Do you find it a struggle to eat organically and not break the bank? People often assume that eating healthy means spending more money. This doesn’t have to be the case. If, instead of stretching your budget, you can shift your thinking a bit and be flexible with how, and sometimes where, you grocery shop.
Here are my top ten tips for eating organic foods on a budget:
1. buy ingredients, not products
Meaning buy spices, herbs, fresh produce, meat and then create your meals at home. Buying packaged goods or prepared meals is more expensive. The best way I have heard this put is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. If you have favorite pantry items you think will be missed, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making looks like a great resource for making your own.
2. shop at your local farmers’ market
Almost every farm stand that my husband and I have consistently shopped at has given us a discount or thrown in something extra to try each week. Farmers want and need your support and we need more people who are willing to put in the work to grow organically – it’s a win-win!
Check out my Farmers’ Market Guide to learn more about questions you can ask and how to find the growers you want to support. You are most likely going to find higher quality items at the market as opposed to the grocery store, and it’s almost a guarantee that the produce will be fresher if it’s from a local farmer.
3. join a CSA
You can check out Local Harvest online to help you find farms in your area that offer a CSA (community supported agriculture). Joining a CSA allows you to select a nearby farm that you trust (and can go visit!) and eat seasonally for your area. You pay the farm upfront and sign up to get weekly or biweekly boxes of whatever is being harvested at the time.
My favorite part about participating in various CSAs has been enjoying new produce items like Brussel sprout and sweet potato greens. I never thought about eating the greens before receiving them in our box one week!
4. buy in season and stock up
This tip goes along with the second one. When shopping at the farmers’ market, stock up! Most of the produce was harvested within that week and is great for freezing, canning, pickling or the like.
Ask if they offer a discount if you buy a certain amount. If it’s the end of the growing season for that item there is an even greater chance they will slash the price. There have been several instances where we get the last of the strawberries or peaches, and the farmer will give us a discount because the produce is super ripe (meaning it won’t last very long unless you quickly eat, freeze, can or pickle it). In my opinion, the riper the better for freezing and adding to smoothies. Again, a win-win!
5. grow your own
Start a garden! Seeds are very economical. If you don’t have a lot of room, you can start by growing herbs in containers or look into a community garden where you can purchase a plot. A little can go a long way. Here is a great post on how to start and stick with gardening. It is the first of a series that walks you through the process step-by-step.
6. make it yourself
A few examples of this are buying milk to make homemade yogurt, nuts to make your own nut butters and/or milks, sourdough starter and flour to bake your own breads, dried beans instead of canned, etc., etc….
7. buy in bulk when you can
Whole Foods is excellent at offering case discounts. The discount applies even when the food is on sale. Just be sure to tell the cashier when you are checking out that you are buying a case, and they will apply the discount.
We typically buy frozen fruits and vegetables in cases as well as butter (it freezes well). Speaking of frozen fruit – we buy fresh bananas and freeze them ourselves by cutting them, putting the slices on cookie trays in the freezer and then, once frozen, into freezer bags to store (this method works great for most fruit). Frozen bananas usually aren’t as good of a price as fresh.
8. use subscribe and save on Amazon for any items you can
We use this to buy canned tuna, salmon and sardines. At times, we buy raw cacao and cacao nibs online as well. Shop around for the best prices.
9. buy in season or on sale
Plan ahead and check to see what is on sale that week at your local stores, or when you get there be flexible with your grocery list. Be open to changing your meals to get the best price (only use ingredients that are in season or on sale).
10. research your local farms
Read about local farms in your area. Can you volunteer your time in exchange for some fresh produce? Is there a farm that is doing amazing things that you want to support even if their prices are a little more than another option? Get to know the growers in your area, or research so you can become one yourself!
Still not convinced? Check out Wildly Affordable Organic: Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy, and Save the Planet–All on $5 a Day or Less. The author ate organically on a food stamp budget after continuously hearing people talk about how organic was too expensive. I haven’t read it all yet (just as much as Amazon will let me in the sneak preview…does that count?), but I love the author’s idea and message.