Sustainable Saturday - 10 Tips to Buying Organic on a Budget

Over the years I have become much more efficient and economical with buying organic on a budget.  Really most of the concepts I follow are the same whether you are buying organic or not.  The basic principles rely on setting a budget for weekly spending, buying things on sale and at their lowest price, stocking up when items are at their lowest price and using coupons.

10 Tips to Buying Organic on a Budget

1.  Grocery Store Sales

I think this one is pretty self explanatory if you follow simple ways to save money.  When you are buying an item on sale, you are paying a lower price.  Verify when an item is at it's lowest price by monitoring items that you typically buy throughout the year.  This can require creating a stockpile so that you have basics on hand all the time.  You are saving money buy doing this because you are always buying these basics on sale at their lowest price.  Good items to stockpile are baking items, meat, canned or freezer fruits and vegetables, cheese, cereal and snacks.

2.  Research lowest price for favorite items

When I tell people that Whole Foods has the cheapest Organic Kids Yogurt, people don't always believe me.  Because I have taken the time to observe certain prices on favorite items, I know that Stonyfield Yo-Baby Organic Yogurt is always the cheapest at Whole Foods.  In addition to yogurt, I buy Horizon Chocolate Milk Boxes, Olive Oil, Organic Ketchup and Organic Jam at Whole Foods because even without a coupon, that is the cheapest I can find these items in the area we live (Columbus, OH).

Also I want to add that I keep my weekly shopping to two sources, Kroger and the Farmer's Market (except for the occasional Whole Foods or Target trip which is maybe once a month) as to not be driving around to get the absolute best deal.  

3.  Unadvertised Specials


Kroger is notorious for unadvertised specials when it comes to Organic and Natural foods.  It's not uncommon during every trip to Kroger, that I find an unadvertised special.  For instance, several weeks ago I purchased Organic Lundberg White Basmati for $5.29.  These were on sale buy one, get one free.  I also purchased Organic Lundberg Risotto for $2.59, also buy one get one free.  This is a terrific deal on Organic rice and while I don't have the exact numbers, I believe it is even cheaper than buying this same rice, in bulk (20 lb.) with 10% discount from Whole Foods.

4.  Mark Downs 


This probably is my favorite way to save money on Organic Foods.  It's kind of like a treasure hunt and you don't always know what you might find.  I like to grocery shop around 4 o'clock during the week if possible.  Why?  Because usually the produce, bakery, organic dairy and meat departments have all marked down their items for the day due to expiration dates.  Even if something has not been marked down and I notice that the expiration date is within the next few days, I will take it to the meat counter or customer service desk and ask if they would like to mark it down.  Many of these items can be frozen once you get them home, so the expiration date is no longer an issue.

At my Kroger store, I find this to be a gold mine when it comes to Organic cheese.  Because not many people buy Organic cheese at our Kroger store, it often has to mark down these products.  Typically I have paid between $1 - $2.19 for Horizon Organic Mozzarella Cheese which I then I freeze for later use. 

5.  Organic Coupons 

There are multiple ways to get Organic and Natural Foods coupons.  Periodically websites like coupons.com or smartsource.com feature a few organic product coupons.  There are also store coupons such as Whole Foods coupons and Target coupons that will feature organic and natural food coupons.  Probably the best source for these coupons is the individual manufacturer websites.  There are often coupons available for Stonyfield, Seventh Generation, Cascadian Farms, Mier Glen,  Newmans, Annie's Homegrown, Annie's Naturals, etc.  You can find a detailed listing of these featured on my blog. (The link is on the top header as I view coupons as pretty darn important!)

6.  Farmer's Markets


Farmer's Markets are an absolutely terrific way to save on fresh produce, meats and even dairy products.  Not all items found at Farmer's Markets are Organic, however many people argue that Local and Fresh are just as important, if not more so than Organic.  Many times Organic items are shipping across the county or even from another country.  While many local farmer's practice farming that is not Certified Organic, but it's really close.  Not only that, but the items are so much more fresh.  I have been purchasing eggs from our local market.  These eggs will last several months in the refrigerator because they are fresh (just laid) the day that I buy them.  

You can search for Local Farmer's Markets in your area at Local Harvest.

Read about The New Dirty Dozen:  12 Foods to Eat Organic

7.  Local Farmers

Another great avenue for local goods is to contact local farmers directly.  There are many local (Amish and Menonite) farmers that would be more than happy to sell you half a cow, a gallon of fresh milk or some fresh cheese.  We have a local meat vendor that we purchase meat from throughout the year.  Due to demand, this farmer has offered to everyone in our local area, monthly meat delivery through the winter months.  Not only is this convenient and a timesaver, but we know where our meat comes from.  Do you?

8.  Buying Clubs

The Buying Clubs that I am familiar with are primarily Organic and Natural Foods.  United Buying Clubs feature Natural & Organic Foods in Bulk, Frozen, Refrigerated, Grocery, Personal Care, Supplements, Household Supplies & More.  United Buying Clubs has a listing of all the states they currently have buying clubs.  United Natural Foods services buying clubs from warehouses in Georgia, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, and Pennsylvania.

Why join a Buying Club?
In addition to being able to access and purchase high quality natural and organic foods and products and the cost savings available from buying directly from the warehouse, there are many other reasons to start or join a buying club.
  • to get to know other people with similar interests from your community
  • to support organic farmers
  • to be a part of a cooperative food system that is owned and controlled by people who use the products, and to work together to serve your needs
  • to learn new skills, such as using a computer or bookkeeping
  • to revitalize your neighborhood, small town or rural area by gaining access to high quality natural foods and products which might not otherwise be available
  • to learn more about natural food, nutrition and cooking
9.  Buy in Bulk

Stores like Whole Foods offer a 10% discount when you buy in bulk.  They sell items like beans, rice, flour, etc.  Also, websites like Amazon.com offer bulk items.  They can be a great way to save money on Organic foods if you have the storage space to keep them and the ability to plan ahead for what you will need in the coming months or year.

10.  Grow a Garden

This year I've done a whole series documenting our garden.  Even if you only have a small space you can consider raised bed gardening or container gardening to grow organic produce in your yard.  If you have the ability to grow multiple types of produce you may consider freezing or canning for use throughout the year.  This year my goal is to harvest tomatoes from my 12 tomato plants and can tomatoes and sauce.

Want to know more about why you should go Organic?  You should read Organic.org's Top 10 Reasons to Support Organic in the 21st Century.

2 comments:

The Wife said...

Great tips! I've been sharing similar ones on my blog as well. Have you tried using coupons? They are few are far between for Organic foods but they are out there.

Following from Green Friday Follow.

Jacqie @ talesofthewife.com

Symhome mom said...

Yes, using coupons is a part of my weekly routine. I have a page on my blog that lists all the coupon sites that I find Organic & Natural Food coupons. Thanks!