It doesn’t take an extensive study or a statistician to tell you that shopping for organic foods is going to require more money than buying non-organic. A walk through the aisles of your favorite health food store or specialty market will tell you everything you need to know. Aside from watching for coupons and bulk sales, there are many ways to afford the best foods on a budget.
What do you do when you want to feed yourself or your family in the healthiest manner possible? Organic food shopping is an intimidating venture for the budget-conscious. There are ways, however, to get the most for your grocery dollar and still eat as well as you can.
Read Food Labels
The first step is to understand exactly what you are buying. It is important to be wary of claims made on food labels. Some food claim benefits that look healthy, but may not be telling the whole story. Gluten-free foods are a good example. It may sound like a healthy choice, but some foods that remove the gluten replace it with additives and chemicals.
The best place to start is to search for labeling from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Check for the “USDA Organic” label on the food or packaging, This means that the product has had to meet strict standards to display this seal.
Be wary of labels that claim to be simply natural or healthy. Unlike the USDA seal, these claims are not backed up by any legal standard. There is no standard, legal definition of the term natural. Companies may make that claim based on their own definition, despite what the claim implies to consumers.
Make a Priority List
Once you know what to look for, make sure you fill your shopping cart with the foods your family will eat. It seems like there is a new “superfood” every week. While it is great to try new things, wasted food is money down the drain. If you are on a budget, stick with the foods you know will be consumed. It is alright to add in new tastes, flavors, and textures, but refrain from buying an organic item that is on sale if you or your family is not already a fan.
Stay Clear of Specialty Stores
Instead of looking for the best deals at the specialty grocery store, look for the healthiest foods in the discount stores. Stores that market to the health-conscious crowd tend to charge more than the average grocery store. These markets carry and advertise organic but charge far more than their competition. If you shop in a health food store, try out the store brands.
If you can, shop for organics at the local discount store that sells other items. You will likely find an organics section alongside the other produce and meats. Many budget grocery store chains have responded to the demand for organics with their own line.
Buy Frozen Organics Instead of Fresh
If you have the room to store the extra food, take advantage of sales or organic fruits and vegetables by buying in bulk. Buying in bulk and freezing the excess is a good way to stretch your food budget dollar. Research what foods freeze well. Several vegetables freeze well with minimal preparation.
Green bell peppers, for example, can go from the cutting board to the freezer almost instantly. After a quick wash in clean water simply remove the seeds and chop the peppers as desired. Whole green peppers can be frozen after removing the stem and seeds for use later as stuffed peppers. Or, simply chop peppers up for use in fajitas or pasta sauces and store in the freezer. Organic onions can be stored similarly.
Take a stroll through the local farmers market and look for organic finds. Not only will you help support local growers, but you might find a few great deals. Larger brands have to factor in the costs of storage and transportation into their bottom line. Local farmers have less overhead and tend to offer better deals.
Grow your Own
If growing your own organic food is a possibility, invest in a few tools and start turning over the soil. This might be the best alternative of all. Even when the label says a product is certified organic, you are not there to witness the process from start to finish. With your own produce, you are in control of each step.
Before you write the idea of growing your own organic garden off over space concerns, consider that there are entire books written on the subject. Even in small and limited spaces, you can grow a few organic vegetables to feed your family. Apartment dwellers can grow a few tomato plants in buckets just outside the door.
If you have even a few square feet of yard space, you can grow an organic garden. Of course, organic growers adhere to strict growing practices and standards. Most states have organizations that will help you understand how to get started.
Nearly every shopper can find a way to save money on organic foods. It may take some time and practice to figure out what works best for your circumstances, but the best tip is to just get started.