, there’s no shame in asking someone in charge.

8. Coupons, Coupons, Coupons
Whether you’re shopping at a local grocery store or at a farmer’s market, if you keep your eyes open, you will be able to find coupons that can save you money on everything from fruits and vegetables to beans, nuts, lentils, and grains.

For the largest selection of coupons, don’t ignore your local newspaper after you search online. Look at your favorite store’s site too. Whole Foods, for example, publishes deals online, including printable coupons and special promotions. For even more savings, learn how to extreme coupon by combining coupons with store sales.

9. Grow Your Own
When you are in charge of your produce, you know exactly how it has been treated from start to finish. Maintaining a home garden takes a serious commitment of time and effort, but some nearly maintenance-free plants make it easy to get started even if you don’t have a green thumb. Consider the following list of crops for beginners: blackberries, raspberries, spinach, tomatoes, green peppers, banana peppers, and zucchini.

Once growing season is over, you can even learn how to can and store your fruits and veggies for good, cheap eating throughout the year.

Final Word

Buying organic food doesn’t have to break the bank. By practicing a little self-discipline and choosing your grocery purchases with precision, you’ll be able to afford more organic food items on a regular basis. So toss up that organic spinach salad with a side of organic jalapeno corn bread, and wash it down with a glass of iced organic green tea. You’ll be sitting down to a family dinner you know offers the best nutrition and food safety you’re able to provide – for a fraction of the cost.

What are your best tips and tricks for saving on organic products?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Myscha Theriault
Myscha Theriault is a syndicated columnist with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, best-selling author and professional blogger whose work has appeared on such web sites as Forbes, MSN, the Los Angeles Times and AOL. Print interviews include Better Homes and Gardens, the New York Times, Women’s World and All You magazine. She is the founder of Trek Hound, a site for independent travelers, We Be Sharin', a home living web site, and The Lesson Machine, a site for teachers both Stateside and abroad.

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  • csdx

    Also a way to get food fairly cheap is to look into CSA (community supported agriculture) where you can buy ‘shares’ of what a farmer grows. It can be even better for them (and thus a better deal for you) because they get paid upfront and don’t have to worry about not having buyers for their crops. There are many ways this is done, but most shares are for the year so you’ll get seasonal vegetables during the growing season.

  • http://www.yourfinances101.com/blog David/yourfinances101

    What I found is that if you combine eating organic with an increase in fresh fruits and vegetables, you can actually break even. I mean, if you’re going to go “organic” why not move a litte towards the vegetarian side as well?

    Our household almost eliminated meat and chicken from our diet. Doing this allowed us to purchase a great deal of organic products while not raising our monthly grocery budget. As a matter of fact it may have gone down a little.

    Also, know what to buy organic and what not to. In my opinion, there’s not much point in buying organic bananas cuz the peel gets thrown away. Also, for items you eat very little of there is no reason to switch either. Both of these tips could help making going organic a little more doable finanncially.

  • Karmella

    This sounds so basic, but don’t overbuy – I can get dazzled and over ambitious at the farmer’s market or organic grocery, and I end up buying more than I can use before it needs to be tossed. I find I need to be more conscious because I can’t just drop by those locations to pick up something I forgot, so a plan helps me only get what I can realistically use and share.

  • http://www.PennyAuctionWatch.com PAW

    Costco-Sams Club have some great Organic items!

  • http://www.pennyauctionwinner.com Daniel

    I think growing your own veggies is the best solution the only problem is that some neighbors spray their lawns with chemicals that prevent weeds from growing. This can be very dangerous when ingested if the vegetables have been sprayed

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