How to Save Money on Organic Groceries
Just over a month ago, my husband and I decided to try going all organic in regards to our groceries. This was not something we planned to do forever, but we wanted to try it out and see if we could feed our family for the same amount of money as we spend on “regular” groceries.
After talking to friends that shopped organic, some research online and a few trips to organic stores, I learned that there are some ways that you can save money on organic grocery items.
Here are 6 of them:
I had never once seen organic coupons before, but apparently they do exist. I actually received most of my organic coupons by contacting companies. I received coupons from Barbara’s, Organic Meadow, Eden’s Organics and more. You can find the entire list on our Canadian Companies That Will Mail You Coupons page.
You can also find printable coupons for organic groceries. Two great sites for those are Whole Foods Coupons and The Healthy Shopper.
2. Only Buy the Dirty Dozen
Have you heard of the “dirty dozen” or the “clean fifteen”? I hadn’t, but research showed me that these items are very important to those looking to save money on organic groceries.
The dirty dozen are the top 12 food items that have the most pesticides on them. If you want to buy organic, but are on a tight budget, these are the food items you should be buying.
The clean fifteen are the top 15 food items that have the least amount of pesticides on them. You can avoid buying the organic version of these items.
3. Shop at Conventional Grocery Stores.
When we were shopping for organics, we tried multiple sources. Farmer’s markets, health food stores, private sales and conventional grocery stores. We found that conventional grocery stores, such at Loblaws, had the best prices for most of our organic purchases.
Produce may not be the freshest you’ve ever seen, because most people don’t buy organic produce at a conventional grocery store, but it is still of great quality and often for much less than you would pay elsewhere.
4. Consider Private Sales
Even though they are usually a bit more costly than a grocery store, purchasing organic items (usually meat, produce and/or eggs & milk) privately, through a local farmer, can be very beneficial.
We didn’t do this in our trial run of organic shopping, but a friend of mine does it all the time and she says that if you order products from the same farmer over and over again, they will usually cut you some type of deal each time you buy. This is a fantastic way to save money on organic food. Especially meat and eggs.
5. Buy Entire Animals
Instead of going to a farmer or grocery store and buying cuts of organic beef, chicken and pork, buy the entire animal to save money. Many local farmers sell whole animals and this is a great way to stockpile organic meat.
It won’t be cheap (especially cows), so if you can’t afford the price tag on one of these animals, ask if friends or family members want to go in on the purchase with you. Alternatively, you can purchase 1/2 or 1/4 of an animal, if the farmer you are buying from offers that.
6. Shop in Season
Only buying produce items that are in season is going to save you a bunch of cash. In season produce is inexpensive and just plain tastes better than the stuff that isn’t in season.
Look for things like tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, strawberries and watermelon in the summer. Look for pumpkins, apples, cranberries, beans and squash in the fall. The in season produce will likely be on the first page of your store’s weekly sale ad (if the place you are buying from has a flyer).
If you’re passionate about only purchasing organic groceries, but are discouraged by the cost of such items, try a few (or all, if you dare!) of the tips above to keep the costs of those grocery items down.
Do I think it’s worth it to shop for organic groceries? Yes and no. It’s really only worth it if it’s something that you believe in. Are organic foods better for you? Not necessarily. Are you being more economical by purchasing organic groceries? Not really.
When my husband I were purchasing organic groceries, we found that everything tasted the exact same as their non-organic friends. We also learned that the amount of pesticide found on most conventional produce was so little that it would hardly affect us.
We now only purchase organic groceries if the price is the same, or better, as the non-organic items (which rarely happens). To support our local farmers, we visit farmer’s markets often.
I don’t believe for a minute that organic and non organic produce tastes the same. The tomatoes, strawberries, etc… All taste way better from our garden. Grocery store tomatoes in particular taste wayyyyy worse than the ones from our garden. I don’t really buy organic in the stores though because it’s expensive. For my baby I try to buy the dirty dozen organic.
Another way to save on organic foods, is to grow your own garden 🙂 Like most fruits or vegetables, they can be frozen for future use.
Fresh local or home grown produce will always taste better than stuff in the store because it is picked when ripe instead of being picked before it’s ready so it doesn’t spoil in transport. I buy local produce when I can and the only organic produce I buy in stores is stuff that is produced here in Canada. Imported produce is gassed at the boarder so even if it was grown without pesticides it still gets a good dose in transport, organic bananas for example are a waste of money IMO because they are all handled the same as the non organic ones. I use the healthy shopper coupons a lot, to buy sauces and packaged foods that are free of the huge amounts of preservatives and MSG found in regular packaged goods. My local independently owned grocery store carries the simply natural line of products and often has the salad dressings and salsa on for $2 each – $0.50 from the healthy shopper and it’s cheaper than what I would pay for Kraft dressing or regular salsa.
