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You are what you eat. Unfortunately, a truly healthy diet comprised of organic unprocessed items can get really expensive, really fast. Many argue that organics are too costly, which leads them to buy alternatives. But that’s not necessary. There are ways to save when buying organic. Here are some tips to help you save money on organic food and eat right for less:
1. Look to the Priority Shopping List
Organics are great, but not everything you purchase needs to be organic. You can save money by prioritizing the items on your shopping list. These are the foods that you definitely should buy organic:
- Dairy – Buy organic varieties of milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.
- Meats – Because meats have higher risk of exposure to antibiotics and GMO’s, it’s important to buy organic. Seek certified organic, grass/organic-fed, hormone free and non-GMO diet meats.
- High Risk GMO Crops (Soybeans, zucchini, yellow squash, canola, sugar beets, papaya, cottonseed oil, corn, alfalfa)
- EWG’s Dirty Dozen List (Apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, leafy greens, berries, sweet bell peppers)
- Eggs – Look for those from cage-free chickens that have been fed an organic diet.
2. Turn to the Freezer
Shopping and storing in the freezer is one of the easiest ways to save on organics:
- Buy in-season items in bulk while they’re marked down and then freeze them.
- Store kitchen essentials like cheese, butter and bread in the freezer.
- Freeze leftovers and items you know you won’t be eating soon enough.
- Buy frozen organics, particularly produce, as they’re generally cheaper than fresh items.
3. Use Smart Storage Techniques
Proper storage (beyond just freezing thing) can increase the lives of your organics, leaving them edible for longer. Consequently, you won’t have to make as many grocery store runs. This, in turn, will save you money. So what are the best ways to store your foods? Here are a few tips to increase each item’s longevity:
- Separate bananas before storing, rather than leaving them in bunches.
- Refrigerate raw nuts and flours.
- Refrigerate organic citrus fruits.
- Flip product containers (nut butters, yogurt, cottage cheese, creams, etc.) upside down in the fridge.
- Place herbs, asparagus and spring onions in a glass lined with one inch of water.
- Place bay leaves in your rice, pasta and flour containers to keep bugs away.
4. Buy the Right Brands
Prices vary within the organic sphere. As in, there are certain brands that cost more than others. There are also things you can do to reap discounts or get your money’s worth that don’t have to do with branding. Here they are:
- Buy store brand organics like Trader Joe’s, ShopRite, Kroger, Harris Teeter and Wegman’s – they’re often cheaper than alternatives, but adhere to the same USDA organic certification guidelines.
- Use store loyalty/reward cards whenever possible.
- Return merchandise that doesn’t appeal to you or went bad before purchase.
5. Get Creative with Leftovers
You may be throwing products into the garbage prematurely. Turns out, certain items may have more life in them than we thought. Here are some ways to make use of every last scrap:
- Find recipes that use (seemingly) over-aged foods (like banana muffins with overripe bananas, for example).
- Turn post-juicing vegetable pulp into a smoothie or soup additive (boost fiber content).
- Leftover meat and eggs can be tossed into salads (like this organic egg salad), or baked into casseroles.
6. Be a Smart Shopper
Making smart choices at the store is a basic way to save money – regardless of what you’re buying. When purchasing organics, here are some things to help you shop smarter:
- Buy fruits and vegetables and wash/prepare them by hand. The cost of pre-washed, ready-to-eat produce is jacked up solely for convenience.
- Use coupons when applicable.
- Frozen produce is generally cheaper than fresh options.
- Buy items that are in season, and then freeze them.
7. Purchase Foods in Bulk
Make room to store extras and buy organics in bulk:
- Kitchen essentials should be bought in bulk when on sale.
- When you see “buy one get one free,” take advantage (if you know you’ll use it all).
- Buy from bulk dispensers if the option is available (nuts, oats, lentils, etc.).
- When shopping for a particular item that can be found in a bulk dispenser, bring measuring cups to the store to buy the exact amount.
- Purchase the entire animal and freeze unused portions, or share item with friends.
8. Adjust Your Eating Habits
It may seem obvious, but tweaking your eating habits can help decrease your food spending. Here are some examples:
- Make your own organic coffee or tea rather than stopping and buying it out each day.
- Limit the number of times you eat out at restaurants each week.
- Invest in smaller plates to decrease your portion sizes.
- Swap ½ of the meat in recipes for organic beans or grains, which are cheaper than meat.
- Adopt a vegan diet to avoid expensive organic meats, dairy and eggs.
Practice these tips in order to eat the best foods available, and still have some money left over.
Anum Yoon is a blogger, freelance writer and everything in between. She mostly writes about monies, but also enjoys writing about anything that piques her interest. She created and maintains her personal finance blog Current on Currency. You can follow her on Twitter to check out her latest stream of ramblings. Her interests include emulating her grandmother’s cooking and being a gym bro (Do you even lift?).