Organic food is popular in America. As of Spring 2017, approximately 55 million people were purchasing some form or organic food, representing a 37 percent increase over a five year period. As stores like Whole Foods came to previously untapped markets and more grocery chains released their own organic lines, finding organic food has also become easier. Most people try to buy organic as a means of avoiding harmful chemicals, like pesticides and herbicides. However, not everyone can buy as much organic meat and produce as they like, largely because of the higher cost. Some feel there is no such thing as cheap healthy food.
One survey showed that organic food was around 47 percent more expensive than conventional options. If you are dealing with a tight budget, that level of price difference might seem unmanageable.
Luckily, there are ways to save on organic foods, allowing you to create cheap, healthy meals at more affordable prices.
Focus on Whole Organic Foods
Convenience foods are almost always more expensive than their whole food counterparts, including if they are organic. If you want to keep your grocery bills under control, then removing processed and junk food from your diet is wise.
When you shop, focus on the basics first. This includes fresh or frozen produce, meats, dairy, and whole grains. The less processing that is involved, the better, both from a health and a financial perspective.
Consider Store and Name Brands
The standards for organic are the same regardless of whether the product is a store or name brand. That means, when buying organic is a priority, you should consider all of your options.
Examine each product and look for the price per unit. Then, see which brand and size gives you the best deal. You may need to do a little math to get the price per unit if it isn’t on the price sticker. But, if you use the calculator on your smartphone, comparison shopping is pretty straightforward.
Make sure to take any coupons or sales into consideration when doing the calculations. If you’re getting a discount on one item, a factor that in when determining the price per unit. Sometimes, a store brand will beat a name brand, even if it’s on sale or you have a coupon. However, it can easily work the other way around too.
Shop Store Sales
Organic foods go on sale just like any other item, so you can save a bundle if you shop sales. Review flyers from your local stores and see which organic items are available at a lower cost. Then, pass your weekly menu on those items.
Many chain grocery stores also have apps that help you track sales. You may need to sign up for a loyalty card to get the best deal, but it can be worth the effort.
If you find an especially great deal, like a loss leader, consider buying in bulk if the items are non-perishable. Grocery prices usually cycle about every six weeks, so purchase enough cheap healthy food to tide you over until the food goes on sale again.
Keeping a price book can help you identify loss leaders and lowest sale prices. Record the prices of items you buy and regularly use every week you shop, giving you a reference to check to see if a sale price is genuinely actually a good deal. This ensures that you don’t get duped by an advertisement that suggests the food is on sale when it actually isn’t a great price.
Get Coupon Savvy For Cheap Healthy Food
Large-scale organic food producers release coupons like most other companies, and grocery stores may create their own coupons to promote specific items, including their store brands.
In most cases, spending a few minutes a week online and with coupon circulars can be worth it. You also want to check the packaging of any organic foods you buy to see if there is a coupon on or in the box.
Join a CSA
Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, arrangements can help you get fresh, local, organic food at discount prices. When you join, you purchase a “share” of the farm’s products, most commonly produce.
Usually, you’ll get weekly or biweekly deliveries that consist of whatever is in season from that farm. You can generally review what products they provide in advance as well as delivery schedule estimates.
It’s important to note that CSAs usually only run for part of the year, depending on where you live. Additionally, not every CSA is organic, so you’ll need to track down one that meets this standard. Prices and required commitments also vary dramatically, so read the fine print to make sure a particular CSA is a good deal.
Learn When Organic Matters
Certain foods require higher levels of pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals when grown organically than others. For example, non-organic meat is more likely to contain antibiotics, growth hormones, and other chemicals than organic variants.
In comparison, some produce naturally repels insects and aren’t as susceptible to disease, so they need fewer chemicals. Cleaning or peeling specific vegetables and fruits can also significantly reduce your exposure to pesticides.
If you can only afford cheap healthy food, focus on organic food with the highest cost benefit. This can include meats, dairy, spinach, strawberries, grapes, and other items that tend to test high for pesticides. Then, buy conventional versions of “clean” produce, like avocados, cabbage, onions, and cantaloupes.
Do you have a tip for cheap healthy food so you can create, great organic meals? Tell us about it in the comments below.
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