Our family tries to eat as much organic as we can and I get asked all the time how to make it more affordable. Here are a few tips that have worked for us:
1. Use coupons. There are a lot more organic and natural coupons coming out these days. It is great to print them and use them for many reasons- obviously to save money on your grocery bill but also the more these items are purchased and the more coupons that are redeemed, the more likely stores will increase selection and manufacturers will release coupons!
You can check the My Frugal Adventures’s coupon database to find coupons or you can check the Organic Coupons & Deals tab on the upper right corner of the blog. That is a new feature I am building to offer additional resources. Keep checking back as it will change all the time.
2. Learn Your Prices. I think creating a little price book or at least trying to get a pretty good handle on prices is a great idea. A lot of organic produce items I buy are the same price or sometimes even cheaper than regular produce. There are many organic items that are significantly more expensive though (like milk and eggs) so I pay close attention to what prices are at different stores. I can often find the best deals in stores you normally wouldn’t think of for organic products. Stores like the Grocery Outlet, $.99 Only and Target often have great deals on organic items.
3. Piggyback on other promotions. One thing that is an annoyance to me is organic milk. We go through a lot of organic milk and it is expensive and there are almost never coupons available. I usually pay about $6/gallon and even if I can’t get a great deal on milk I can still try and piggyback on another promotion. In my area, two of my grocery stores offer great coupons for discounted or even free items when you spend $10-20 at that store. I can purchase my milk for regular price at those stores and I can at least get the added benefit of meeting the minimum to use that extra store coupon.
4. Shop in season. Really we should all do this anyway, but I really focus on what is on sale and in season when it comes to organic produce in particular. If organic celery is on sale that week- guess what the kids are having at snack time all week? If organic berries are discounted, I buy big and freeze whatever we won’t be able to eat fresh. I do try to stock up whenever there are great deals on frozen items too just to vary our diet a little when things are out of season. My girls love corn for example, so when bags of organic frozen corn go on sale I tend to buy 10 bags or so and I freeze them. Some items, like organic broccoli seem to be on sale more frequently in my area so I don’t buy nearly as much.
5. Prioritize purchases. I usually try to make sure I am buying organic on certain fleshy produce or fiberous produce. Examples are apricots, celery, berries, peaches etc… You can see the “Dirty Dozen” items list to see the produce that tends to have the highest levels of pesticide residue. That is where I tend to focus my budget. You can also see the “Clean 15” which are the items with the lowest levels- those items you might not need to spend the extra money for organic.
6. Shop around. Lots of people will tell you the best deals on organics come from Co-Ops, Farmer’s Markets and local farms. That might be a great option for some people. I have not found that to be the situation for me personally, plus I don’t always have the time to make extra trips so convenience is a big issue. I have personally found Target to have great prices on staples like pasta sauce and canned foods. Another grocery chain in my area, Sprouts, has incredible prices on fresh organic produce. Some people have found Costco to be a great resource for organic items. You might just open up the grocery ads in your area each week and skim them and start to determine where the best deals are. If you like to shop at Walmart stores, you can always price match the other grocery store’s advertised prices and get one stop shopping. If you have a Whole Foods store in your area, you might check and see if they offer a Facebook page or dedicated web site for your store. My store runs a special unadvertised sale every Friday and you can often get great deals just by joining the community.
You can have a look for food co-ops in your area here.
Overall, I have found the biggest change for us has simply been flexibility. I don’t stockpile nearly as much as I used to because so much of my budget goes to fresh foods. I have simplified a lot of our menus so I need fewer ingredients each week. When you are buying high quality and fresh products- fewer ingredients are better to showcase the flavors anyway. One last thing that we have done is simply shifted portion sizes. I often see recommendations that people try more vegetarian options if they are trying to stick to a budget. Now I have been a vegetarian for about 20 years so that doesn’t bother me one bit but if I put a plate of beans in front of my husband instead of a steak… well my guess is he would volunteer to walk the dog and I would find McDonald’s wrappers in the trash. So I don’t see any need to cut meat out of the diet, I just find that I serve smaller portions of better quality meats in particular. Surprisingly, my husband has been really happy to have the higher quality foods and hasn’t minded extra servings of the side dishes or salads to compensate.
Does anyone else have tips for buying organic on a budget?