Yes Virginia, it is possible to save on fresh foods and organic products. For a long time now, if you wanted fresh products or if you purchased primarily organic ingredients then you were making a choice to pay more. It was that simple. Want organic? Be prepared to pay.
This is still somewhat the case, but I can tell you after two years of heavy couponing, things are getting better for those of you who focus on whole foods (or Whole Foods) and who want organic products. We’ll start there.
Here are my tips for saving on organic:
- Buy in bulk – Lately, we’ve been trying to branch out and eat a little better, and that includes buying more organic, whole foods. I buy almost all of our grains in bulk now and I can tell you from experience that buying our cous cous from the bulk bins at our Wegmans is way cheaper per pound than buying those prepackaged boxes of cous cous with seasoning. It honestly doesn’t take much to season it myself and at least then I know what’s going in the recipe. (We also buy Bulgar wheat, farro, lentils, etc. The only one I don’t buy anymore is quinoa – I’m allergic.)
- Keep an eye out for coupons – OK, we’ve talked a lot about coupons, and while there are a lot of coupons in this world, not many are for organic products…but that’s slowly changing! Both of the chain grocery stores I usually shop at put out a free monthly magazine in their organic section. It’s full of both healthy eating ideas, but also how to stretch your dollar when preparing organic foods, and the best part – coupons! Coupons solely for organic products! As you walk the aisles, look for coupons on displays and see if your store offers a magazine like the one I mention above.
- Buy produce in season. I can’t tell you what “in season” means for you specifically because we all have different items available at different times, but here’s a hint – most produce isn’t “in season” in the dead of winter. If you’re buying strawberries in December, it’s probably being shipped from another country or it’s been engineered to grow year round.
- To check what’s in season when in your area check with your local farmer’s market. Our local market has a list on their website.
- Be aware that produce prices are regional. The farther something has to travel from farm to store, the more expensive it will be – even in season. For example: I grew up in Florida and lived on citrus fruits because it was super cheap. Now, I live in the north. Citrus prices here are crazy, y’all. On the flip side, I now live in the land of corn and when it’s in season I can get it dirt cheap. For the best bargains, stick to what grows in your area or nearby.
- Participate in a CSA (consumer supported agriculture) program in your area. The basic gist of a CSA is that you buy shares up front from a local farmer and receive boxes of in season produce all season long. It’s often much cheaper than in the grocery store. You can find out more about CSAs HERE.