9 Secrets to Eating Organic on any Budget
Transitioning your lifestyle to eating organic can be positively life changing in so many ways. There are so many reasons why organic is necessary to improve your health, reverse disease, and preserve the environment, plus organic usually tastes better too. I focused on ‘WHY’ I choose organic and how it will benefit you in this previous blog, “Why Buy Organic? 6 Big Reasons You Should.”
Today, however, I want to focus on the “how,” because, let’s be honest, organic isn’t always the cheapest option (although sometimes it is! Especially now that demand is going up.) and it may not always be the most convenient either.
Organic food might be associated with a more negative connotation such as “expensive,” “overpriced,” or “overrated,” for some people, but when I hear the word organic I think quite the opposite: “health,” “happiness,” “powerful,” “life changing,” “nutritious,” “disease-fighting,” non-toxic,”, and “environmentally friendly” are just a few!
Luckily for us though, the industry has responded to the customer demand and organic food is now easier to find in almost any store. Plus, there are now almost 10,000 farmers markets across America and each and every year that number is climbing; making fresh, local produce more available to you.
There are so many more reasons why I choose to only eat organic and today I want to offer you some critical advice that might just influence you to make buying organic part of your life, for the rest of your life… starting today.
Most people avoid buying organic, even if they understand its health benefits, because of the perceived cost.
The cost of organic comes up over and over again because it can be more expensive, but I believe it can truly be affordable for everybody, it might just mean that we need to shift our priorities around a bit.
For me, my HEALTH is my number one priority. What’s yours?
Without our health, we can’t enjoy much else around us and our healthcare costs can begin to add up quickly. There’s no amount of organic food that I could possibly buy that would cost more than a visit to the emergency room or a lifelong supply of prescription medication for a chronic disease.
No thanks. I’ll invest a few more cents in an organic apple over a conventional one any day!
Still, with a few simple tricks, you can keep prices down and maintain a budget that works for you. Ready?
9 TIPS TO BUY ORGANIC ON ANY BUDGET
Buy in bulk whenever you can.
Buying in bulk is always cheaper because the processing, packaging, and transportation costs are reduced for the supplier. Bulk bins of nuts, grains, seeds, and beans are always cheaper than buying a smaller, individually wrapped package.
For example: the average cost of 1 BPA free 15oz can of organic black beans can range from $1.50 – $2.00 depending on where you shop. This can will give you less than 2 cups of cooked black beans… where as you can buy 1lb of dry beans from the bulk bins for the same cost and that pound can be cooked at home, giving you 6 cups (3x as much) for the same price.
The same goes with nuts, seeds and grains. I encourage you to discover the price difference at your local store or farmers market.
SUPER TIP: Want to buy in bulk but think it will be too much for you or your family? Get friends or family members to split bulk items with you! You’ll all get healthy, organic food that you’ll eat before it spoils.
Save the freezer for “real” food.
As soon as you can get away from buying frozen pizzas, burritos and microwaveable ‘healthy’ meals, the better you’ll feel and the more room you will begin to have in your freezer! Even if these above-mentioned foods are labeled “organic” I still recommend avoiding them, as these are the foods that will really hit your budget hard. Packaged ‘organic’ foods are always more expensive than the staple items when it comes to the amount of calories and nutrients you get in return. Plus, they are very processed! Instead, stock up on the foods that matter. My freezer is stocked with organic fruits and vegetables, leftover soups and stews and bags of greens like spinach, arugula, and romaine that I freeze myself. They are always ready and available for me to toss into a smoothie or soup without any food waste! As a bonus, I’m not left having to run to the store all of the time because I have a back-up plan available in my freezer at all times.
Save scraps and utilize leftovers!
On average, organic produce, meat, dairy, and eggs can cost approximately 1/3 more than the price of conventionally grown, pesticide-covered, potentially genetically modified items. But, interestingly enough, it has been documented that Americans waste approximately 1/3 of the food that they buy. Sounds like I just uncovered a way to break even on the budget with this fact alone! Don’t waste the food your buy! What I began doing years ago and enjoy doing still to this day is saving my vegetable scraps as I cook each night instead of throwing them into the garbage.
I recommend keeping a ‘scrap jar’ or ‘soup starter kit’ in the form of a Mason jar or Ziploc bag in your freezer. That way, while you’re cooking you can toss your leftover pieces in the jar or bag each night instead of in the trash. If a recipe calls for half an onion or 5 carrots and you have 6 or you used most of the zucchini but still have the ends left … chop up the remaining edible parts and pieces and throw them in the jar or bag in the freezer. After a week or two at the most you’ll have a great collection of leftover produce that would have otherwise gone in the trash and you can make a great vegetable stock broth, bone broth, or even a stew or stir fry with the leftover items, based on what you’ve collected.
This works best with following produce:
- Onions, garlic, turmeric, tomatoes, zucchini, all other types of squash, carrots, celery, spinach, kale, mushroom stems, fresh herbs and spices, broccoli, and many more.
- Experiment as you go along, I would love to hear how this works for you!
Eat the stems.
When you buy produce, the price is usually based on the weight of the item you buy, and yet we have a terrible habit of throwing away the stems, which are usually the bulk of the weight.
For example, the stem of the kale leaf can be bitter in a raw salad and most people cut the stem out before chopping up the leaf.
Save your stems and sauté them with some olive oil, garlic and a few spices for a great side dish or addition to your heartier meals such as stews or stir frys. Mushrooms and broccoli are another great example; just chop up the whole mushroom instead of popping out the stems or save the stems for your ‘Soup Starter Kit’ in your freezer.
If the ends of the stems look dry or dirty, cut just the very bottom off like you would do for a bouquet of flowers & utilize the rest of the food so that your precious dollars don’t go into the trash.
