How to Save Money On Organic Groceries
You can buy organic food and save money. The major objection that most people have to buying organic is usually the price. In this economy, most people's main concern when food shopping is price, not health, nutrition, and environmental degradation. But buying organic food in many cases is better for health, nutrition, and the environment. If you follow the suggestions outlined in this hub, you can have the best of both worlds; organic food, and cheap price.
Why buy organic? In the United States, conventionally grown food is often produced with the aid of large quantities of synthetic pesticides. These pesticides, some of which are harmful human health, leave residues on conventional produce and are ingested when eaten. Some synthetic, chemical pesticides persist in the soil and contaminate streams and lakes through run off. Another concern is the development of pesticide resistant genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which are created by inserting genes into the DNA sequence of vegetables and recombining their DNA to create a patented seed variety. The jury is still out about the health and environmental effects of GMOs. Organic farming however, does not use harmful synthetic pesticides, or GMO seeds. In addition, several studies have shown that organic produce is usually more nutrient dense that the same type of conventionally grown produce. USDA certified organic products are grown without the use of dangerous synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Products with a reputable third party organic certification in addition to the USDA seal are even better.
The first thing to consider when trying to save money on organic food, is that certain conventional vegetables are grown using much less pesticide than others, and are non-GMO. Each year, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group tests conventional produce for the level of pesticides present. Environmental Working Group publishes the test results in its annual shoppers guides, which includes a list of the cleanest and dirtiest conventionally grown vegetables. If price is a concern, you might take a look at this resource and only buy the most contaminated types produce organic rather than buying all of your food organic. Apples, celery, and sweet bell peppers are at the top of the dirty list for 2012. (You can read the entire report here.)
Chemical pesticides tend to bio accumulate up the food chain. If an animal ate GMO corn grown with synthetic pesticides, the pesticides will be present in the animal's milk and meat. For this reason, its a good idea to buy organic dairy and meat products when possible. When you are shopping for organic meats, consider buying a less popular cut of the same type of meat, which may be cheaper than a more popular cut. An example would be buying organic lamb steak rather than lamb chops.
The two best options for obtaining organic produce and saving money are shopping at a local farmer's market, and growing your own vegetables. There are some caveats to both of these however. Check if your local farmers market offers organic vegetables. You can get to know farmers and ask about how they produce their food. In some cases you may be able to find information online or even tour the farm. I have no illusions as to the fact that price gauging goes on by unscrupulous organic farmers, though this is by no means universally true. One example of this is that in some major cities, weekly farmer's markets in wealthier neighborhoods will see higher prices than those in less wealthy nearby areas of the same city. So shop in less wealthy neighborhoods in your city if possible.
Growing your own organic vegetables is a great way to save money on food. While there are some costs associated with starting and maintaining a garden, the price of several vegetable plants are often the same, if not less, than buying just one pound of the type of vegetables the plants will eventually produce. You can even have multiple or continuous harvests of some organic vegetables, and save the seeds for future years. Best of all, you control the growing conditions and the decision to apply any pesticides to your plants.
Neither the farmer's market or grow your own option is available in colder regions during the winter. In some areas in winter, supermarkets have a monopoly on organic produce. Places like Wholefoods are notoriously expensive. Shop around for better prices at local organic co-ops or less expensive supermarkets. One advantage that big-box supermarket chains and wholesale clubs have, is that they are sometimes able to pass along discounts they receive from buying in bulk. Be sure to take advantage of a coupons or deals on organic food which may bring the price down. Some cities like Philadelphia and New York offer year round buying clubs, which offer organic local produce to members even in winter. In theory, locally produced organic food should be cheaper than supermarket organic food, because it does not have to be transported long distances.
Recently, some online grocery companies have broken local and supermarket monopolies on organic food. Green Polka-dot Box (greenpolkadotbox.com), guarantees the lowest prices on organic produce and ships it to your door. Sites like freshdirect.com also ship groceries to your house and offer organic food at competitive prices. You can also order non-perishable organic groceries at a discount from online vitamin retailer sites like vitacost.com.