Friday, February 29, 2008

Budget Organic – How to Spend Less for Organic Foods

Eating organic is great for your health and for the environment, but it’s not always so great for your wallet. But, with these tips, you can eat organic foods without breaking the bank.

Shop at Local Farmers Markets – Unfortunately, this is only possible in certain seasons for most people, but the savings at a market can be great. The food you find is usually much fresher than in the store and therefore will keep longer in your refrigerator, so stock up! HINT: Stop by the market again just before closing. The selection will be smaller, but vendors hate to truck merchandise back home with them, so they may slash prices. To find farmers markets in your area, check

Buy in Bulk - Many natural food stores and co-ops sell a wide variety of foods in bulk. You can find staples such as flour and sugar, pasta, beans, rice and other grains, honey, peanut butter, cereal, olive oil, dried fruits and nuts, and much more. Compare the bulk bin prices to the prices of pre-packaged counterparts and you may find substantial savings. Another plus is that you can purchase as much or as little as you need. No need to buy a big package of a product you use infrequently – just buy a few scoopfuls. It’s also a great way to try out a new item without having to take the risk of buying a large amount - just buy a little bit and test it out to see if you like it. Not only will you be saving money by buying bulk products, but you’ll also reduce the waste of excessive packaging. Many stores even allow you to bring your own reusable containers.

Reduce Processed Foods in Your Diet – Processed foods, whether they are organic or not, are almost always more expensive than foods made from scratch. Use simple recipes to make your own bread, baked goods and snacks to see the savings add up. Skip the packaged frozen dinners and throw together your own stir-fry or other entrée. You might say “I don’t bake!” or “I don’t cook!” but there is an abundance of simple recipes available and once you get started you might find a new hobby! The simple bread recipe in this article is a great way to start:

Buy Online - Organic and natural foods that have a bit of a shelf life can be purchased online.  One benefit of online shopping is that you may also have access to a much broader selection than you can find locally.  One of my favorite places to order is Vitacost.  They have a big selection at great prices and also ship for free on orders of $49 or more.

Grow Your Own – If you have outdoor space, even a small garden can provide you with a lot of fresh produce in the warmer months. Even if you only have a balcony or patio, you can plant some basics in containers (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, herbs) and have fresh produce at your fingertips. Just remember to water them! If you don’t have outdoor space or you want home-grown produce year-round, you can use an AeroGarden. You can grow greens, tomatoes, peppers, herbs and more – right on your kitchen counter!

Buy Direct from Local Farms – Many farms sell directly to consumers. Like food from a farmers market, direct from the farm is about as fresh as you can get. To find farms that sell directly, you can check your state’s Department of Agriculture web site, or try Another way to buy from local farms is to…..

Subscribe to a CSA – A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscription is a way to receive a weekly bundle of locally grown produce and other farm products. In most cases, you pay up-front for a full season of produce. Then each week you receive a selection that is currently ripe and ready for harvest. To find out more about CSAs and locate one in your area, check out

Use Coupons – As organic foods become more and more popular, the larger manufacturers are distributing more coupons to attract consumers to their brands. Check for coupons at the customer service desk of your natural food store. There are also many web sites with coupons available – either to print or to sign up for mailings. A great list of these is compiled here:

By putting these tips into practice, you should be able to enjoy a healthy, tasty, environmentally friendly diet without spending a fortune. If you have any other tips for budget-friendly organic eating, or have any thoughts on this post, please leave a comment!

This article is currently featured in the Festival of Frugality. Check out the other great articles too!


  1. Wow, this is a nicely written article - organic food is one of those areas that often presents a difficult choice because it is usually more expensive than the conventional mass-produced stuff.

    We have a grocery store here in Corpus Christi, Texas called Sun Harvest that specializes in organic foods and general health food items. They offer a good selection of organic produce, sometimes at surprisingly low prices, but overall they just don't seem to have the volume or infrastructure to compete with the dominant supermarket chain in our area, HEB. They seem to be successful in serving the organic niche market, however, and they do have some bulk goods like the ones mentioned in your post. I just wish that their prices on non-produce items could be more competitive, such that we could do more of our regular grocery shopping there without significantly increasing our food-related expenses.

  2. I just found the website, and starting April 1 the stores listed on their site will have coupon books featuring organic items available.
    Thought I'd pass along another source of coupons for people.

    Thanks for the interesting article, it's very comprehensive. I never thought we'd subscribe to a CSA, but once we did, I can't imagine how we lived without it!


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