BUYING ORGANIC FOOD
Tips for Buying Affordable Organic Food
By Knox Alexander
Special to BetterJuice.com
Do you enjoy the taste of organic food but you're turned off by the
price? If you're willing to do some creative shopping and cooking,
you can enjoy the freshness and goodness of organic foods without breaking
your food budget.
The first step is to look beyond conventional supermarkets, and go
elsewhere. The supermarket treats organic food as a specialty niche.
Like imported wine or exotic cheeses, they will probably be offered
at lavish prices. Since a proper diet includes large amounts of fresh
fruits and vegetables, sticking to an organic regimen quickly becomes
Do some research to find alternatives. Besides the supermarkets,
visit health food stores, specialty stores, co-ops, gourmet delis,
farmers' markets or other community-supported agriculture programs.
Shop around. You will probably discover large variations in prices.
The food will still be more expensive then conventional products, but
the margin does not have to be extreme. Also in some cases, fresh organic
produce will simply be hard to find in certain areas.
Likewise, in others there will be an abundance. For example, there
are supermarkets in Texas where consumers will find literally mountain
piles of jalapeno or chipotle peppers. Folks in Michigan or Maine will
not find such ample quantity. And the prices for the peppers will reflect
this fact in those areas.
Also questions to ask are if the item is in season. Looking for fresh
strawberries in winter? Expect to pay a lot more then in the warm months.
On the other hand, in the winter go for grapefruit as they are in season.
If you live in states like California, there is a greater demand
in general for organic food, so the prices are lower across the board.
Organic fruits, vegetables and grains are grown without most conventional
pesticides and without fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients.
Organic meat and dairy products are free of antibiotics and growth
hormones. Some shoppers are willing to pay a little more for organic
food simply because they like the taste.
The best way to easily get this local, fresh taste from organic food
is a local farmers' markets. Look for those in your local paper.
Here are ten general tips on finding organic food:
- Do research
You may have a lot more choices for organic food in your community
than you realize. Look around and see what is available. Organic
associations and organizations in your state are good places to start.
Google the name of your state and the word "organic" and
see what appears.
Websites like Organic
Kitchen are a trove of information with many links to organic
- Shop at farmers' markets
Farmers' markets are great sources of fresh local produce. If you
don't see a sign saying the produce is organic, just ask. Very often
the people who picked the food before you are sitting right there.
The key to landing good deals at farmers' markets is to ask lots
of questions. Sometimes they have seconds, which are perfectly good,
but misshaped produce they will seek to sell at a discount. Ask about
bulk pricing, and about how to purchase from them at other times
away from the market.
If you ask them what tastes best, they will know and be happy to
- Investigate a community-supported agriculture program
When you purchase a share in a community-supported agriculture
(CSA) program, you buy a portion of a local farm's operating expenses.
In return, you receive weekly boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables
in the upcoming harvest.
These programs are popular in metropolitan areas like New York
City. A share in a CSA costs about $300 to $400 for a 24- to 26-week
growing season. Many CSA programs accept monthly payments, and you
may be able to buy a half-share rather than a whole one.
A great resource for this is LocalHarvest,
which can identify a CSA near you.
- Join a co-op
A food cooperative is a member-owned business that provides groceries
and other products to its members at a discount. Many of the products
lining the shelves of co-ops are organic and much of the produce
comes from local family farms. Joining a co-op is typically extremely
easy. It usually involves paying a membership fee or dues. LocalHarvest also
lists local co-ops.
- Look for foods that are in-season
The absolute best time to buy organic fruits or vegetables is during
their growing seasons. Often the descriptions of fruits and vegetables
on BetterJuice.com include that food's growing season.
- Buy preserved foods in the off season
Frozen peas and frozen corn in the middle of winter often superior
to the limp, pale offerings for sale in the fresh area. Also look
for dried fruits selling in bulk containers. Also use your freezer
for storing things other than ice cream. Information on freezing
and canning is on Texas
- Shop sales and house brands
More healthy food grocery stores offer their own house brands,
costing much less then others. Whole Foods house brand, 365, always
costs much less then the others. And the store sells more and more
things under their brand now, so be sure to investigate.
- Be flexible
We spend a large part of our lives eating. Make the most of it.
Do not try to go to just one grocery store and load up on everything
all at once. Remember fresh food expires rapidly. Get into the habit
of making more frequent, quick trips to various grocery stores. Get
into the habit of visiting a farmers' market on weekends.
Often farmers markets and various stores are much more fun and
interesting then shopping at purely at a cavernous super-hyper grocery
store. Not only will your visits be pleasant, but you will also clue
into good sales on the best deals available in your area.
- Rethink your food budget
Get into the habit of freeing up your food budget for the additional
expenses of organic food. If the body is a temple, then there is
nothing wrong with spending a little more to put quality, nutritious
food in it. Even with paying the additional money, it still probably
will cost far less than eating out.
- Ease into healthy eating and buying organic
Plan a transition from usual shopping and eating habits into a
new one. Start by buying the things you know you rally like to eat.
Take your time to get used to new foods or shopping behaviors. This
way it will develop into a habit. Most people who try to switch directly
to a completely new diet end up giving it up shortly, returning to
their old ways.
Families with young children may want to start by buying organic
baby food and dairy products. Just start easy at first. Buy what
you know you enjoy, and what's easiest to find. Remember, eating
well is not only beneficial, but also fun. Make it something to enjoy
and look forward to.