Here is a list of the dirty dozen
In my area the organic produce in the stores never looks that great and I wonder how long it has been sitting! The other week I grabbed some .99 broccoli at Walmart. Above it was organic for $2.99. I’d rather eat 3 times as much broccoli for the same price. I have never seen organic cheaper and rarely even close in cost. Could we afford it? Yes, but we would be eating far less variety and right now, for me, the more variety the better nutritionally.
We have a year round farmer’s market here and several summer ones and not an organic item to be found. We found grass fed and finished beef over 3 hours away but bought a half cow. That is for health reasons as cows were not made to eat corn. It is not cheap. I won’t pay the price for his naturally raised chickens though-we bought 2 to try but at almost $7 pound, that won’t happen again. But indeed, they tasted like nothing ever bought in the store!!! One day, hopefully, I’ll find a reasonable source closer to home. We had friends with a large family that had a farm and raised (and sold) a few cows and chickens (and eggs) naturally (except the beef was finished for just 3 weeks before slaughter on corn) in hopes of raising enough money to get their meat free and for years kept us supplied…but sadly they sold the farm and we lost that source.
We don’t eat much in the way of packaged foods so coupons would be of little or no help.
I do think it completely wrong that ‘conventional’ farmers get subsidies while organic do not. It should be an even playing field. And it does freak me out that you can spray round-up on corn, wheat or soybeans and they don’t die…but that is an entirely different discussion!!!
Does anyone have the “Clean 15” List?
I have experimented with organics food as well and found that they do taste the same. In some case VERY bitter (organic blueberries). However produce grown from your own garden does taste WAY better!!! Especially the tomatoes. This makes me wonder if the “organic” produces being sold in stores are really organic at all.
Thanks for posting this, I didn’t know you could get those coupons! I try to only buy organic and it can get pretty expensive. I do believe in it though, so I’ve cut back on other expenses to make sure I’m feeding my family quality food. I mainly buy the dirty dozen and for me, organic does taste way better. I’d love to get more organized and grow my own veggies one day, maybe next year 🙂
I try to buy organic and non-gmo products whenever possible. Living in NL this can be tricky. I always wait for sales on organic cereals (Nature’s Path Gluten Free) and stock up. They go on sale for $3.33 a box, then with the $1 off coupon from the Healthy Shopper it’s a great deal. (I am celiac so it needs to be GF).
Check out Costco – they are getting more and more organics. In the Freezer they have giant bags of organic blueberries for $11.89 (probably cheaper on the mainland) and 100% organic beef burgers -$17,49 for 12 (no fillers – just meat). They also carry Larabars and a Taste of Nature Bars.
Patrol the supermarkets – especially Loblaws – in the last couple weeks organic nectarines have been on sale for $1.46 a pound (way cheaper than regular) and organic apples .96 cents a pound!
Bulk Barn does organic products but I don’t live close to one and the cross contamination is a little iffy for me.
I love organic produce – and I find it does taste better – especially the berries 🙂
I always buy organic when I can. I live in the Yukon and it isn’t always possible with one grocery chain up here. I have joined a organic farm that you pick your own veg and fruit. It is very tasty and way better then the super market. Then you freeze lots for the winter. Up here we also get into groups and order through Horizon Foods
http://www.horizondistributors.com/ you order baking, frozen, canned items in bulk and then you get it for much cheaper then the store. The more you order the more of a discount that you get for shipping. Some of the prices are half of what you pay in our store so it is very helpful. Just get a group of friends together and make your orders. You can split cases of stuff between your friends if you don’t want a lot of one item. We also eat wild meat and fresh fish up here so that helps with the meat bill. Hope this helps. It is hard to raise a family on organic but we live on one income in the north where things are more expensive and we manage, you just have to work at it.
We signed up for a CSA farm share this summer. Its not cheap (about $40 a week average) but the quality is amazing. We get a big rubbermaid bin each week full of lettuce, onions, radishes, peas, beans, etc. Shortly, we’ll be getting corn, melons, tomatoes, etc. as well then into squash, potatoes, etc. I’ve already managed to freeze a large reuseable bag of spinach, peas, beans for the winter. Our organic veg at the grocery store is laughable.
I’ve also started buying eggs from them. At $5.50 a dozen, they are not cheap but they are delicious and so much better for you than “industrial” eggs (http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/egg-recipes-pastured-eggs-zmrz12jjzalt.aspx). I also like that you know who grows your food. I look them in the eye each Thursday when I pick up my bin. They also have open houses at their farm where you can see how they grow their crops and raise their animals. We have also bought both a 1/2 pig and 1/4 beef which we will be getting in the fall.
