Organic foods have been shown to have higher nutrient contents and significantly lower amounts of toxic pesticide residues than foods grown using non-organic methods. Unfortunately, fresh and prepared organic foods are often sold at a higher price than their mainstream counterparts.
You donít have to pay a premium to buy organic food. Many options exist to keep healthy, organic food affordable.
1. Plan ahead
This may be tough for some of us, but planning your meals ahead of time can be a big money-saver. When you have a clear shopping list, youíll be less likely to impulse buy expensive items you donít need.
Try writing down a list of what meals youíll be preparing for the upcoming week. It doesnít have to be perfect, as long as you have an idea of the main ingredients youíll need on hand. You can also try to make extra portions and freeze them for later.
This will help to make sure you use all the food you buy. If you buy food you donít have a plan for, itís easier to let it sit unused and expire or go to waste.
2. Buy seasonal produce
The best place to find seasonal produce is at your local farmersí markets. They typically bring freshly harvested produce, which will be at its nutritional peak. You can often buy in larger amounts for a reduced price. There may also be end of the day clearance sales of remaining products the farmers simply donít want to take home.
Grocery stores can also bring in seasonal, local produce. Sometimes these are available at reduced, bulk prices as well.
Another great option for finding seasonal organic produce is you-pick farms. Depending on where you live, you may be able to pick your own organic vegetables, fruit and berries. You-picks tend to have much lower prices per pound than in-store produce.
3. Find bulk foods where possible
Many communities have stores that specialize in bulk foods. Larger grocery stores also often have bulk foods sections that include organic items.
You can typically find lots of organic staples in bulk at good prices, such as beans, grains, dried fruit, nuts and seeds. If you can buy larger amounts at one time, the cost is usually lower.
Keeping your kitchen well-stocked with foods you use on a regular basis will help make meal preparation easier. You also wonít need to buy last-minute items in small amounts, which are more expensive.
4. Look for no-name, in-store organic products
Many grocery stores will have their own lines of organic products. This can include prepared foods, such as condiments, canned foods or juices. Some stores even offer their own brand of organic produce.
These products are often priced very competitively compared to organic name-brands.
5. Make use of technology
We have a lot of different modern options to help out with saving money on food costs.
Coupons are another good way to keep food costs down. You can use flyers from junk mail sent to your house or there are various websites where you can print coupons online, such as Living Rich With Coupons or Coupons.com.
Another way to save is by signing up for rewards and point programs some stores offer. These typically give you points every time you buy something in the store, which can be collected and used to buy more products later.
6. Broaden your definition of ďorganicĒ
Some farmers are committed to organic growing principles, but are not certified due to various reasons. The official organic certification process can be expensive and time-consuming. There is also the criticism that organically certified farms may still cheat and the regulations are not strict enough.
Getting to know your local farmers is a great way to find out more about their growing practices. Those who grow organically, but are not certified, will often be happy to tell you about their own processes for keeping their crops healthy and controlling pests naturally.
Their prices will also potentially be less than those who are officially certified organic.
7. Join a CSA near you
CSA stands for community supported agriculture. With these programs, you often pay a farmer a yearly or monthly fee and receive a box of produce every week or two for the entire growing season. Some CSAs will also operate year round, providing vegetables stored through the winter.
Some CSAs are certified organic, although smaller operations may simply follow organic practices and be uncertified. Ask your local CSA to find out more about them.
8. Grow your own
If you have an interest in gardening, growing your own produce is likely the cheapest option for eating organic. You also know exactly what products, such as compost, were used to grow your crop.
Seeds are fairly cheap, and many organic seed varieties are available. Most seed packages contain enough seed to last for a few years of crops.
Even if you donít have property of your own, find out if there is a community garden where you could rent a plot. Or check if there are any volunteering opportunities locally where you can share a portion of the harvest.
Exchanging crops with friends can be an efficient way to grow more varieties of food. For instance, you could commit to growing enough lettuce and potatoes to share with a few friends, and they would each grow other types of veggies that would also be shared.
9. Preserve your own produce
Canning, freezing and dehydrating are all excellent and affordable ways to preserve fresh organic foods. This allows you to buy in larger quantities at lower prices and create nutritious, convenient supplies you can use all year.
Canning supplies can be easily found secondhand, and canning jars can be consistently re-used. The only expense for freezing is buying freezer bags. A dehydrator can also be found secondhand or if you get a new one, it will be a one-time investment.
Hosting preserving parties can be a fun way to share a harvest with your friends and family. You can also get together and buy bulk quantities of produce together to lower everyoneís costs.