You can poll 100 people on organic foods and I bet you at least 75 will tell you they’d totally prefer organics…if only it didn’t cost so much. And I get it. I really do. It’s easy to think it costs too much when conventional food has been made so artificially cheap. Yes, artificially cheap. Subsidized corn and soy makes up the majority of the grocery store these days (right down to what your cows are made of), and empty calories look cheap until you’ve eaten the whole bag and are still feeling hungry.
But that’s a hard perspective to adopt when you’re just trying to make ends meet. And so making the shift to whole foods ends up making newbies a little intimidated. You’re learning what tastes good, what only tastes good because they loaded it with (organic) sugar, and how to cook grass-fed meat without it tasting like the dry end of a shoe. To couple on budgetary concerns is a lot more than the straw that breaks the intrepid little camels back. It’s the brick wall that camel runs smack into.
But the thing is, it just doesn’t have to be this way. Eating whole foods is substantially less expensive, when you learn how to make the transition. And that’s what I love to do….show people how to baby-step themselves to the goal.
There are literally dozens, even hundreds of ways you can save money on organic food, but here are just a few creative tips to get your wheels turning:
3 Tips to Navigate the Farmer’s Market (and get more for your dollar)
Farmer’s markets can be a great place to start. They can also sometimes be even pricier than the grocery store if you don’t know a few strategies.
First of all, look for the ugly or bruised stuff. They may even have it tucked away under a table. People tend to be drawn to the pretty produce, so farmer’s will sometimes offer the rest at a discount. And since it all tastes the same, why not grab it?
Second, ask if they offer any bulk prices, especially for canning purposes. You can usually find a farmer who is happy to get rid of a giant box of apples at a lower price, simply because you’ve made his or her day a little easier.
Third, volunteer! Ask to volunteer at the market, ask to volunteer on the farms. These places are often volunteer-run, and they sometimes offer bartering for some extra hands to lug the load.
2 Places to Find The Best Deals
Another strategy is to look for wholesale discounts. The first place to start looking for great and affordable options is LocalHarvest.org. This is a large database of farmers, markets, u-picks and more. You can scour through and often find farms that will allow you to pay what is practically a wholesale price or even less, simply because you’re picking it off the vine for them. (Bring the kids along on these! Free labor for you!)
Second, look for co-ops in your area. You can find many of these on LocalHarvest as well, or search out places like Frontier or Azure Standard. In a co-op you’re buying in large bulk quantities – the same sizes the grocery store buys – but you’re splitting the cost with other consumers. You’ll probably need a little extra storage, but sliding some pantry food under the bed is totally acceptable to save moolah, and you might even snag a super cheap box freezer on Craigslist to help you put away the excess.
1 Way to Go Organic for Absolutely Free
I’ve got actually several of these, but this one is not only free, it’s also good for you. We all need a healthy dose of Nature and we all need an even healthier dose of exercise. Coupling those with a bit of a scavenger hunt and you have foraging. Foraging is what the gathering half of the hunter-gatherer ancestors used to do. And it’s still pretty easy, but it’ll take some education. If you can find a local foraging group in your area, start there. They’ll know places to go and food to look for. A second option: check out some foraging books specific to your area from the local library and get familiar with the safest foods to forage for (don’t go for mushrooms without more guidance or you might be taking this hippie thing to a whole new level). At the very least, look in your own backyard for edible weeds and flowers you can turn into yummy salads, or look around your neighborhood for some urban foraging from a neighbor who might happily let you help thin out their fruit tree.
The cool part about this is that I could go on and on. (And if you knew me, you’d know that’s the truth.) There are just so many strategies to make this work for your budget. So, if you’re interested in tons more clever hacks to lower your food bill (and not live off Ramen), check out Making Organic Good Affordable. This is an ebook I put together that’s literally chocked full of dozens more ideas to help you save a few.