In a perfect world, every item in my fridge and pantry would be organic. But let’s be real. Our family is on a tight budget and we are barely meeting our bills as it is! I believe eating organic is so crucial for our family’s health that it’s worth spending a few extra dollars, but I can’t possibly spend hundreds of extra dollars each month.
These 10 tips and tricks have helped our family still eat mostly organic on our tight budget!
Note: If you are still on the fence about the whole organic thing, I get it. It took me a long time to come around to the idea. And obviously, if your family is in a severe financial crisis getting nutritious food on the table has to be your number one priority. However, I’ve found that a lot of budgets can be moved around to incorporate organic food!
Pick & Choose the most Important items to buy organic
One of the main reasons our family buys organic is to avoid pesticide/herbicide exposure on produce. Buy organic on food items that you consume the outer peel like:
Apples, grapes, pears, strawberries/berries, kale, spinach, peaches, cherries, potatoes, celery.
And buy conventional food for items that have a tough, outer layer like:
Bananas, oranges, avocados, pineapples, kiwis, watermelon.
EWG has a great guide on how to avoid the dirty dozen here.
Buy organic produce in season
I can’t stress this point enough! When produce is in season, there is usually an over-abundance of the crop. This basic supply-and-demand concept favors the buyer and the produce will almost always go on sale. Here’s a great resource on when produce is usually in season.
Also, with online grocery shopping on the rise, it’s too easy to search for produce on sale. I typically type in “fruit” or “vegetables” to the search bar and tag “sale” which tells me which items are on sale. Sometimes when produce is in season there’s barely a different in price between organic and conventional!
Find & join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
CSA’s provide a way for citizens to purchase produce directly from farmers, which cuts out the middleman (usually grocery stores). Most CSA’s provide a community pick up place where you can pick up either weekly or bi-weekly produce boxes, and some even deliver straight to your home! You not only support local farmers but can also score organic produce at a discounted price. Here’s a great resource to find a CSA near you!
Cut out meat for 2-3 meals per week
If you are an avid meat eater and want to tune this out… just give me a minute. I’m not saying you need to completely go vegetarian or vegan, but cutting out meat a few meals a week can be a serious money saver that gives you extra cash for organic products! Let’s see an example here…
What I usually eat: Tacos with 2 lbs. of ground meat (2 lbs. x $4.00 = $8.00)
How I can eat meatless: Tacos with 1 can garbanzo beans & 1 can black beans (2 cans x $1.00 = $2.00)
Now, here’s how much I saved for one meal: $6.00. How much I could save per week: $18.00 and how much I could save per month: $72.00
$72.00!! By switching out meat and adding plant-based alternatives you can seriously save on cash to use on buying more organic produce!
Hunt for wild game
You can’t get any more organic than hunting and processing your own food. We all have that one friend who has his profile picture with a giant buck. Give him a call sometime! Ask if you can tag along and get a crash course into hunting and processing game meat.
My husband usually kills 1-3 animals per year (deer & wild boar) and depending on how we process the meat, it costs us anywhere between $.50 – 2.5 per pound of meat (the higher end if we add anything fancy like jalapeno sausage or jerky). That is a steal when we are talking about 30-50 lbs. of meat!
Join Thrive Market or Imperfect Produce
Thrive Market has over 6,000+ organic & non-GMO food, clean beauty, and nontoxic home products. You are estimated to save close to $400/year when ordering organic food each month! Please note: there is an annual fee so before becoming a member, make sure it’s worth it for your family!
Imperfect Produce: Great news- no annual fee! Imperfect produce picks produce that is in oversupply or misshapen. Basically, it’s perfectly good produce (that now offers organic!) that otherwise would have been thrown away. You can pick your groceries and decide how often you want your groceries delivered.
Incorporate more whole grains & legumes into the diet
This is a big one. Whole grains & legumes are perfect for meat substitution and are only a fraction of the cost. Look at the results of this study published by the University of Oxford. Here’s the gist: “Replacing meat and dairy with a variety of plant-based foods can improve both your health and the health of the planet.”1
Replacing conventional whole grains and legumes with organic whole grains and legumes is seriously not much of a price difference (we are usually talking about a $.10-.50 difference per can or bag).
Reduce your “eating out” budget
Eating out, whether that means going to an actual restaurant or calling in delivery, is a real treat! It’s also crazy expensive when you compare eating out to cooking at home. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, an average of $3,459 was spent on takeout/restaurants/fast food per household per year, while only $4,464 was spent on groceries to make food at home2.
Just try it for a month. Do you eat out every single week? Try every other week. Do you eat out every single day? Try eating out twice a week. Make a small, tangible goal and use that leftover money to buy high-quality and healthy organic food!
Reconsider your food budget to 15-20% of your monthly income
Okay, do you remember that statistic from #8 about how much Americans spend on groceries to cook at home? I’ll get straight to the point: we don’t spend enough of our income on food and choose cheap, bad-quality, and unhealthy foods to save money. We used to spend a whopping 18% of our income on food but now barely spend 10%.
Can you refigure your budget to spend 15-18% on food? I always tell my husband this: spending more on high quality food is essentially spending our money on preventive health care. Choosing fresh, healthy, and organic foods and spending less on restaurant, bad-quality and cheap over-processed foods will help our family decrease our chance of heart disease, type II diabetes, and some kinds of cancer.
Here are some ways to reconfigure your budget:
- Make a budget! Here are some free budget tools from a program I really like called “I was Broke, Now I’m Not!”
- Car payment too high? Trade your vehicle in for a less expensive car. Remember, a car really just needs to get you from Point A to Point B.
- Try reducing your shopping or “fun money” in half.
- Recognize your money weaknesses (is it Amazon? Target? Walmart?) and set a limit on how much you will spend.
- Reduce your eating-out budget. Please see point #8.
- Spend less on birthdays, anniversaries, and special events. Most people will remember WHO was present…. And not the actual present. I started buying my favorite books for kids’ birthdays and drink items for adults (favorite tea, coffee, wine, or beer). Try to keep presents under $15 instead of $50!
10. Use Amazon “Subscribe & Save” for bulk pantry items
Find your favorite tips on how to buy organic out of these 10 and try them out!
- The University of Oxford, (2019). Eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and wholegrains is a win-win for health and the environment. https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/news/eating-more-fruits-vegetables-nuts-and-wholegrains-is-a-win-win-for-health-and-the-environment/
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (2019). Economic News Release. https://www.bls.gov/news.release/cesan.nr0.htm