Regrow your food.
Hear me out. This one is simpler than you might think! Did you know that you can cut off the last inch of your bunch of celery, green onions, romaine lettuce, leeks and fennel and place them in a shallow bowl or jar of water and they will begin to regrow within just a few days as long they are getting some sunlight?
You can do this with so many other foods as well. I challenge you to give it a try next time you’re heading to the garbage can with those “inedible” bits in your hand.
You can even sprout your own seeds and enjoy the amazing healthy benefits along with them after patting yourself on the back for growing such a beautiful superfood right in your own kitchen.
All it takes is a pot with some good soil, so it doesn’t even matter if you live in a tiny apartment! Once you see tiny roots sprouting, the sprouts are ready to plant! You can get started today!
Start an herb garden.
Last time I was at a local, organic grocery store out here in California, I saw a small bunch of fresh mint in a plastic container being sold for over $4. Similar prices were listed for rosemary, basil, oregano, and thyme.
This was so shocking to me because you’re paying for the convenience of the fresh herb, but you’re also paying for the man power and packaging supplies that it took to get that fresh organic herb into a clean, tiny, plastic package.
This is such a huge waste of your money!
You can buy an entire plant, already grown with fresh leaves ready to use in the soil for as little as $1 or $2 at hardware stores or nurseries. Depending on what you use the most, consider placing a few of these small plants in your kitchen windowsill or outside on your patio table or balcony and watch them grow.
You can use them whenever a smoothie, salad, or dinner recipe calls for a few mint leaves, handful of basil or sprinkle of rosemary, etc.
I love growing my own herbs and the flavors and aromas of fresh picked leaves just can’t be beat!
Plus, when you add freshly picked herbs you are getting the absolute highest level of enzymes and the most nutrient potential! It starts to drop immediately after picking.
Find a farmers market near you.
You can start with this amazing database for registered farmers markets by zip code and see what might be available in your area.
Start by utilizing this nationwide database.
They have so many great resources for you that might just expand your awareness of local food available in your area.
Don’t forget to shop smart at your farmers market while you’re there. Unlike grocery stores, you can still negotiate the price of your food with the farmer who grew it. Building a relationship with your favorite farm stand at the market is a great start to ensuring future discounts as you remain loyal and continue to buy from the same farmer each week.
Buying in bulk here will always get you a better price as the farmer wants to sell everything he brought that day so he doesn’t have to worry about transporting the produce around trying to sell it the next day.
That being said, the best kept secret of farmers markets is to get there late. As the market hours begin to come to an end the farmers are more willing to negotiate a better price or offer you a better deal for the items that haven’t yet sold.
That leads me into my next tip…
Invest in a membership.
At first, this might seem expensive depending on what service you are interested in, but it’s almost guaranteed that you will save more than enough money throughout the year to make the upfront cost of the membership worth it.
Plus, if you join forces with a few friends, family members, or neighbors and agree to split the membership cost and buy items in bulk together, you will save more money than you ever thought possible.
In comparison to shopping for just yourself or your small family at a local grocery store, share the cost and make bulk shopping cheaper and more convenient for everyone involved!
Here are a few services I recommend that you may want to consider looking into further:
- Local co-ops are great community services that will keep you stocked up on the freshest, organic, in-season produce items and will also help you build stronger relationships within your community.
- Costco Wholesale (now the largest organic supplier in America) has a great method of making organic shopping easier for the consumer. As you walk down their aisles, all you have to do is look for ‘bright green’ price tags signaling an organic product. Costco is stepping up and investing heavily in new organic options for consumers! Skip over the other items quicker because you know they weren’t grown or produced organically.
- Thrive Market is a risk-free way to save money online. It will refund your $60 membership fee at the end of the year if your savings don’t equal the cost of your membership and the cost of non-perishable items there is very hard to beat in most stores.
- Amazon.com is always a great resource for brand name organic products as well. Certain spices, pantry staples such as chia seeds, sprouted organic rice, and more, bodycare products, and nutrition books (SuperLife, anyone?) can be found on Amazon for much cheaper than specialty stores.
Utilize the EWG.ORG ‘Dirty Dozen List’
You’ve probably heard me talk about this “list” over and over again, but I only keep repeating myself because it’s information worth sharing. This list is such a useful tool for you to utilize in order to ensure you are getting the most of your food and out of every dollar that you’re spending!
EWG updates this list annually and refers to the 12 “dirty dozen” produce items as the items that you should buy ORGANIC or not at all. In other words, if you can’t find organic strawberries, avoid buying them that week unless you can find organic strawberries in the freezer section, because this year strawberries were listed as the “dirtiest” produce when grown non-organic.
This means that conventionally grown strawberries are covered with the most pesticides compared to any other produce item you can find. Avoiding pesticide exposure is the benefit of buying organic produce and first step towards improving your health for the long run.
It has been scientifically proven that eating 100% organic for just one week can drastically decrease the amount of pesticides in your body to almost undetectable levels. This is especially true for children.1 This is good for you and your future of health for so many wonderful reasons.
Download the EWG pocket guide and keep it with you while you shop! You can view it, download it, and print it here: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/guide.php
It’s even small enough to slide into a ‘credit-card’ slot in your wallet
There are many simple, achievable ways that you cut your food budget down and make organic affordable. These are a few of my favorites, but a quick search online will turn up even more!
I strongly encourage you to keep your priorities straight! Eating organic is worth every penny for your health and the health of the planet.
YOUR HEALTH is worth it!
Just be smart and tackle your shopping in the most budget-conscious way possible. Even just implementing one of these a month will continuously lower your food budget.
Try these tips out and let me know how it goes in the comments below. Have a great tip of your own to share? Please do!