10 Money-Saving Tips for Buying Organic Foods
Kelly Hancock, author of 'Saving Savvy: Smart and Easy Ways to Cut Your Spending in Half, and Raise Your Standard of Living … and Giving!' shares tips for buying organic foods without draining your wallet
By KELLY HANCOCK
Eating Organic on a Budget
Organic eating is becoming less of a trend, and more of a lifestyle. As a money-saving expert, I’m often asked if it’s possible to save money while pursuing a healthier, organic menu. My answer to that is a resounding "Yes." You can save money and even use coupons when shopping for organic options. Admittedly, saving is a bit trickier when choosing natural foods, but it is still doable. Check out these ten tips and you’ll be on your way to healthy living -- and healthy savings!JASON TODD/PHOTODISC/GETTY IMAGES
Cook by Ingredient
When it comes to meal planning, I cook based on ingredients, not recipes. To make this quite easy, use the Ingredient-Based Recipe Index on my website Faithful Provisions. See what you have on hand and search my recipes to come up with meals that your whole family will love. Even if you don’t have a stock of ingredients on hand, you can still use the ingredient-based method by scanning the grocery store sales flyers, and planning your meals according to what is currently on sale. Plan all your meals around the best-priced ingredients.BRIAN HAGIWARA/FOODPIX/GETTY IMAGES
Use Your Freezer
Your freezer can help lower your food costs like nothing else. Flash-freezing is one of my favorite methods for storing fresh produce, meat and baked goods until I am ready to use them. It’s pretty simple:
1. Dice the vegetables or fruits, cut up meat into portions and slice or separate baked goods.
2. Place on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet.
3. Place in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours on sheet pan.
4. Once frozen, transfer to freezer bags. (Always double bag them.)
In one particularly well-watered week, our garden produced more peppers than we could eat. So I just diced them up and put them into freezer bags to use later. Flash-freezing freezes each piece separately instead of freezing them into one big lump. Fruits will be at their lowest prices during their growing season, so stock up and freeze them to enjoy all year long in smoothies!EVAN SKLAR/FOODPIX/GETTY IMAGES
Know Your Organic Coupon Sources
There are coupons available for natural and organic items online and in the weekly Sunday coupon inserts. At Faithful Provisions, we have a page of manufacturers’ and couponing websites where you can print and request coupons for organic and all natural products. Pair those with store sales and markdowns and you can really stock up. Over the last several years, my family has started incorporating organic options into our menu, and we didn’t have to increase our budget significantly. If you are going all organic, that might change, but if you are doing a little here and there, you can fully expect to save while couponing.PHOTODISC/GETTY IMAGES
Use Coupons Strategically
More and more, I’m seeing coupons for organic products. They are out there! You will save the most money when you pair coupons with a store sale. This way, you get the store’s lower price, plus you get a greater cost reduction by using a coupon. If you can stack a store sale with a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon, then you will be making your purchase at the absolute lowest price. Keeping your coupons and their expiration dates organized is the key to strategically using those little slips of paper to save big on your grocery bill.JACK STAR/PHOTOLINK/PHOTODISC/GETTY IMAGES
Plan Meals in Advance
It is critical to create a meal plan before you head to the grocery store. It can be as simple as knowing what meals you will be making, instead of just shopping for whatever your mood dictates. Meal planning answers the “What’s for dinner?” question, but it also answers the “What am I shopping for?” question that comes first. By having a meal plan, I have peace of mind, feel better about what I will be eating during the week, and save so much time. Meal planning keeps me from just wandering the aisles of the grocery store and backtracking the whole time I am there. And the biggest benefit is that there is no stress at dinnertime!JAMES BRAUND/DIGITAL VISION/GETTY IMAGES
Shopping for cucumbers in December will always be pricey! You’ll find the best deals on organic produce when it is in season. Use the free Seasonal Produce Template on Faithful Provisions to determine which fruits and vegetables are in season. By stocking up on what’s in season and on sale, you can plan your meals accordingly. For example, in the fall, pick up apples at a local apple farm or the grocer’s. Enjoy apple-based recipes like Apple Pie, Carrot Apple Muffins and Slow Cooker Apple Butter.BEN BLOOM/DIGITL VISION/GETTY IMAGES
Compare Bulk Prices Online
Find the best prices on prepackaged snacks, organic varieties, and even produce when you price match online. The best shopping strategy for a wholesale club is to purchase items there that you typically don’t see featured on sale, or that do not offer coupons. (Think: gourmet coffee and cheeses, produce, organic products, nuts and dried fruits.) After purchasing in bulk, dole out smaller portions into zippered snack bags. Packing your own snack-size options not only cuts down on spending, but it provides you with healthy, ready-to-eat snacks.PHOTOALTO/I. ROZENBAUM & F. CIROU/GETTY IMAGES
Shop the Sales
Most grocery stores now offer weekly sale prices on organic produce and meat. Check the weekly sales flyer for the featured organic deals, and buy enough of the item to last you until the next sale. (A normal sales cycle is three to four months.)ECO IMAGES/UNIVERSAL IMAGES GROUP/GETTY IMAGES
Cook from Scratch
I think that we shy away from cooking from scratch because we think it is going to take longer than it actually does. I love to cook, but I really love the savings I get when I make my own healthier alternatives to the convenient, pre-packaged foods that are readily available. Ease into cooking from scratch by starting with something simple, like my Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins or Homemade Pizza Sauce. You’ll avoid the extra costs of pre-packaged food and the extra preservatives and higher sodium content that go with it.K&G/NEOVISION/GETTY IMAGES
Grow a Garden
Growing herbs and vegetables in your backyard or patio garden is a great alternative to paying the price of organics. If the concept of planting a full garden is daunting or expensive, try this neat little trick to get you motivated: If you don’t use the white ends of your green onions, plant just that part in dirt or a glass of water. The green ends will re-grow—fast! In my experience, it has been at least an inch a day! I always have them on hand, and at $1 a bunch, I'm also saving money. No green thumb required.
Food Expiry dates 101: How Long to Keep Spicy & Pantry Staples
Food Expiry Dates: How Long to Keep Dairy, Milk & Eggs
Dairy Free Substitutes: Milk Intolerance and Vegan Recipes with TofuKKGAS/VEGA/GETTY IMAGES