Stretching Your Dollar
How To Fit Organic Produce in Your Budget
Organic food is better for your health and that of the environment. But produce grown organically also generally costs more than conventional options, so here are some tips on how to fit organic in your budget:
- Buy whole foods and process them yourself. Whole and unprocessed organic foods are often less expensive than their processed, non-organic counterparts. Carrots are a perfect example: Baby carrots are simply regular carrots that have been peeled and cut into smaller pieces for you. If you don’t mind doing the peeling and cutting yourself, organic whole carrots will often cost less than the non-organic baby variety. The same is often true for organic whole heads of lettuce vs. the bagged non-organic kind, whole organic apples vs. sliced non-organic, etc.
- Buy in bulk. It’s often considered as a cost-saving measure when buying grains, dried beans, nuts, and other grocery items, but buying in bulk can also save you money on fresh or dried fruits and vegetables. Look for dried fruit in the bulk section of your store. Many stores offer organic apples, oranges, carrots, avocados, and other organic produce in bulk bags, which can cost less on a per-pound basis than loose produce.
- Buy in season. Fruits and vegetables are much less expensive when you buy them in season. Stock up during the summer and fall months, when produce is abundant and prices are lower, and preserve them for the winter and early spring months. Canning, freezing, and drying are good options.
- Find a farmers market. They are a great opportunity to buy in season, directly from local farmers.
- Join an organic CSA. When you join a CSA (which stands for “community supported agriculture”) program, you will receive a weekly share of the harvest, and you’re likely to spend much less money on fruits and vegetables than if you bought those items at the store. You’ll be supporting local farmers, and you’ll probably end up with more vegetables and fruits than you know what to do with. Consider preserving them for the winter months by canning, drying, or freezing.
- Buy frozen. If you didn’t have the chance to freeze produce at home during the summer, look for frozen options in the store. Many organic fruits and vegetables are available in the freezer section of most stores year-round and can cost less than the fresh non-organic options. Because they are frozen immediately after harvest, frozen organic fruits and vegetables have nutrient levels comparable to, or even better than, fresh produce that has been shipped hundreds of miles and arrives less than fresh at the store.
- Or buy dried. In the winter months, when certain kinds of organic fruits and vegetables are either unavailable or too expensive, look for their dried versions instead. An additional benefit of buying organic dried fruit is that sulfite preservatives—often used in conventional dried fruits—are prohibited in organic foods.
- Replace processed snack foods with organic fruits and vegetables. USDA researchers have found that some healthy foods, including fresh produce, often cost less than unhealthy foods, such as sweet and salty snacks. To fit organic fruits and vegetables in your food budget, consider cutting out unhealthy sweet and salty snack foods.
Source: 2015 Pesticide Report