How Can I Afford Organic Food?

It seems like anywhere you turn these days, you hear about the latest studies on all the harmful chemicals found in non-organic foods. Whether we’re talking about pesticides on fruits and vegetables, growth hormones in non-organic meat, or chemicals in the packaging, people are getting worried.

But when you’re at the store and compare the prices of the organic foods to their non-organic counterparts, you’ll quickly find that organic foods cost twice as much. And unless you can afford to double your grocery budget every month, you’re probably thinking that eating organic is totally out of the picture.

The truth of the matter is that with some clever thinking, you can actually swap many types of organic food into your usual grocery stash, all without adding much, if anything, to your grocery budget. These techniques are the ones that will make the biggest impact on your bottom line.

1. Rethink Your Beverages

Most households buy a wide range of beverages, but few of them are organic. Sodas, alcohol, and many types of fruit juices (or fruit-flavored juices) can eat up a large portion of the household’s beverage budget. Consider whether you may be able to reallocate those funds toward buying organic milk and some organic fruit juices instead. Supplement with water the rest of the time, in place of all the sugar-packed beverages you used to drink.

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2. Know When to Buy Organic

Getting organic produce matters a lot more with some items than with others. Many foods get coated in pesticides when grown conventionally, whereas others don’t matter as much. Knowing when it’s acceptable to buy conventional produce can save you from needlessly spending money on the organic versions. Some of the best foods to buy non-organic include: melons, onions, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, pineapples, mangos, bananas, and corn. Foods you’ll want to switch to organic when you can include berries, leafy greens, peaches, apples, potatoes, celery, cherries, and grapes.

3. Cook From Scratch

Rather than preparing processed foods, get in the habit of cooking from scratch when you can. Bulk grains and legumes, like bulgur, rice, quinoa, lentils, black beans, and steel-cut oats are quite inexpensive and make a healthy, filling starting point for most meals. Add some vegetables and a little free-range or grass-fed meat and you’ll have an organic meal for the price of the processed stuff you eat or buy at restaurants. You can also prepare extra and eat it for lunch the next day or freeze it for an easy meal next week.

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4. Grow Your Own

Although the initial investment to start a garden can be on the steep side, it will more than pay for itself with the production of delicious, organic food that you don’t even have to go out to the store to get. Greens are especially easy to grow at home and are one of the most important categories of food to switch to organic varieties. Plant your own crops of spinach and lettuce in the spring and fall, and opt for heat-resistant greens like Swiss chard and collard greens for the warmest months of the summer.

If you don’t have the space or energy to grow your own organic produce, consider joining an organic CSA farm. These allow people to buy a share of the farm’s crops and get a weekly or bi-weekly box. You may have to get creative to use the food you get, but the produce is typically less expensive than it would be in the store and you pay a fixed amount every week, which can help with budgeting.