6 TRICKS FOR AFFORDABLE ORGANICS
Organic is within your reach.
If you have decided to upgrade your health and that of your family by choosing healthier foods, then BRAVO!! But if you are feeling the pinch from tightening your money belt, then listen up.
Money shouldn't come between your family and a healthy shopping cart, and yet for many, organic prices and stores like Whole Foods Market seem out of the range of possibility.
Years ago, I ate all conventional food, much of which was processed and included cheap and fast food. I was sick and exhausted, but I was also on a budget. Today, I am still on a budget, I buy real foods and superfoods, almost all of which are organic, and I have never felt better. But the best part is, I don't spend more than I used to.
How can that be, when organic apples cost fifty cents more per pound, and a gallon of organic milk is nearly double the cost?
If you compare my old shopping cart, full of Diet Coke, low-fat cookies, pasta, baked Lay's potato chips, cheese, crackers, etc., next to the organic versions of the exact same cart, you would definitely see a price difference. However, if you compare my old cart to my new and improved healthy cart, you will see organic produce, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds and other real foods that, when added up, cost the same as my processed food cart, even though they are all organic.
Here are my top 6 tricks to affording organics:
1. Seasonal produce. Anything you buy in season will be more cost-effective, and that includes organic. The farther a food has to travel to get to you, the more expensive it will be. In July, organic strawberries cost only $2.99 here in New York, (and that is in Whole Foods Market, a supermarket with a reputation for taking your "whole paycheck,") while that same container cost $6.99 in the off-season. The truth is, eating seasonally is not only good for the wallet, it's also good for our bodies. Humans are meant to vary our diets according to what is coming out of the ground, not what is available to us 365 days a year.
2. Vitacost, Ebates, Amazon Subscribe & Save. These are by far my favorite ways to save on high-quality non-perishables. Vitacost is an online discount store for everything from Eden beans to Seventh Generation dish soap. Their prices are usually at asignificant savings compared with in-store prices. Ebates is a website that offers rebates for shopping online, at stores like Vitacost, for example. I generally save 4-8% on every Vitacost purchase using Ebates. Since I signed up with Ebates in 2012, I have received over $1100.00 (!) in cash rebates. I know it sounds a little too good to be true, but every 3-4 months, I get a check in the mail. The other service I use is Amazon's Subscribe & Save store (if you currently shop on Amazon, definitely check this out). These items are available for a 5-15% additional discount when you set up an automatic delivery, which can be anything from once a month to once a year, depending on how you set it up. This really pays off for items I use on a regular basis, like goji berries, coconut oil, organic teas, etc. The $28 bag of goji berries in Whole Foods Market comes to $16 through Subscribe & Save.
3. Buy in bulk when on sale. This goes for online and in-store shopping. Even though I might not be out of shampoo, when my favorite brand is on sale on Vitacost, and I have a 10% coupon, plus 4% Ebates cash back, I stock up! This won't work for everything (fresh-pressed juices, for example), but for perishables like fresh fish at Whole Foods, I buy extra and freeze portions for a later date.
4. Plants (even organic ones) are cheaper than processed foods and conventional meat and dairy. Processed foods carry a hidden cost: the price of processing packaging. One bag of chips can cost around $5, and yet it is gone in one sitting, offering little or no nutrition. One bag of organic rice and an Eden brand can of beans costs about the same, and can offer several meals of real-food nutrition. The main reason why my current shopping cart doesn't break the bank is that there are mostly plants and very few processed foods. This transition doesn't happen overnight, so be patient with yourself and take the transition slowly. You don't have to buy everything organic at once. Start with one of these 6 tips and add slowly over time.
5. Use the Environmental Working Group's free Dirty Dozen app. The EWG tests the most highly-pesticided fruits and veggies in the US each year, and compiles a list to let us know which ones are "dirtiest." Commit to buying those in the top 20 organic, like strawberries, apples and spinach, while saving some cash buying the conventional versions of the "cleaner" produce, such as avocado, onion and pineapple.
6. Grow what you can. I don't just mean plant a garden in the summertime. I'm talking about regrowing your scallions and garlic (I haven't bought new ones in ages), use your windowsills as herb gardens, sprout seeds in jars, encourage the dandelions in your lawn, and compost all of your organic kitchen waste (when you lay it down on the ground, you will have a spontaneous organic garden!)
The strategy, as always and with all things, is to add in slowly, and keep your focus on what is working. I started by adding in smoothies, and 15 years later, my entire life is different. Stay focused and remember that you are in this for LIFE - your life - so that you can get the most out if it, every day you have.