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Buying organic is great for your health, but can be expensive for your wallet. Here are some tips for buying organic foods cheaply.

Lately I have been choosing to buy organic foods whenever I can.  The Bisphosphenol A (BPA) scare really got to me (90% of Canadians between 6 to 79 have this chemical in our blood) as it can wreck havoc on your fertility and has been linked to certain cancers. With the increased pesticide use on crops, I have been more wary of the food that goes into our bodies.

Organic foods taste better and are better for your health.  Organic groceries don’t have chemicals sprayed on them to make them last longer.  Organic meat is free of growth hormones and antibiotics (no wonder there are these things called “superbugs” in our hospitals that can’t be killed by antibiotics- we’re all eating antibiotics without even knowing it).   A few years ago, King of the Hill even did an episode where Hank fell in love with the organic steaks and joined a local Co-Op.  Organic is tastes better, is better for you, but is not necessarily better for your budget.

More often than not, buying organic can mean paying double the price for something that isn’t organic.  There are certain things that you should buy organic, and things that you don’t need to fuss too much about (like organic bananas).

Here are a few tips that can help you save some money when buying organic.

  1. Shop at your local Farmers Market– A lot of farmers markets are cropping up here in Vancouver.  By going to a farmer’s market, you skip the middleman (the grocery store) and you can ask questions about how the product you are buying was grown.  Also, it helps stimulate the local community and economy.  Money Reasons also buys local. Shopping at your Farmer’s Market is a win-win situation.  Besides, Farmer’s Markets always makes me think of fresh romance and love at first site (maybe you’ll meet mr. or ms. right while shopping for strawberries- as you look up with your basket of fruit, you meet his eyes and smile– lol maybe I should be a Harlequin romance novel writer instead of a personal finance blogger).
  2. Go to your local Farm– Instead of heading to a Farmer’s Market, you can hit up the local farm.  We have blueberry farms about 15km from the city centre and because you do the labour, it’s cheaper.  It would make for a fun family outing, anyhow.
  3. Freeze It– You can buy big during the summer months when crop is in season and freeze the produce for later (like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries you name it!).  This is on the assumption that you have big enough freezer space. =)
  4. Check your local Grocery Chain– For example, Shoppers Drug Mart and Safeway have their own “house” brand of organic produce and products.  When they go on sale, it’s a pretty good deal.  For example, I got a large box of organic cereal for $2.50 the other day at Shoppers Drug mart (which is even cheaper than non-organic cereal!)
  5. Only buy Organic When it Matters– The EWG (Environmental Working Group) has this list called the “Dirty Dozen”- naming the foods that are laced with the most pesticides- these are: peaches, strawberries, apples, domestic blueberries, nectarines, cherries and imported grapes (in the order of most to least).  For veggies, the EWG quotes: Sweet Bell Peppers, Celery, Lettuce, Spinach, Potatoes, Carrots, Green Beans, Hot Peppers, Cucumbers, Cauliflower, Mushrooms, Winter Squash, Tomatoes, Sweet Potatoes.  Basically- these are fruits which have thin skins and fruits in which we consume the skin. Thicker skinned fruits and vegetables like avocados, bananas, and pineapples aren’t as pesticide-ridden, so you don’t need to be wasting your money and buying these organic.  The EWG calls these the “Clean Fifteen”:  onions, sweet corn, sweet peas, asparagus, cabbage, eggplant and sweet potatoes. For fruits: avocados, pineapples, mangoes, kiwi, domestic cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit and honeydew
  6. Print/Clip Coupons: Lastly, can’t forget coupons- a lot of online coupons can be had nowadays if you’re too lazy to clip coupons from your weekly flier.  Saving money on organic yogurt and milk can really add up, considering yogurt costs $4.50 to $5.oo for a small bucket (I go through yogurt like water).

Hope that helps!  If you still have a Nalgene bottle kickin’ around- get rid of it!  I can’t believe I used the Nalgene bottle I had for 6+ years.  Now I use it to water my plants.  Hopefully my plants don’t get cancer or have fertility problems.

Do you have any other tips for buying organic foods on the cheap?  Are you a fan of organic foods too?


Article comments

Ken says:

You have sweet potatoes in both the dirty dozen and the clean 15, how does that work? Also, can’t see how thick skin matters to much, the pesticides go into the plant through the roots as well as the skin.

Emily says:

Pretty disappointed with your statement “waste money buying these organic” with reference to thick skinned fruits like bananas – since buying organic is just as much about protecting the ecosystem these fruit trees live in as our bodies! The pesticides might not be as deep into the flesh of these fruits as others, but they get soaked into the bodies of the workers on non-organic farms and have long-lasting effects on the water table.

Choose organic to support sustainable farming! It is just one world after all, no matter how far away we think we are.

@young – Totally! Yours is a great post. Take care,

Thanks for all these great tips! This post was part of the inspiration for my latest post on the LendingTree Blog: How to Buy Organic Food on a Budget. http://bit.ly/ahnVC7
Thanks again for all the fantastic info.

young says:

@Lindsay- Thanks! I’m glad that I have inspired a post! (That’s pretty cool stuff- encourages me to keep on writing!)

Andrew says:

I love #5 here! I always had trouble figuring out WHEN DOES IT ACTUALLY MATTER! I want to go organic, but I also want to be smart with where I choose to go organic. Those lists are awesome, especially for avoiding pesticides. Having info like that can really allow someone to be frugal and still go organic .

