Most of us know that buying organic is generally more expensive overall than buying conventional. But there are some steps you can take to stay within your budget while still eating healthily. Here are a few tips to go organic--without going broke.
- Stick to your list; studies suggest that people who stick to buying only what is on their grocery list will save money on their grocery bill. By sticking to your list, you will not impulsively buy junk foods—and that can leave room on your list and in your budget for healthy organic foods.
- Determine which organic foods make the most sense to purchase and then purchase those regularly. Strategically purchased and used items can lower your exposure to hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and chemicals. Some suggested strategic buys include meats, dairy and sweet fruits.
- Pass over the big-name brands and look for your local grocery store’s own organic generic label or a natural brand. (Some say that these generic organic brands can sometimes be cheaper than the conventional or non-organic counterparts.)
- Stock up when it’s right. Some stores offer organic foods and goods in bulk and can help you save. Or go to your local farmer’s market and stock up on in-season vegetables, fruits, and other foods. Be sure to buy only the amount you will use—and be sure to check out how long your purchased fresh produce should last and what steps you can take to take care of them. The prices are usually at their cheapest when foods are in-season—so take this opportunity to stock up.
- While we are on the subject of local farmer’s markets…farmer’s markets can offer some of the most affordable organic foods—even though they may not be technically organic certified (a very expensive process many farmer’s markets cannot afford). In fact a USDA study in 2002 found that about 40 percent of farmers' market farmers don't charge a premium. And what’s more is that you can find a local farmer’s market near you. Be sure, however, to ask the farmer about his or her growing practices in order to be sure you are getting what you pay for. Go online at www.localharvest.org and find one close to you. (You save gas, too, by shopping nearby.)
- Become a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) member. By buying a share in CSA, you pay a portion of a local farm’s operating expenses. In return, however, you can get weekly boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables from the harvest. You can expect to pay about $300 to $400 upfront (or possibly monthly payments in some cases) for a 24 or 26 week growing season. You can check out these websites for more information: Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/csa/csa.shtml ), Food Routes (http://www.foodroutes.org/buy-fresh-buy-local.jsp), and Local Harvest (www.localharvest.org ) to find a CSA near you.
- Become a food co-op member. A food cooperative is a member-owned business that provides groceries and other products at a discounted price to its members. Many of the co-op products are organic and much of the produce comes straight from local family farms—fresh and ready to eat. Signing up is pretty easy, too. Often, all you have to do is just that—sign up and pay some dues. You can search for co-ops in your area by going to these websites: Cooperative Grocer (http://www.cgin.coop/public/members) and Local Harvest (www.localharvest.org ). If you don’t have a co-op in your area, then you can start your own. An informative brochure from Cooperative Grocer’s Information Network tells you how. (http://www.cgin.coop/public/food-coop-info/start-a-food-coop)
- Skip going out to eat. Eating at home saves you money. Period. Going out to eat is expensive and you not only save money if you choose to dine at home, but you also can feed yourself and your family much healthier foods at home. Additionally, the money you save from dining out can go directly towards purchasing those delicious organic foods you want!
- Grow it yourself! If you like to garden or would like to start, you can grow your own organic produce. It’s a great way to get an ample supply of your favorite fruits and vegetables and will save you cash.
See how easy it can be? You really can get organic foods—without breaking the bank.