Making the decision to eat organic foods can put a real strain on your family’s budget. The costly price of eating healthy has found many families in a predicament. Which foods should you buy organic? Where will you get the best bang for your buck?
Here are a few tips to help you keep your budget in check while choosing the right foods for your family.
- Visit your local farmers’ market. You can get fresh organic eggs, fruits, veggies, milk, and sometimes meat, while at the same time, supporting your local farmers. The price tends to be less than the grocery store down the street.
If you have to shop for eggs in the grocery store, then buy organic. I haven’t been sold on the “cage-free,” free-range,” or “all-natural” yet. I’m not confident that those terms are closely regulated. Therefore, if you are buying anything else than conventional, get organic.
- Peel = save your money. Don’t spend the extra money on foods that have a skin that you’ll peel and toss. Foods such as avocados, grapefruit, oranges, or bananas are probably not the ones to break the budget by buying organic.
Apples, pears, grapes, strawberries, or blueberries are the ones that you’ll want to buy certified organic.
- White and refined = save your money. Instead of spending the extra money on organic white bread or rice, just purchase the regular brown rice or whole-grain bread. Splurge on organic fruits and meats rather than grains. Exception: corn. You'll want to buy organic corn products since also means that the corn is non-GMO.
- Save by buying store-brand organic. A lot of chain grocers are stocking the shelves with their own label of organic products. Many of these big-box stores are partnering with local farmers who are pledging not to use growth hormones, pesticides, or antibiotics. The store-brand will typically cost less.
- Save on organic protein with other options. Consider establishing a meatless meal (or two) every week since pound-per-pound, organic animal protein is more expensive than plant-based protein.
When purchasing organic meats, organic chicken is nearly always cheaper than organic red meat or pork. An alternative option to organic red meat is grass-fed. Make sure you don’t let the “all-natural” labels fool you; animal meat is, per se, natural. Smaller cuts of beef (like beef tips for stew or ground beef) will be cheaper than premium cuts.
To help stretch your budget even further, buy the whole chicken. Roast the chicken, and use the meat for two or more meals, plus use the carcass to make stock for soup! A $15 organic chicken now only costs $5 per meal.
A final note on fish protein: don't waste your money on purchasing fish that is labeled as "organic". There is no such thing as organically-grown wild seafood. The diet of wild seafood can't be controlled since they eat wild fishy creatures, so just buy wild-caught labeled seafood.
- Skip bagged lettuce and vegetables. You’ll pay more for having your lettuce washed and packaged ready to eat. For the same price or less, you can grab a whole head of organic lettuce, and you’ll get more for your money. If you have kids, they can help wash the greens and help you prepare your meal.
- Visit the freezer aisle. When $6 per pound of organic strawberries is not in your grocery budget, visit the freezer aisle and purchase frozen strawberries at around $3 per pound. Frozen fruits and vegetables are nearly always picked at their ripest, that means you are getting the juiciest and most delicious fruit and vegetable! Frozen berries (of any kind) are great to make smoothies, baked goods, sauces, or jams! Organic vegetables like broccoli, peppers, cauliflower, or zucchini, are often cheaper frozen. Bonus: frozen organic produce often goes on sale while fresh organic does not.
An important thing to remember that you are going to pay more for packaging and convenience; and oftentimes, fresh organic food is not always more expensive than the conventional convenience items you are already purchasing. If you want to stretch your money further, try a meatless day and/or a breakfast for dinner once a week.