Sometimes it’s hard to buy organic when you see conventional strawberries for $2.99 and organic is $5.99. But those seeking organic do so to avoid the pesticides sprayed on conventional produce. The good news is there are ways to save. It just takes a little time and effort.
1. Meal plan. This is crucial to stay on a budget. Be clear about exactly what’s needed including staples like spices and oil to make sure you have what you need for the week. You don’t want to discover later that you are out of olive oil so you run into the store and pick up a few other things not on your list while there.
2. Shop and meal plan around weekly sales. If items you use more frequently are on sale, consider buying more and freezing it. This is great with meats and berries that go on sale less often. I try to stick to a weekly budget but I make sure it all evens out at the end of the month. Also, pay attention to sales trends. You may notice that the first week of the month organic apples are on sale, the next week avocados are on sale, the following week frozen goods are on sale in the last week grass fed beef is on sale. Planning around and noticing these trends can help you better plan and save in the long run as well.
3. Plant a garden. Even some basic things like herbs and tomatoes can help you save. I’m pretty terrible with gardening but I do pretty well with herbs like basil and rosemary. Rosemary can even come back year after year. You can even try an indoor garden.
4. Buy local, like at a farmer’s market. Many small local farms use organic growing practices but just aren’t certified. Getting certification can be extremely expensive for a small farm which would inflate the cost of organic foods. If you get to know your farmer and know they use organic growing practices, then this can be a great way to save on organic foods.
5. Join a farm co-op or CSA. This can vary by market but check out how it works around you and see if this is less expensive than the store. You can ask about growing practices or customize your box around produce you don’t mind getting a conventional version of (like those in the Clean 15 category).
6. Buy a whole, half or 1/4 cow (or pig) and freeze the meat. You can save a lot on meat costs. Of course you may need a deep freezer, but check local sales groups and you will probably be able to find one at a good price, plus you will be able to use it for years to come and freeze soups, meals, veggies, etc.
7. Go super old school and hunt! Fill that deep freezer with venison.
8. Go meatless at least one meal a week (i.e. Meatless Monday). We’ve done this with great success and even look forward to it now. We are a meat and potatoes family, so if we can do it, anyone can! Every Monday we have salads and vary the vegetable toppings we have with it, plus we have baked potatoes too.
9. Buy foods that are in season. Strawberries are often on sale and very inexpensive in the spring into early summer and in the fall and winter are so much more expensive. Apples on the other hand are harvested in the fall and are less expensive then than in the spring. Eating in season, the produce is often more flavorful as well.
10. Buy in bulk (hello Costco) and freeze or share what you can’t use. For example, go halvies with a friend for bulk greens, or freeze half the fresh berries. Instead of prepackaged individual snacks or applesauce pouches, but the bigger bags/containers and use your own reusable containers to make smaller portions.
11. Avoid processed and prepackaged foods, opt for fresh or frozen whenever possible. Stick to the perimeter of the store. Just because a processed food says organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy. This includes buying whole carrots and peeling yourself over baby carrots, and avoiding prewashed/prepared salad kits. Same with packaged broccoli, cauliflower, etc. Doing the prep work yourself will save you money.
12. Use Ibotta for in store grocery rebates. I have use this app for a couple of years and have gotten over $1,200 back in cash rebates, and I don’t use it that often. So use it religiously and wisely and you can really rack up some great rebates. There are actually a lot of good organic /health food options. And it’s free. Rakuten is another rebate app that is great if you shop online.
13. Use grocery pick up or delivery to prevent impulse purchases. I love pick up. I avoid the temptations. Even if there is a fee, you are likely to save overall by avoiding those impulse purchases.
14. Similarly: Don’t shop hungry. Those junk food items are costly and definitely more appealing when you are hungry.
15. Check prices at Thrive or Vitacost (and don’t forget go through Ibotta or Rakuten for cash back rebates). Vitacost often has deals and they allow coupon stacking for most coupons. They have a special section on their website for promo codes on specific products. They often have overall codes (such as 15% off your total order) which will stack with other codes.
Thrive will price match. They are membership based ($60/year), but offer a free 5 year membership to teachers, first responders and more. Use this link for 40% off your first order.
16. Buy the “dirty dozen” produce organic and the “clean 15” conventional.
17. Label leftovers with the date so they don’t go to waste. Talking to myself here too.
18. Freeze produce like berries, or fresh meat (as long as it wasn’t previously frozen) if you won’t be able to eat it before it goes bad. Some leftovers can be frozen too, like soups, or lasagna. Things come up, plans change is it sometimes we may not get to cook or eat all of the meals that we planned. You can go ahead and make the meal and freeze it (especially if the meat has previously been frozen) or just freeze the meat. For ground beef, you can just brown the meat and freeze it to use later in chili or tacos.
19. You can also use leftovers in other meals. Last night’s chili could be a baked chili potato tonight. Leftover chicken breast can be used to make chicken salad for lunches.
20. Check with your local grocery store. Sometimes you can save by buying in bulk. For example, if you buy 4lbs of ground beef, they may offer 10% off the ground beef.
21. This may seem obvious, but shop around. Most stores now offer apps which can make it much easier to compare prices. Also know which stores honor other stores prices. This will save gas money from shopping around.
22. Know which stores have their own organic brands for staples like flour, sugar, bread, etc. For example, Whole Foods has their 365 brand and Publix has a Greenwise. Not everything in these brands is organic so be sure to read labels if you want a particular item to be organic.
23. Learn how to make more food items from scratch. Making bread isn’t too terribly difficult and can’t save you a lot of money. Homemade potato chips are also amazing. Mayo, salad dressing, baked goods, can be made from scratch less expensively than store bought. Granola and granola bars aren’t too difficult to make and taste amazing. There is a season for everything, so even if you don’t have time to make from scratch now, tuck the idea away for the future. You can also make this a fun family activity and get the kids involved when time (and energy) allows.
24. If you have Amazon Prime, you get special discounts at Whole Foods. They have Prime Member Only discounts and members also receive and extra 10% off yellow tag sale prices. I have saved anywhere from a few dollars to $30 each week.