I never ate organic before I became sick. I honestly didn’t understand WHY people would spend the money on organic food and I never fully understood the implications of how harmful pesticides and other toxic ingredients could be on our bodies. In 2013, after 6 years of being sick- I decided to go 100% organic after years of research on what these harmful chemicals, antibiotics and growth hormones were doing to my body, especially my gut, thyroid and skin. My food bill shot up and I was spending over $40 a day on organic veggies, healthy fats and proteins. A few of my tips below will help you navigate the organic food stores and farmer’s market to keep you on budget so you don’t blow your bank account. I have put my parents, clients and sister on an organic lifestyle and they haven’t turned back since. They enjoy organic organic produce and grains grown without conventional pesticides and fertilizers that are made with synthetic ingredients. They also enjoy organic dairy and meat, in moderation; these are produced without antibiotics and growth hormones.
- Organic Tastes Better. Yes, it really does and it’s worth the extra money to purchase organic for the taste and nutritional value. Fresh, local organic tastes incredible and is worth spending a bit extra knowing that you will be satisfied with your food rather than eating bland, conventional products.
- Research. Research locations in your surrounding area where you can easily search the term, “Organic” into Google or any search engine to see where you can find organic foods in your local area.
- Head to the Farmer’s Market. Get to know your farmer and ask them about bulk deals; you may be able to purchase their products at a discounted cost. One of my favorite things to do is head to the farmer’s market just before it closes and purchase the last of the goods when the prices are cheaper and the farmer’s are looking to get rid of their supply for the day.
- Try a CSA. Community Supported Agriculture Systems are when you purchase a share in a program that you pay for a portion of a local farm’s operating expenses. In return, you receive boxes of fresh vegetables and fruits weekly. It’s incredibly fresh and is brought to you straight from the farm. The typical cost for a 24 week growing season is approximately $300. If that is too expensive for you, look into a half-share instead of a whole share.
- Buy in Bulk. Buying in bulk is a great way to stretch your dollar and it’s perfect for purchasing lentils, nuts, seeds, grains and beans. The bulk bins in many stores are easy to scoop the ingredients into a bag and you can store these items in a cool, dry place in your pantry. My best tip for bulk buying is to bring along your calculator or whip out your calculator app on your phone to do the math. Not every item sold in bulk is worth it and it may be cheaper to buy a bag of dry beans instead of bulk beans.
- Stick with In-Season Produce. The best time to purchase produce is at the peak of it’s growing season. Check out my Seasonal Produce Guide for tips on when to pick up fruits and vegetables when they are at their prime. This is the best time of the year to bargain with your farmer’s at the farmer’s market because they are usually able to lower their prices because they have such a high quantity of the produce in season. If you have leftovers, you can seal them in a freezer bag and store them for the months to come.
- Start Your Own Garden. Try growing your own organic produce. Check out my Organic Garden Essentials page for my favorite produce to grow in your back yard. Seeds of Change sells great organic seeds and Organic Kitchen is a wonderful resource for gardening tips.
- Off-Season Purchases. When foods are not in-season, look for their cheapest alternative such as the jarred tomato sauce from Eden Organic or their BPA-free canned beans. Start by stepping out of the conventional food store. Whole Foods Market sells amazing organic vegetables that are frozen and are less than $2 a bag. Trader Joe’s stores have a great selection of organic frozen produce, as well. Vitacost.com is my favorite resource for purchasing bulk and dry goods that are organic such as oats, cereal, quinoa, nuts, nut butters, gluten-free flours, condiments and much more. Health food stores, co-ops, farmer’s markets and CSA’s (Community-Supported Agriculture Programs) all sell organic foods at a lower cost than your regular food store where you purchase your necessities. Frozen vegetables and fruits (without any additives) are much more flavorful than their fresh counterparts in the middle of the winter.
- Shop Sales and Store Brands. Whole Foods Market sells their 365 brand of amazing organic products that are so much cheaper than conventional food stores. Trader Joe’s is another inexpensive option as is Abe’s Market and Vitacost.com, which both have amazing organic options that can be delivered right to your door. These brands have to go through the same certification process as the brand names and they are so much cheaper. These house brands can save you money and they taste just as good as the expensive brand names.
- Clip Coupons. Check out fliers in the store when you walk in to make sure you are not missing any items on sale. Another great tip is to search online for coupons from the brand and the stores that you are shopping in. Many brand newsletters such as Crunchmaster Crackers and stores such as Whole Foods Market will email you coupons! Other brands such as Amy’s Organic and Stonyfield Yogurt have coupons on the inside of their packages that you can clip and use.
- Store Safely. Don’t look for the frozen pizzas and processed boxed foods, instead take your in-season produce and place them in freezer bags to store for the winter months. You can also dry your produce in a dehydrator and try canning to preserve the taste and flavor of these in-season foods.
- Ask Around. I always ask my favorite organic restaurants in NYC and when I’m traveling, where they get their organic produce from. This is a great idea when you are traveling to a new city and you are looking for organic food. I’ve found the most amazing markets by asking restaurants in other cities- and it’s a fun way to explore a new area, as well!
- Bring a List. Many of my clients head to the food store without a list and then end up spending a ton of money on unnecessary items that add up each week. Start by making a list on your phone or on a notepad and use that each week. Pick a vegetable for each day and a protein and fat for each day, as well. For instance, Monday can be bok choy, avocado and organic chicken.
- Stay Organized. Track where your favorite (and least expensive) spots for purchasing food are. I keep this on my Evernote app in my phone. For instance, I get my organic broccoli from a corner health food store and my organic lemons from my farmer’s market because they are cheaper at these locations than others. Taking notes and setting reminders for yourself will keep you on track and will allow you to access your less expensive food quicker without having to remember where you found that inexpensive organic broccoli.
- Watch your Budget. Add up your monthly dinners out, cups of coffee, impulse purchases, etc. and see where you are spending money on food outside of your regular sit down dinners, you’ll soon realize how many dollars are going into impulse food and beverage purchases that aren’t necessary. Try to trim that budget each month so you are able to spend more on your organic food for your meals. This doesn’t mean cutting corners on self-love, people- don’t restrict yourself too much- you need to treat yourself once in awhile to dinners out and special treats, but just be cautious of where your money is going each month and analyze your best plan over a 6 month period.
- Start Slow. I start my clients on 100% organic dirty dozen fruits and vegetables since those are the highest sprayed with pesticides and toxic ingredients. I also always recommend (if you can eat dairy)- always choose organic – this goes for milk, cheese, ice cream, salad dressings, etc. and anything else that has dairy in the ingredient list. Organic, grass-fed meat is always the best to purchase, as well because conventional meat is filled with growth hormones and antibiotics that you don’t want entering your body.
For more information on organic foods, check out my Eating Organic: Benefits of Eating Organic page.