Higher prices of organic products are still a deterrent for many shoppers. These expert tips can help you fit organic into your budget.
Organic Advocate: Melinda Suelflow, campaign assistant, Organic Consumers Association
- Consider hidden costs of conventional.
Buying organic may be more expensive for the individual at the grocery store checkout line, but it can save money in the long run. Nonorganic and processed foods can carry environmental costs like pollution and runoff from pesticides and herbicides, as well as potential health effects.
- Prioritize certain foods.
The Organic Consumers Association and the Environmental Working Group offer lists of the more important foods to buy organic. Start with organic produce like apples, green beans, peaches, and other items that you don’t peel or that have soft skin. Eating fewer animal products, especially steak, also can be cost-effective; vegetables, beans, and greens are much cheaper nutrient sources.
- Buy in bulk.
Local food co-ops often have bulk bins or bulk-food packages. This can save a lot of money because you’re reducing packaging costs and buying in large quantities.
Nutrition coach: Kristi Willis, founder, Ditch the Box, Austin, Texas
- Set goals and plan ahead.
Start by deciding what your goals are, and then look through your pantry, fridge, and freezer for foods you could replace. Next, investigate which organic brands your local stores carry. If a reasonable organic option isn’t available, read labels carefully to find an acceptable conventional solution.
- Choose fresh over processed.
You can quickly make a flavorful, fresh, delicious, and wallet-friendly meal if you budget your time. One trick is to portion food like meat and fish into small freezer bags so that you can thaw the right amount, minimizing waste. Also look for organic frozen-meal options.
- Break down the misconceptions.
Fuel prices have driven up food prices, evening out the cost difference between grocery stores and farmers’ markets. Organic options—and even bargains—are more plentiful as more people are picking organic over conventional. Both supply and demand are driving down organic’s costs.
Sustainability educator: Ed Wilmot, chairman, Greenville Organic Foods Organization, Greenville, S.C.
- View it as prevention.
If I were to distill down a message that’s simple and clear to people, it would be to think about Hippocrates, who said, “Food is our medicine.” Healthier, cleaner food translates to healthier lifestyles.
- Grow your own food.
Contact your community garden or local master gardener for advice on getting started. Don’t worry about planting a big garden; if you want, just create a small one on your windowsill.
- Know where food comes from.
I live on a very small budget. I certainly buy organic, but do I buy everything organic? No. Prioritize by researching how your food is grown.