SavingMentor says:

@young – I’m not sure if the reply functionality is working quite right in the comments. It just reloads the blog post page and brings me to the top of the page, not the comment box. It also doesn’t indicate in any way that I am actually replying to your post, but I’ll find out if it worked after I hit submit.

Anyway, about the Shoppers Optimum program. It is an amazing program and I’m sure you are already getting the most from it, but be sure to check out my complete guide to saving money using the Shoppers Optimum program here:


I’m sorry I still haven’t updated it with the new redemption levels. It’s on my list of things to do! 😉

young says:

@SavingMentor- Yes, I looove Shoppers, but only on the 20x the points events. Or when they mail me extra point coupons. Or when they have the extra redemption days. I also own SC.TO too. =) So I am helping my own portfolio when I shop there lol.

Sara-Lynn says:

In side by side comparison, organic fruits & veggies taste the same as the poisoned ones. However, meat, any kind, chicken, beef, fish (yes, fish are being raised organicly), etc., taste much better when they are organic. Being a chef, taste is important as well as cost. I will gladly pay a lot more for organic meat. They even have spring veal, which is a calf that is allowed to be with it’s mother & feed on grass until it is time to go to market!
Joining a CSA (community supposed agriculture) is a great way to know you are getting top quality fruits, vegetables and meats!

young says:

@Sara-Lynn- Thanks for your input. LOL I like how you straight out say that the non-organic foods are poisoned. I find that organic fruits and veggies taste better actually, but that’s just me. Thanks for the tip re: CSA- I’m sure readers as well as myself will look into it.

Nothing tastes better than freshly picked fruits but freshly picked fruits from your own garden!

Unfortunately, my lump of land is small but i got to squeeze in red berries, strawberries and some cherry tomatoes!

Don’t forget it’s apple picking season, take advantage of it while it lasts.


young says:

@Mich- Mmm cherry tomatoes, strawberries, and red berries. Sounds good! I can’t wait to get my own little plot of soil. Gardening in pots doesn’t cut it.

I miss shopping at my mom and my nonna’s free organic garden (4 times bigger than my condo)!

Organic is great – some are better than others. I am OK eating non-organic bananas if I am saving 40 cents / pound.

Nothing tops some organic produce – like local garlic and potatoes.

young says:

@Steve Zussino- yeah, organic bananas are ridiculously expensive. I haven’t tried organic garlic or potatoes- thanks for the suggestion!

The last time I checked out the farmer’s market’s they were insanely expensive, and the produce didn’t even taste as good as the imported stuff at the supermarket.

On the other hand, I do get concerned about excessive pesticide intake. You have to watch out about the “organic” label as it doesn’t necessarily mean that the food is of higher quality or is cleaner. The best thing to do would be to have your own garden or make friends with a farmer so you know what’s going on 😉

young says:

@Kevin- You’re right, having your own garden would be the best way (my dream! provided I don’t kill all my plants first). Good point about the “organic” labels. I have a body wash that is labelled as “organic” but it wasn’t actually USDA organic, only CERTAIN ingredients of the body wash were organic, the other ingredients weren’t.

SavingMentor says:

We buy all our meat from our local farmer’s market to ensure that it has been raised and taken care of properly and that no growth or other hormones have been used in the process. Sometimes the meat, especially the beef, isn’t quite as tasty but it is almost as good.

I find farmer’s market prices are usually higher but they can sometimes be cheaper too. If you have a big freezer, it can pay off to buy a quarter or half of a cow because they significantly lower the price when you do this. We are considering buying a quarter beef sometime soon.

Organic food definitely is more expensive, but we buy it whenever it makes sense and try to pay attention to the dirty dozen as well. We actually buy a lot of things from the Shoppers Drug Mart ‘Nativa Organics’ line because we always have a lot of Optimum points to spend.

Thanks for the tips!

young says:

@SavingMentor- Yeah, farmers market prices can be a bit higher, but at least you know where it came from. I was actually referring to “nativa organics” when I said that some organic foods can be really cheap (cheaper than non-organic foods). I bought some organic tortilla chips, organic cereal etc. it was great. I love the Optimum program!

After this article, I’ve just become a bigger fan or organic foods. My kids are 10 and 6, and I want them to grow up as healthy as possible!

Nice job, I learned a lot! I’m very pleased 🙂

Thanks for the mention too 🙂

young says:

@Money Reasons- You’re welcome! Your post inspired me to think local. 🙂 Glad you liked the article. There’s just too many pesticides and chemicals that we need to worry about out there in our foods. And once we ingest them, they don’t go anywhere but instead stay put and wreak havoc on our bodies. 🙁

Echo says:

I love the idea of buying large quantities while fruit & veggies are in season and cheap, and then freezing some for later. But…we end up eating them all at once because they’re so tasty 🙂

young says:

@Echo- I completely understand. 🙂 How can one resist eating 2lbs of cherries in one sitting (by oneself?).

The “buy organic when it matters” point is huge! We can waste so much money trying to buy everything with an organic label, even when it isn’t necessary!

I must say, I went to a farmer’s market recently and the prices were outrageous (regular produce was as expensive as supermarket organic)! I haven’t been back since.

young says:

@Khaleef- Yup, I bought organic tortilla chips for goodness sake. haha… They were on sale though. Yeah, I know, the farmers markets prices can be a bit steep, but it’s grown local, vs grown from China, right? You get what you pay for, I suppose. =)