How to Shop for Organic Foods Without Breaking Your Budget

organic groceries, healthy foodOrganic products, free from pesticides and hormones, can be expensive, making them a luxury for people on a budget. How can you get more organic food on your table without draining your bank account?

Craig Minowa, environmental scientist with the Organic Consumers Association, offers these tips:
  • Learn to buy big -- Many health-food stores have bulk sections where a bag-full of an organic item may end up costing less than a pre-packaged version of the non-organic variety
  • Form a buying club -- If a bunch of people pool their grocery lists, they can often special-order directly with the store
Sarah Bratnober, communications director at the Organic Valley Family of Farms, advises:
  • Follow the 80/20 rule -- 80 percent of the benefits come from 20 percent of the purchases; think about what your family eats the most of, and make sure that those products are organic
Barbara Houmann, spokeswoman for the Organic Trade Association, says:
  • Buy fruits and vegetables in season -- you’ll save money by focusing on what's easily available
If you do manage to get more organic into your diet, the benefits are numerous. Organic produce is not only healthy and better for the environment, it tastes better, too.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
I always like to remind people that paying a little more now to provide your family with high-quality food will help save you big-time later on in the form of unnecessary medical bills.

Quite simply, the better the food is that you put into your body, the healthier you will be.

Still, with food and gas prices rising the way they are, many people are having trouble affording food at all, let alone organic varieties. From 2005 to 2007, prices for healthy food jumped nearly 20 percent, compared to a 5 percent increase in the overall food price inflation.

But eating right doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive, if you know how to buy your food wisely.

How to Get the Most Bang for Your Organic Food Buck

If you need to pick and choose what you can and can’t buy organic, the tip above -- to buy organic in the things you eat most -- is a good tip, but I’ve got one that’s even better.

The most important foods to buy organic are animal, not vegetable, products. This is because animal foods tend to concentrate pesticides more -- non-organic meats have up to five times more pesticides than non-organic vegetables.

Non-organic butter, meanwhile, can have up to 20 times as many pesticides as non-organic vegetables.

So when prioritizing your purchases, look for organic meats, eggs and dairy products before anything else.

There is one exception to this rule, and this is organic milk, as it is nowhere nearly as concentrated. Additionally, the pasteurization causes far more problems than the pesticides for most people.

If you can afford to buy even more organic items, choose produce that tends to have the most pesticides. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the top 10 fruits and veggies with the highest pesticide load are:

1. Peaches
2. Apples
3. Sweet bell peppers
4. Celery
5. Nectarines
6. Strawberries
7. Cherries
8. Lettuce
9. Grapes (imported)
10. Pears

So if you love any of the produce on this list, it would be money well spent to buy them organic. EWG actually has a great wallet guide you can download of the produce with the most and least pesticides to help you out when you’re at the store.

How to Save Even More Money … and Still Eat Healthy

The following 14 tips are the best of the best to get high-quality food on a budget:

1. Choose local foods over organic foods. Often, locally grown foods are raised according to organic standards at a more affordable price.

2. If all that’s available or affordable is fresh, conventionally grown produce, buy it, wash it well at home, and eat it.

3. Look for local farms and food coops offering raw dairy products, eggs, produce, and grass-fed meat. This will allow you to cut out the middleman and save money. Buying in large quantities, such as a side of grass-fed beef, can also save you money in the long run as long as you have room to freeze it (and you consume it before it goes bad).

4. Skip prepared or pre-cut foods, which can cost up to double the amount as the unprepared versions.

5. Plan your meals ahead of time (including cooking large batches and freezing some for later) so you don’t splurge on expensive, unhealthy fast-food at the last minute.

6. Pass on junk foods like potato chips, soda, cookies, candy, and other snacks. These are a complete waste of money, even if they’re “organic.”

7. Buy lots of fresh veggies, they’re usually less expensive than canned versions (just make sure you use them before they go bad).

8. Only buy what you need. Keep track of what’s in your pantry so you don’t double-up on foods unnecessarily.

9. Clip coupons and use them when you can (but don’t buy something unhealthy just because it’s on sale).

10. Watch the register when you check out of the grocery store. They often ring up wrong prices, at your expense.

11. Shop with a calculator so you can determine if it’s really a better deal to buy something in bulk or in a larger size.

12. Watch weekly specials, and be aware of what’s really a good price. You can often find organic produce on sale for less than conventional produce if you know what prices to watch for.

13. If you have the space, grow your own fresh veggies such as greens, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers, string beans, etc.

14. Remember this rule of thumb: Fresh food is always better than frozen, but frozen is better than canned.

+ Sources and References