22 - 2010

How to Buy Organic Food and Eat Well for Less Money

I have been planning to write a post on this subject myself for a while, but then I just came across the post How to Buy Organic Food and Eat Well for Less Money at Digerati Life.

The post includes several great points about saving on organics:

1. Look for options at your regular supermarket first.
Whole Foods and other premium supermarkets that are strictly organic are notorious for being about 20% to 30% more expensive than other supermarkets. Many of the other supermarkets stock organic alternatives that may be cheaper than the brands Whole Foods carries. Make sure to check these items out as you may be able to get great deals on organic food.

Even at Whole Foods, there have been a ton of sales lately that make their products a lot more affordable. Make sure to get the coupon booklet when you enter the store. On a side note, Whole Foods also runs some great dinner deals (e.g. in Chicago, every Wednesday they have $8.99 16 inch pizzas including 1 topping made to order).

Note from Cheap: If you have a local organic chain — like Vitamin Cottage here in Colorado — sometimes it has the best prices.

2. Try your local farmer’s market.
I always check out my local farmer’s market for produce, especially for fruits and vegetables that are in season. This is a great option because you’ll get extremely fresh product at great prices. Not only that but you’ll be helping to stimulate your local economy by buying from local farmers and you get to interact with them too.

3. Grow your own vegetables in your backyard home garden.
You may not want a full-blown home vegetable garden in your backyard but certain spices and vegetables can be grown for relatively cheap and without much daily maintenance. The greatest benefit of growing your own produce is that after the upfront cost of buying the seeds, the rewards are endless as long as you water and take care of the plants. It’s also a fun side project or hobby especially when Springtime rolls around. Learn more about the benefits of a home garden and how you can save money.

… and a few more, too.

But the post misses a few great ideas:

  • Join a CSA. A Community-Supported Agriculture share can save a lot of money on organic food, and make it local to boot. Check LocalHarvest.org for CSAs near you.
  • Check warehouse clubs. Costco has a lot of organic products for less than grocery-store prices — butter, for instance, is about half the price.
  • Buy in bulk. Whether at a food co-op, warehouse store, CSA or farmer’s market, bulk buys can save big. Go in with friends or family to make a large purchase if you are  meat-eater — a half or quarter beef puts grass-fed or organic meat into budgetary range.
  • Check local vendors. For instance, we have a small market near us that buys odds and ends from other stores and re-sells them. I’ve gotten organic strawberries for $1 a pound and organic salad greens for $1 a bag.
  • Look at clearance shelves. Many markets have clearance sections. Vitamin Cottage, our natural foods store, bags up produce for $1 a bag, which might contain a tomato, three bananas, four bell peppers and an eggplant — all organic. Sunflower Markets, another chain in our area, does a similar thing. The big national chain grocery stores have clearance shelves, too, which might or might not have organics.

What have we missed? How do you maximize your organic grocery budget?

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