Organic foods are undoubtedly better for people to eat; there’s little to dispute that foods without additives or preservatives hit the digestive system better and nourish our bodies with more vitamins and minerals. However, the cost of organic foods/products is often high, sometimes twice or three times as much as “regular” supermarket foods or products. Here are some ways to shop organically and save money:
1. Buy a Freezer to Suit Your Needs – If you plan to eat organically, a good chest freezer will be a must! Decide on the size freezer you need and begin to shop around. Small chest freezers cost around $200. A larger chest freezer is about $300. Compare the needed electricity for the freezer to run and look for one that uses smaller amounts of electricity. You will use your freezer all year. I’d recommend buying as large a freezer as you can afford. As you begin to buy organically, you will want to freeze many items that you either buy in bulk or that are in season.
2. Buy Meat From a Local Farmer – Meat that you buy at the supermarket is full of chemicals, dyes, and often growth hormones. Even meat that boasts “all natural” on the label is often taken from animals who are kept in horrible conditions. To eat healthy, you need to find meat from clean farms that raise their animals on an abundance of grass and hay. Local farmers’ markets often sell this meat but the cost is incredibly high since it costs more to raise these animals in humane conditions. The solution? Find a local farm that will sell you a quarter, half or whole beef, goat, sheep or pig. The price of buying in quantity is always cheaper. You will need to locate a farm and go see it. Check to see how the animals are raised (you should see them in the fields) and talk to the farmer. Usually, you will need to order your meat as much as a year to six months before it is delivered. Compare prices from farm to farm since there is often a big difference. Good farms are clean, and the farmer is willing to tell you how he or she conducts business. Go with the farm you feel comfortable with and if possible, ask to buy a small quantity of their meat before you buy a larger order. At a recent farmer’s market, I saw organic beef steaks for $16 per pound. The same steaks in my freezer (that came from a half cow I purchased from a local farmer) averaged at $3 per pound. The cost savings is often amazing!
3. Buy Freezer Orders of Chicken – The same rule for beef is true for chicken. I buy my chicken in large quantities as well. I have found farmers’ markets to be more amenable to lower cost chicken. To locate a good vendor, arrange to visit the farm and talk with them about freezer orders. Often the farmer will give you a lower price per pound on chicken if you purchase in bulk. Look for chickens that are free range (not kept in coops all day) and that eat grass and bugs along with their grain. Be sure the farm is not using any growth hormones or preservative sprays in raising or processing the chickens. Of course, the best way to get chicken is to raise your own. If you have enough land to do this, raising your own meat chickens will ensure that you know how they are fed!
4. Buy Eggs From Local Farmers – I buy all of my eggs from a lady who raises chickens and goats. She lets her chickens roam her yard. Often when I get to her house, I have to talk to the chickens to get them out of my way so that I can go in and get eggs. I like to see the chickens in the yard; I’ve toured their barn. They are not kept in coops. These chickens are free to roam all day and then go into a shed at night to keep out of harm’s way. Their eggs are gathered two or three times a day so I know that I’m getting farm-fresh eggs. Often it’s helpful if you find someone who sells eggs to let them know how many you’d like a week; they may ask you to set up a weekly pick-up date. This works well. Right now, I pay $2.50 per dozen which is less than the grocery store. Free range, organic eggs are so much healthier to eat. Jordan Rubin, in his book Restoring Your Digestive Health, has this to say about eggs, “Eggs from chickens, turkeys, and ducks that are truly free to roam and eat a diet high in insects and worms, as well as eggs from chickens fed certain strains of algae, contain large amounts of the important omega-3 fatty acids. Eggs from these birds usually contain a ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 acids between one to one and one to four, whereas eggs from battery-raised hens have a ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids of one to twenty. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids are helpful against high blood pressure, heart disease, blood clotting, diabetes, colitis, and inflammatory diseases. So-called battery-raised hens are kept in coops where a light is always burning. This confuses the hens into thinking it is daytime, which makes them lay more eggs. In addition to DHA, omega-3 eggs contain significant amounts of vitamins E and B12, as well as the antioxidants lutein and beta-carotene. By eating two eggs high in the omega-2 fatty acids, you get as much as 150 milligrams of DHA. Eggs are healthiest when they are poached or soft boiled. Frying and scrambling eggs can damage some of the nutrients contained in the yolk. Omega-3 eggs make a wonderful addition to any diet.”₁
