Ten Ways I Save on Organic Groceries

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I am often asked, how do you afford buying so many organic groceries? More often I notice people comment about how they “wish they could afford it more” or skepticism on whether it is really a healthier choice. It is not my goal today to convince you one way or another, and we are by no means 100% organic, but for those of you who want to take the plunge or are hoping for ways to make it more affordable, these are some of the ways I manage to buy as much organic produce and products as possible.

1. Coops & CSAs

The biggest drawback people have with coops or CSAs is the lack of choice or being locked-in to a buy in period, however, if you can be open minded and creative in your meals each week this is a great option. You can save a great deal of money compared to the supermarket, it keeps my culinary mind on its toes and you can also be introduced to new produce that may not even be available for purchase at a local grocery store. Most coops have a list of items you can add-on, so you can customize your order a little, and I believe many CSAs also have this option. Farmers markets and local grocery stores are great to fill in the gaps for what your family loves to eat or between buy ins.

Some local/regional coops and CSAs I (or my friends) have had experience with include: Boistfort Valley Farm (WA), Bountiful Baskets, Terra Organics (WA), Olympia Food Coop (WA), and Pigman’s Produce (WA).

2. Buying in Bulk

Costco has been a heaven-send for me in stocking up on organic frozen produce, flour, sugar, and a variety of canned goods, to name a few. Whether through a wholesale store, farmer’s market or local buy-in, buying in bulk will save you money. You can freeze portions to use over the months, split cases with friends or preserve through canning or other means if you family doesn’t go through that particular food quickly enough. It does take a little planning, and you have to be careful not to buy more than you can use or you will not be saving as much money.

Pumpkin Loaf

3. Cook From Scratch

Making meals from scratch can be both healthier and cheaper, compared to buying prepared or partially prepared organic foods. Spaghetti or pizza sauce, baking mixes and other staples can be made in batches to be used over the month or year and save time and money. It may be a little extra work in the beginning, but once you get some favorite recipes that you make often meal preparation should go smoother.

As you buy more organic groceries you will learn what items are worth buying ready-made versus making from scratch. Strawberry jam, for example, is cheaper for me to buy at Costco already made in a huge jar than to make from scratch, so I only do this in season when I want the taste of fresh jam or am in a homemade kind of mood.

4. Wash Produce & Store Properly

Washing produce after you bring it home in a vinegar rinse (with the exception of some things like berries, which should be washed immediately before consumption), will help extend the life of your veggies and fruits saving you from unnecessary spoilage or waste. I usually do this when I get home from picking up a coop box or from the grocery store then set the out to dry before storing them in the fridge or on the counter.

Storing produce is another money saver, and you can extend the life of produce by storing them properly. Make sure you keep most other produce away from apples, and know what produce to store in the fridge or on the counter.

5. Grow Your Own Vegetables

Having a large garden sounds nice but not everyone has the space to grow that much produce. If you do, take advantage of it and grow a variety of things. If you are tight on space consider a square foot garden, hanging grow bags, vertical gardening, or even some windowsill herbs! One other resource to look into is community gardens when you can rent a plot and/or volunteer time working in the garden. These are found in a variety of settings including rooftops in urban areas. If you need help getting started, there are books you can purchase or borrow from your library, tons of online resources as well as local classes (your farmer’s market may have resources for this. I have only ever had a small garden, but the handful of zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. during the summer months do help with the food budget.

Harvest time: local farmers sell organic produce at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market

6. Learn Some Shortcuts

One ah-ha moment for me the other year was that I learned to “make” my own brown sugar. It was a day that I was making some recipe or another that called for brown sugar and I was all out— I turned to Google and found out that brown sugar is basically just molasses and sugar (I kind of knew that, but I didn’t realize it was literally just the two). I made a little batch of it with a bowl, fork and about a tablespoon of molasses to each cup of sugar and smash it with the fork until it is well blended. I rarely make it ahead of time now and I typically just add some molasses to the recipe I am making to give it that brown sugar taste.

There are little shortcuts like this that you will discover or that you can seek out to make your grocery bill a little more feasible.

7. Grind Your Own Flour

Go ahead and put a wheat grinder on your wishlist, because whether you embrace gluten or need to refrain from it you can save by making your own flours. Some flours such as oat or rice can even be made in a blender or food processor. There are a variety of ways to store your finished products, but I love half gallon mason jars for the pantry and large 2-gallon glass jars on the counter to store my flours and grains.

Grinding my own wheat is on my 2016 to-do list and the wheat grinder I have on my wishlist is the NutriMill Plus Grain Mill. As I have probably mentioned before, you can just make one change at a time when adding more organic foods to your grocery list. The first organic switch I made when my oldest was a toddler was to organic milk. Now five or six years later I am getting ready to grind my own wheat berries!

8. Homemade Bread and Tortillas

I love to make bread with my kids, and although my Bosch mixer has become my favorite most recently, I still use my KitchenAid for this task from time to time and also enjoy many of the no-knead bread recipes I started off with. No-knead bread recipes do not require any fancy equipment and very little elbow grease (the two reasons many people never get into bread baking). I started off with the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking, although a new version, The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking, is now available.

Short on time? Find a bakery outlet close to you! I typically save half of retail when I go to the bakery outlet, and even though expiration dates are quickly approaching on many of these products, we eat through a loaf so quickly this is rarely an issue. You can also put a loaf or two in the freezer and let it thaw out in the fridge overnight when you are ready to consume it.

Tortillas are another easy, although a little time consuming, food that tastes so much better made fresh. We still buy plenty of store-bought tortillas, but it is a fun and delicious activity that definitely saves money compared to store-bought organic.

Walmart Stonyfiled Shopping Cart

9. Shop the Sales

I am not one to track sales in weekly flyers, but I always keep an eye out for 50% off stickers at Fred Meyer or Safeway, for example, to save a little money. Milk, cheese and yogurt are my main finds in this department as they are more perishable than other organic products and we always eat or drink them plenty of time before the recommended consumption date.

I also track certain sundry items online (Amazon, Vitacost, etc.) and take note when there is a significant price drop. Other stores, like a local organic coop store in my area, release newsletters and flyers that highlight certain sales, which I am more likely to glance at since I am not sifting through pages of non-organic items to see if anything organic is on sale.

10. Learn Where to Buy What

Organic is getting more and more accessible as the years go on, which is exciting news! It really shows the power of the consumer and that the choices we make and the preferences we have can influence the food market around us. I can get my organic margarine and yogurt anywhere from Walmart (see photo above of many of our favorites I can find there) to my local grocery store chains, which give me the chance to prioritize what products I buy at what location depending on cost vs. convenience that particular week.

So take notes on prices at many of your regular stores. Where is organic ketchup the cheapest? Rice? Apples? Jot down prices of your favorite or frequently purchased items (or take pictures of and store them on Evernote like I do from time to time) to do comparisons or updates in the future. It may be time consuming at first, but future updates will be quick and you may only need take note of items that you consume the most, since that is where the savings make the biggest difference.

10 Ways to Save on Organic

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By Emi Stapler. I am a cloth diaper advocate, green parenting blogger, mother of three and a military wife who enjoys sharing my motherhood adventures and advice. Follow me at The Cloth Diaper Report on Facebook, Twitter @TheCDReport , Google +, Pinterest and Instagram.

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