For my family (with two little kids), I really believe that we should be eating quality, not quantity and with kids with allergies, its easier when you know what’s in your food. (I make all of our bread, cookies, muffins, and now yogurt and ice cream – hoping to try bagels and cheese next!). I decided to make my own yogurt and ice cream when I learned that Canadian milk didn’t have to be used to make these products – I don’t know about you but I don’t want my kids eating hormone laden dairy products from China!
Diane – here’s the link to the clean 15:
I try to buy organic produce especially for my baby. Hoping one day to buy only organic food for my entire family. Weird, but I find that organic bananas taste much better than non-organic ones and they only cost an extra 12 cents a pound. Worth it to me!
As a HUGE fan of Organics, both in food and body products, I can tell you a few things that might shock you! Eating Organic food is more filling! Not that you eat more, or anything, but MANY of the products we buy in the stores are full of additives that our body becomes addicted to, especially MSG and Sugar! Because your body craves them, you eat more of them without thinking about it! I went fully organic almost ten years ago, because at 19, I was diagnosed with cancer! I was really good about it for a few years, and then slacked off; McDonalds, boxed foods, non-organic veggies. After seven years free, I was diagnosed with the same cancer, in the same place, a second time. I’ve gone back to organics, and I’ve been clean for two years! Food is the best medicine, but only if you eat right!
Cancer is caused by genetics, environment and lifestyle. Food is part of lifestyle. Food is only one part and cannot cure cancer alone.
Careful washing of fruits and vegetables removes a large part of pesticide residues.
The dirty dozen is an article on the internet that may or may not contain all the correct information. Caution should be used when taking information from the internet that is not evidence based, and then stating that the article is fact.
The Dirty Dozen is published by the Environment Working Group, a not for profit organization, founded by Cook and Wiles. Do you know who they are? This is an important question.
http://www.ewg.org/aboutThis is a not for profit organization.
This is an organization critical of the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture.
It is a good idea to look at Canadian evidence and Canadian fruits and vegetables that we eat. It is dangerous to get information from a not for profit organization alone without looking at all the evidence.
Don ‘t overlook the value of organic dried beans (Hillbilly beans in Ontario), and other dry goods – flour, coffee, sugar etc. The value of dried beans is great as soaking a batch and freezing soaked beans by the 1 cup measure is an easy way to save on the purchase of any canned beans -organic or not.
Don’t forget the number one rule with organic food from conventional grocery stores: what you and I think of as “organic” is not what you’re buying. There are still a wide range of pesticides that both the US and Canadian governments classify as safe that are used, and the produce is then labelled as organic. You will always do better to 1) grow your own – check out Mother Earth News online, and search for container gardening – ANYONE can do this; and 2) support your local farmers, or even your neighbour with a backyard garden. And there are many beef farmers who will also do special orders, or even sample packs – you don’t necessarily need to order even 1/4 of a cow. You can often find people willing to do 20lb “sample” orders. I also buy in bulk from Ontario Natural Food Co-op; they supply health food stores, and allow buying clubs to purchase directly from them. You have to know your prices, and it’s always cheaper to buy a case than a single item, but the convenience of having things delivered makes it all worth it. There are many, many ways to save money while buying organic. I just don’t think shopping at the grocery store is the way to do it.
I try to buy organic, and grow a lot of my own vegetables and fruit so I know they are organic! I don’t have much of a yard so I only grow what we eat a lot of, peas, strawberries, beans, salad, carrots and spinach mostly.
A site I have found that has coupons for organic products is http://www.couponclick.ca. They don’t have a ton of coupons, but they do have a couple for organic products like Mother Hen organic sorbet.
As others have said, if you can’t buy organic wash your fruits and vegetables really well to eliminate as much of the pesticides as possible. Personally, I try to stay away from packaged foods and try to make all my own recipes. I think packaged foods are one reason cancer is so prevalent in our society and for me the convenience isn’t worth it. I work full time so this is difficult, but worth the effort.
Jennifer I really don’t understand the point you are trying to make about EWG. As far as I know they are highly regarded. Please explain
The whole reason my family is aiming to eat mostly organic is due to GMO’s. They say there is not know health risks but other independent testing done in Europe has proven otherwise and the result are alarming. Especially the link to cancers.
Most, if not all of the produce found in the grocery stores today have been genetically modified. Its pretty sad when you walk into a store and have the choice between a real tomato and a genetically altered one.