Eat organic for less money II - Shopper Savvy!

 Photo from FoodRetro.

Photo from FoodRetro.

June 6, 2013 By Anne Radcliffe

This started about “food.” But it’s about more. It’s also about life in general; the joy of learning; re-establishing a connection to the past as well as forging a sustainable way into the future; and growing into being a parent of a precocious little boy.

Just to Restate the Obvious

This is the “List of X Things to do to Eat Organic on a Budget” that every other top Google hit will provide you when you search for eating organic on a budget.  Unfortunately most of the other lists won’t go into more than repeating a lot of the “no kidding” items you already know at the very unhelpful 3000 foot view.  They are technically valid, so let’s summarize them now.

  • Shop Smarter (aka. Buy in Bulk, Buy On Sale, Use Coupons, Prioritize)
  • Buy Local and In Season
  • Make Your Own
  • Grow Your Own

Today, let’s take on the first one.

Be Shopper Savvy

Coupons:  Every “how to save money” search will say “Coupons!”  Well, duh.  This isn’t especially helpful to people living north of the border.  Canada is not the mecca of couponing, which is an advantage you Southies do have.  Americans, take full advantage of it where you can.  There’s millions of sites, so I won’t bother even listing them.

Canadians?  You’re likely to have more of a challenge at couponing.  I don’t advocate buying stuff you don’t need just to save money.  I’m not sure it’s even possible to save money that way here (although please, if you’ve figured out the system, let us know!).   The big problem is that not only are the discount offerings pathetic, but most generic coupons are less frequently for food and more for other products like laundry detergent and carcinogenic chemicals you don’t really want to invite into your home, such as Febreeze.  It’s important to note that, too, most of the products that I do find coupons for are on my Buycott list because they’ve spent significant amounts of money fighting mandatory GMO labeling.  That’s my personal preference, however, and not necessarily yours.  So if you’re OK with buying General Mills and P&G, look for tear pads and check with some of the online coupon companies like save.ca, brandsaver.ca, websaver.ca, and gocoupons.ca.

In my opinion, your best source for organic coupons is to directly contact some of the organic companies you want who will mail you coupons for their products or list them on their site as Earth’s Balance and Organic Meadow does.

Leverage social media: Facebook as a source of coupons and insider deals?  Who knew?  Some of the smaller stores might not have the capability of issuing a regular flier.  But they might Tweet about their three day only sale on organic Turkey around Thanksgiving time!

Fliers, AKA on sale!: I’m a total flier junkie.  I fully admit it. Every Thursday I look for that fat roll of advertising sitting on my front porch, and I have a good look-see.   When things are on sale at my grocery store, I can usually get a better price than I can at Costco.  It usually manifests more frequently in savings on things like toilet paper, but hey, the organic stuff does go on sale too.

Shop more often… and with a meal plan: Try going to the store every week instead of trying to stretch it out to once a month.   If you keep only what you intend to use right away, you’ll be less prone to waste.  You will be able to use more fresh produce, which not only is better on your wallet, but is healthier too!  The only thing you have to watch out for is chips and candy bars waiting for you in the checkout aisles.  Stand firm.

Don’t shop hungry: Shopping while hungry can lead to overbuying, waste, and the purchase of expensive convenience goods.  You won’t be looking at taking advantage of sales or thinking about cooking from scratch, and even though all of that organic food looks yummy, there is a limit to how much food your family can consume in a week before it starts to overripen.

Don’t buy water: Bottled water is a scam at worst, and an expensive habit at best.  It’s lessregulated than tap water, frequently is just tap water, and not to mention produces a huge amount of waste that may just be outgassing all sorts of chemicals into the stuff being stored in it or back into the environment.  Yum.   Invest in a water purifier, preferably with a Reverse Osmosis filter.  Though it’s more expensive up front (~$200), it will even remove fluoride and pharmaceutical chemicals from your tap water.

Bulk and Frozen: Costco and other warehouse clubs are carrying organic products with increasing frequency.  Drag a buddy along and split packages.  I also like to use Costco to buy bulk organic frozen goods like peas, corn, mixed berries and mixed vegetables, which are very expensive in stores and usually come in tiny little packages.  You can save a lot of money by opting for frozen versions of the fresh varieties and store them for months.  Just make sure you keep an eye on the price… warehouse clubs are not always the best deal!

Bulk bins may also be a good, cheaper source for organic products, though be wary of the possibility of cross contamination if you are considering food allergies.  Bulk bins are a good place to get organic cereal items like oats and barley, nuts, dried fruits, and baking goods.

If you can’t afford to buy all organic, make a priority of a few things: I hate to advocate buying “partial” organic, but I understand that sometimes there’s limitations in the wallet and at the store.

If you can’t go full-on organivore, make a priority of the dirty dozen: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes and raisins, spinach, lettuce, potatoes.  Buying the dried, canned and frozen organic versions of fruits will also help you save some money.

You should also strongly consider adding your cereal and wheat goods to the organic list/make at home list.  This especially concerns high-fiber items containing hulls and bran, which can be heavily laden with glyphosate.  I don’t know why they fail to make the dirty dozen.  Maybe they’re not as dirty in comparison.