15 ways to save money on organic food
Do you think buying clean and healthy foods is expensive? And is it keeping you from following a clean diet? Eating clean and wholesome foods does not have to be expensive. Follow these 15 easy ways to save money on organic food and stay on track with your health goals.
1. Buy in bulk
Any food that is a staple in your kitchen is significantly cheaper when you buy it in bulk. Here are a few examples of what I like to buy in bulk.
• Grains and pseudo-grains, like brown basmati rice and quinoa
• Household products like detergent or toilet paper
• Nuts and dried fruits
• Frozen berries
• Beans and lentils
• Alternative sweeteners, like coconut sugar or agave
• Super foods like chlorella or maca
2. Open up your mind to new or forgotten foods
We love to experiment with buying foods we don’t know much about or have little experience cooking with. Root vegetables, for example, are very affordable and generally available in winter. Think of commonly known root vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes but also turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, salsify and burdock.
3. Shop less
We do groceries once a week and buy enough for the whole week. If you buy food more frequently, you usually spend more money and tend to add items to your grocery cart that you don’t really need.
4. Don’t make a shopping list
Yes, that’s right. I know you have probably heard the opposite many times before. Stick to your shopping list, don’t buy any extra items, and be frugal. I beg to differ. We always shop without a plan and let the supply of the shop decide what we are going to eat the rest of the week. It takes a little getting used to and requires some creativity but it pays off in the end. We simply select the foods that are available and look the freshest and most appealing to us. It prevents us from buying foods that are out of season or flown in from afar. It comes down to always buying local seasonal fresh produce, and working with what’s available.
When we buy are groceries we follow the guidelines of our ideal plate (followed by what’s naturally available) to make sure we get our nutrients in:
• 50% of vegetables like kale, lettuce, beet greens, arugula, celery, beets, zucchini
• 20% of protein (beans, lentils, seeds, pseudograins like quinoa and buckwheat, almond milk)
• 20% of fruit (oranges, lemons, apples, pears)
• 10% of healthy fats (nuts, avocado, cold-pressed oils, coconut, coconut milk)
• 5% starchy carbs (sweet potatoes, turnips, squash and whole grains, like brown rice)
5. Choose simply packaging or no packaging
When you buy quinoa in fancy carton boxes with beautiful logos or oranges in plastic boxes with beautiful wraps, you are generally paying for the packaging and not for the quinoa or the oranges. If you buy you foods as close as possible to their natural form, you save money. Why would you waste your money on fancy packaging and marketing if it’s the quinoa or oranges you are after?
6. Choose locally grown foods when you shop for groceries.
When you eat locally, organic food is far more affordable. If it’s in the middle of winter and you want to eat pineapple or mango, you are simply paying for flight costs. Local food tends to be higher in nutrients than foods that are flown in from afar. It’s simply fresher. Eating local also supports local business and reduces your carbon-foot print placing less of a strain on the environment. Visit your local organic shop or organic farmer’s market to stock up on local produce.
7. Can or freeze in-season produce so you have an all year supply
Buy fresh foods in bulk when in season and store them. Buy fresh tomatoes in summer and make tomato passata out of them for year round use. Or buy those lovely sweet strawberries when they are in season and make a large batch of jam. Buy apples in fall and turn them in apple compote, apple sauce or apple chutney. Freeze strawberries and blueberries so you can add them to your breakfast throughout the year.
8. Eat less meat and fish
Organic meat and sustainable sea food are often expensive. If you eat meat or fish, cutting down on your consumption can save you money. Great alternatives and less expensive sources of protein are leafy green vegetables, tofu, beans, lentils, pseudograins and seeds like hemp.
9. Drink more water
People tend to spend a lot of money on store-bought drinks like soda or fruit juices. Soda or fruit juices are generally not very healthy as they are loaded with sugar, chemically processed or high in caffeine. Plus they tend to dehydrate the body. Drinking herbal teas, (filtered) lemon water with fresh mint or homemade iced teas is not only much healthier for you, it’s also much cheaper.
10. Buy your foods by weight
It’s very normal to buy your fruits and vegetables by weight, but you can do the same thing for nuts, dried fruits, beans, legumes, grains and pseudo-grains. If you buy quinoa in a shop where they sell grains and pseudo-grains by weight, like you would do for fruits and vegetables, you will get much more for a lower price.
11. Buy at a local organic shop that follows a cooperative business model
An organic shop following a co-op model typically works together with local farmers and aims to sell high-quality local produce at a good price, while also investing back in the farmers. A great example is De Aanzet in Amsterdam. Co-op based shops usually stock a smaller and less exotic selection of foods than larger health food stores but their margins are much lower. This means that buying quinoa, almond milk or tea at a shop like Marqt or Ekoplaza can be much more expensive than when you buy it a local co-op based shop. I have seen price differences as high as 75 eurocents for the same product between different shops. If you buy most of your groceries at a co-op based shop, you save money and can afford to buy the rest at the more expensive shops. We buy are staples at a small local shop following the co-op model and all the extras we cannot find there (perhaps 10%-20% of our total grocery shopping) at other shops.
12. Buy at a local organic farm or farmer’s market
Shopping at a local farm or farmer’s market is another great way to improve your health and save some money. Most cities have a farmer’s market. It does take some skill to become great at shopping at a local farmer’s markets. You want to get to know the vendors, compare their prices, learn how to haggle and build a relationship with the vendors. Plan your trip around buying seasonal produce to lower costs. Often at the end of the day (just before closing) produce is offered at reduced rates so this is the best time to shop when on a budget.
13. Know your clean foods and dirty foods
Know which foods are naturally pesticide free or low in pesticides. You can buy these foods even if they are not organic. Avoid the dirty dozen and when you buy these products (apples, celery, lettuce and strawberries) make sure you buy them clean. Check out the list of the clean fifteen and dirty dozen here.
14. Buy online, do your research and compare prices
A lot of products such as grains, pseudograins, nuts and dried fruits but even body care products are cheaper when bought directly from the producer or manufacturer online. For example, buy your flour from a local mill online. Amazingy.com is great for natural cosmetics and their prices are much lower compared to others offering the exact same products. I-herb offers great prices for buying supplements, super foods and health foods.
15. Grow your own herbs, fruits and vegetables
Growing your own herbs, fruits and vegetables, if you have the space to do so, is a great way to guarantee clean produce and you don’t have to rely on others for your own produce. Even if you do not have a balcony or garden, there’s many ways you can now grow your own urban garden. Check out this link if you want to create your own window farm. Or check out this Ted Talk to get inspiration for creating your own apartment garden.