Growing up I was fortunate enough to have my grandmother living with us, and she taught me the importance of whole foods. As a child, I spent hours with her in the gardens growing every type of vegetable you could think of. We had so many extra fruits and veggies that I even had my own little farm stand, selling cucumbers for ten cents at the end of our driveway. Now that I live in a city I recognize how fortunate I was to have this food in abundance. Food is expensive, and food/nutritional deserts are a real thing. Organic and clean food, in particular, are even more expensive, but you can find a way to include them within your budget.
note: I do have referral links below for the apps that I love using
You can shop organically and clean on a budget; you just need to know where to begin. Organic foods are foods that don’t use chemicals and pesticides in the process of growing the food. If it’s a chemical that is made to kill pests, it’s a safe idea to avoid the consumption of these chemicals. I do my best only to eat things that come out of the ground, and if it’s in a box and has preservatives, I will pass it up. Before you head out looking for deals on organic and clean food you need to know the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen. These are the foods with the ones that have the highest and lowest amount of pesticide usage. With the dirty dozen, these are the foods that you should worry about most when purchasing organic, and the clean fifteen are the ones that you can buy “conventionally.”
The Dirty Dozen:
-Sweet Bell Peppers
Think about what grows on trees and vines. These will typically have a higher pesticide yield.
The Clean Fifteen
So now that you know which foods you should worry more about buying organically and which you don’t need to, we can sort out how to buy within your budget.
Constructing your meal plan and shopping list around the seasons is key. When buying in season, certain foods will be cheaper than when they’re out of season, simple right? There’s plenty of seasonal food availability charts, and you can even find them specific to your region. In addition to paying attention to seasons, also pay attention to what’s going on as far as weather in regions. Droughts and other factors can harm crops, changing the supply of the produce and then increasing the price. Sometimes you’ll see signs in your local store that notify you when prices have increased due to changes.
When shopping, pay attention to what you’re paying. Write it down or take a picture if you need to. Surprisingly Whole Foods produce sometimes is cheaper than the produce at Wegmans or vice versa. Both stores offer local options as well as organic. I’ve found that in my community if Whole Foods isn’t cheaper it’s on par with Wegmans. Another thing that I consider is if I need say strawberries and they don’t look so great at Wegmans, I’ll head to Whole Foods because often their produce is a little better looking. At least in my community, the Wegmans is always super packed, so a lot gets picked over, I’ve never seen the Whole Foods packed. Now I’m not saying shop at either Wegmans or Whole Foods; these are just the two stores that I go to, you can do this with any stores near you. Paying attention and comparing is just key.
Farmers Markets and Co-Ops
If you’re lucky enough to live in a community that has farmers markets, I would really encourage you to go! Sometimes they are expensive, but you have to know when to go. I recommend going in the last hour before they close because that’s when prices are slashed as people try to push the produce out. When I lived in Allentown, the farmers market was only three days during the week. So on that last day, at the end of the day, you could get produce so cheap. I remember buying containers of blueberries and strawberries for a dollar each. Farmer Co-ops are really great if you have some money saved up already. They benefit the farmers, the consumers, and our world. Cooperatives differ from area to area but have the same basic framework. Farmers will pool their resources together to help each other and when you buy into the co-opt you’re paying up front for food you’ll receive later in the season. Paying up front helps farmers pay for the costs that the season will bring and then throughout the season you’ll receive boxes of produce. Depending on the co-opt you can pick up boxes weekly or monthly. Buying through a co-opt is similar to buying in bulk which saves money in the long run.
Frozen vs. Fresh
When you can, save money by buying your fruit and vegetables frozen. When food is frozen they’re done son at their peak ripeness and maintain their nutrients. You won’t want to purchase everything frozen but if you’re someone who loves to make smoothies, it will absolutely be cheaper to purchase a bag of organic frozen strawberries rather than fresh. You can even buy frozen spinach and greens for your smoothies. I personally love buying bags of frozen veggies that I can easily steam. They’re usually about 99 cents a bag which will last for two to three meals.
So where in the world can you find coupons for organic foods? Well if you shop at Whole Foods, right when you walk in there’s a coupon book available to you with great deals. Another way to find coupons though is through company and manufacturer websites. This includes fresh produce websites! When you go on to their web page you can typically find a newsletter sign up form and when you sign up you usually get a coupon immediately and every so often when they send out newsletters. So you’re not filling up your inbox, make an email account specifically for shopping. Driscoll’s is a really great company for coupons, I’m always getting emails with money off of fresh strawberries(including organic!).
There are so many shopping rebate apps out there now. Most of the time the offers on these apps are for sugary cereals and things that aren’t so healthy, on occasion, I’ll see yogurt featured. Weekly they do offer one or two rebates for select fresh produce. What’s nice though is that it won’t be specific to a brand, you can just select celery and pick out whatever celery you prefer. On these apps you do have to accumulate a minimum of $20 in savings and rebates before you’re able to transfer funds to your bank to be sure to check the apps and save your receipts!
Save Your Food
This doesn’t help with shopping but it will save you from wasting your money. Look into the proper ways to clean and store your fruits and vegetables to keep them fresh the longest and ways to revive sad looking food. An example is that you can stick wilted romaine lettuce, kale, and spinach (really any green) into an ice water bath and they’ll perk up as good as new! Try it out! I didn’t believe that it would work either! I also tend to freeze basically anything and everything if it looks like it’s going to spoil before I can eat it. Think bananas, any fruit, greens, and even bread! I’ll chop up fruit and peel bananas before freezing so they’re easy to throw into the blender to make a smoothie. I also freeze my spinach, sometimes I’ll do it whole, other times I process it in a blender and then freeze in ice cube trays.
There are ways to stay within your budget while eating healthy and organic, we just need to get a little more creative. What are your favorite ways to save when shopping?
Oh Darling Shop Smart