Organic food can be affordable, if you shop strategically and plan ahead using these nine tips.
Buying organic doesn’t just reduce your family’s exposure to toxic chemicals, promote more humane treatment of animals, and deliver higher earnings to farmers, it also helps protect the environment. With Earth Day approaching, I’ve been thinking about all these variables a lot lately.
As we’ve all noticed, organic food and products do cost more. This higher price point is partly because of limited supply (only 1% of farmland in the U.S. is organic) and partly because organic farming practices are just more costly. Yet buying organic – at least some of the time – is more doable than people think.
As a blogger, married to a teacher, with two young kids and a life in an expensive part of the country, I’ve learned to bargain hunt. Good food is a priority for us, but we do have a budget and are able to stick to it despite buying almost everything organic.
Below are my tips for buying organic, affordably.
9 Ways to Make Organic Food More Affordable
- Be flexible on the brands you buy. Like everyone I have my favorite products, but if I only bought those brands every week, I’d go broke. Buy whatever organic yogurt, milk, meat, produce, snacks are on sale and you’ll save a bundle. You may also find new favorite products you otherwise wouldn’t have tried.
- Plan around what’s on sale. If I’m planning to roast asparagus for dinner but it’s $4/lb and the green beans are on sale for $1.50/lb, I’m getting the green beans. If nothing appealing is on sale, I head to the frozen aisle.
- Shop at Trader Joe’s. The packaging waste at Trader Joe’s kills me, but it’s a great place to find affordable organic food. Keep excess waste down by bringing your reusable grocery and produce bags, and buy their loose produce instead of pre-packaged whenever possible.
- Use plenty of frozen veggies. You can usually get a whole bag of organic broccoli florets, cauliflower, green beans, peas and more – even at Whole foods – for around $2.
- Create meals around beans. Dry beans are inexpensive and give you a ton of bang for your buck. I make a batch every week, to use in soup (1-2 meals), sprinkle on salad (1 meal), add to quesadillas (1 meal) and turn into veggie dip (3-4 snacks). This is a great way to get protein, affordably.
- Use meat as an “accent” ingredient. No need to go vegetarian if your family likes meat. But beginning to use meat as a “side dish” and plant-based foods as the main event will not only save you money but also improve your health. (e.g. sprinkle two crispy bacon slices on top of a corn and potato chowder, serve veggie-packed pasta with a few sausage slices on top, and make chili with 1/3 lb ground beef + lots of beans instead of mostly meat).
- Don’t “stock up.” This may seem counterintuitive, but buying a lot of something when it’s on sale is more likely to lead to food waste than cost savings. Instead, keep your pantry and freezer stashes relatively light so you can easily see what you have and what you truly need to buy.
- Meal plan, to avoid food waste. Plan a couple dinners, lunches and snacks then head to the store armed with a (flexible) list. If one recipe you planned on calls for parsley, but the others don’t, just skip it. No need to spend money on something you’ll end up wasting most of – when the recipe will taste good regardless.
- Shop more than once a week. Instead of doing a huge shopping trip every week, split the trip into 2-3 outings and plan for fewer days. You’ll waste less, be more efficient with what you have, and may even find you have plenty in the pantry/freezer/fridge to get by for longer than you think.
I’d love to hear your own tips too!