5. Buy Necessary Items at Your local Health Food Store by the Case – I discovered that the local health food store in my area (which is very rural) will order almost anything for me by the case. I eat a brand of gluten-free English muffins that are hard to find. Quite by accident, I found that if I order by the case, each package of these that I buy is a dollar cheaper. I also order gulten-free granola by the case now, too, since it is a cheaper total cost. I’m sure that if you know the brands you like, your local health food store can order them cheaper for you. Again, I buy ahead and use the freezer for breads, etc…
6. Shop Online – Shopping online can be less expensive than shopping in retail stores that have large overhead costs. I buy all organic (and gluten-free) toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent and fabric softener, lotions, face cream, pasta, bread mixes, cake mixes, vinegar, vitamins, flours, flax seed, coconut oil, and more online. Many sites offer free shipping and they ship quickly. Online prices are often half of what would be paid in a retail store. I’d suggest buying online as a great alternative for anything that doesn’t spoil quickly. My favorite sites are these:
7. Harvest and Can or Freeze When In Season – Another great way to save money is to harvest fruits and vegetables when they are in season and freeze or can them. During berry season, there are many places near our home where we can pick in bulk and then freeze items. Also, during gardening season, we also buy larger quantities to freeze or can. This year, I have made pickles from our cucumbers, made applesauce from an excess of apples at my daughter’s house, and am making zucchini relish. We have frozen blueberries, raspberries and strawberries in the freezer. We also have frozen fiddle heads from the spring harvest. It is so nice to walk to the freezer and grab veggies! It is also cost effective to do so. Next year, we hope to grow more so that we can freeze or can an excess of vegetables.
8. Grow Your Own Vegetables and Berries – Whether you have a lot of room or just a little to grow, there are many ways to grow your own vegetables. We have two raised bed gardens in our backyard that measure 4’ by 12’ each. They take up very little space. This year, we grew five different varieties of lettuce, kale, cucumbers, pole beans, spinach, beet greens and swiss chard. We had fresh vegetables all summer! It is very economical and healthy to grow your own garden. For the winter, we are contemplating a small greenhouse attached to our house. Even in our cold state of Maine, we have learned that we could grow lettuce all but the two-three coldest months of the year in a greenhouse. We also grow lettuce inside the house in pots. There is nothing better than fresh lettuce! We’ve also started adding berry bushes to our property each year. We are adding strategically to our own land to maximize what we can grow and harvest each season.
9. Drink Fresh Milk – Milk that you buy at the grocery store can also be full of growth hormones and antibiotics. If you want to drink organic, fresh milk, you will have to get this at the farm as well. My milk of choice is fresh goat’s milk from the small dairy goats. It is creamy and delicious! To buy milk at a reasonable price, visit your local farm. We have a setup where I pick up milk every Friday. The farmer knows what I want and saves it for me. I don’t have to worry about finding organic milk. It is cost effective and right on my way home from work!
10. Find Sales – At times, organic food, like other foods, goes on sale. Always check your sale flyer and look for lower prices. I’ve noticed that the gluten-free pasta I like goes on sale at our local market. When it does, I buy several boxes. Sometimes, I can get it cheaper at the local store than I can online. Watch the sales and buy carefully. This can save lots of money.
Like anything good, buying organically requires thoughtful planning and shopping. By planning ahead, you will save money each week that you buy groceries. Keep notes about brands you like and when the opportunity presents itself, purchase in bulk. Having good storage areas in your home is important as well. If you are committed to buying organic, these hints should help lower your grocery bill and keep your body more healthy!
This post is part of Fight Back Friday.
₁Rubin, Jordan S., N.M.D. and Brasco, Joseph, M.D., Restoring Your Digestive Health, Twin Streams, Kensington Publishing Corp., New York, New York, 2003, pp. 254.