These days, many of us are working within a budget every month. Whether you’re single, married, or have kids, most of us don’t have buckets of money sitting around. We have to be smart with our finances, and that ultimately comes down to budgeting, and prioritizing what is important and what’s not. When I got sick a few years ago, health and wellness became a top priority. Which for me includes, eating organic whenever possible. I thought I would share my top 5 tips for eating organic on a budget, since I am on a budget, too! It is possible, and this is how I have managed to eat well while staying within my food budget.
Top 5 Tips for Eating Organic on a Budget
STOP trying to buy everything on your shopping list at Whole Foods
This is quite possibly the fastest way to burn through your food budget. I love Whole Foods as much as the next person, but this is not the best place to grocery shop on a budget. Make a list of things you can ONLY get at Whole Foods and stick to that. You don’t need baking soda from Whole Foods, when Target or Kroger has the same one for $0.75/box. When it comes to those impulse buys at Whole Foods, you know the ones, “Oh, I’ve never seen that flavor of Kombucha before!” limit those splurges to one item.
Further, a lot more stores are jumping on the organic bandwagon. If you have another market you like in you area, start paying attention to prices and see what you can catch on sale. Also, believe it or not, big box stores like Costco have a lot of organic produce and packaged food now. Next time you’re there, take notice of the green colored price tags, indicating that item is organic. Costco is especially helpful if you’re shopping for a family!
Buy what’s in season
Do you know what is in season in January vs June and what isn’t? In the US, and California in particular, we can be oblivious to this because we import so much of our food. You want a blueberry in the dead of Winter? Don’t worry, we just import them from Chile. They’ll cost you upwards of $4 or $5 per little clamshell, but they’re available! Have you ever noticed the specials grocery stores run on produce seasonally? $0.99/lb peaches, apricots, etc. in Summer? Or $0.99/lb mandarins or citrus in January/February? The reason those sales are running is because there is an abundance of that crop when they are in season and harvesting locally. Pay attention to the sales that are running and the seasonality of certain crops. You may have to wait a few weeks or months for what you want, but ultimately your wallet will thank you.
Here is a handy resource to help you determine, by region, what is available and what is not during the various seasons.
Find a local farmer’s market
Farmer’s markets are often much cheaper than regular markets because you’re cutting out the middle man. Plus, the produce is much fresher, and you get to shop what is in season for your area. I make it a priority to go to the farmer’s market every Saturday. And truthfully it has become something I look forward to every weekend! I’ve made friends with a lot of the vendors and enjoy walking around and seeing what’s available. You’ll even start to learn what is in season and what is not (see above!). Once you make friends with your favorite farms and vendors, often they will give you a discount for coming back each week. They are a small business, and often appreciate steady customers. Some states (like CA) are lucky enough to have farmer’s markets year round, others operate seasonally based on the weather. Ask around, and I bet there is a market near you!
Shop at Thrive Market
Ok, now here’s probably my biggest nugget of wisdom ever. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Thrive Market is an online market that carries all of the same healthy, organic, non-GMO packaged/pantry brands you love from Whole Foods, Sprouts, etc., at a FRACTION of the cost. Thrive Market prices come in often $0.50-$3.00 cheaper per item. You read that right, per item! When you start adding up those savings, it’s astonishing. I even spent the time to price compare those items that I buy weekly, and I was shocked. I am on track this year to save over $450 on food thanks to Thrive Market. That’s real money you can save, while still eating the products you love.
Furthermore, they have curated their online store, so you can shop by category – food, home, baby, etc. or value – Gluten Free, Paleo, etc. It is a well organized and easy to navigate site, that makes shopping a breeze! For someone tight on time, this is really important!
Thrive Market is especially valuable to those of you who don’t have access to a large commercial store. Everything is shipped straight to your door, nationwide!
What’s the catch you ask? There really isn’t one! For a yearly membership of $60, you have access to unlimited orders, the full market offering, and free shipping on orders over $49. Because of the crazy savings, the membership pays for itself in 1-2 orders! Joining Thrive Market has been the best decision I’ve made to stay within my budget.
And here’s a little secret – they often run promotions for free items with your order over a certain spending level. I’ve received free high-quality cooking oils, my favorite tortilla chips, even Primal Kitchen collagen bars, all because of their random sales and promotions.
Consult the annual “Dirty Dozen” list
The Environmental Working Group publishes a list every year of the most pesticide contaminated produce. Even if organic isn’t your top priority, I highly recommend using this list as your guide and avoid buying conventionally grown versions of these foods. If you take no other tip from this list, please take this one. Consider the dirty dozen the list to always buy organic when available.