Frugal Organics

Do you want to go “organic” but you’re fearful of the cost? Getting organics on a budget, often means that you will have to shop around and be willing to go to more than one place. Mix and match the options below so that you get the best deals for the organic products and produce that you use:

  • Farmer’s Markets: Farmer’s markets are a great option for getting a variety of fresh produce items and supporting local farmers. The markets in the Twin Cities are generally open from late April to November. Farmer’s markets are open a variety of days of the week, featuring fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, and flowers. Be sure to ask the farmers lots of questions to ensure that the produce their selling is organic from their farm (not just resale) also ask them what tastes the best, they will know.
  • CSA: Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a great way to enjoy fresh produce, support local farmers, and lower your grocery bill during the late spring, summer and early fall. There are a wide variety of CSA options in the Twin Cities area that feature a selection of produce including vegetables, fruit, eggs, herbs, jellies, and even flowers. The cost is generally $500-650 ($24-32/week, feeds about 4) for a full share and $250-400 ($12-20/week feeds about 2 people) for a half share. You will receive a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. Some farms even offer the option that you can work for a number of hours on the farm for a discount on your share.
  • Co-op: Co-ops are more than grocery stores, they are a great way to get fresh, organic groceries year round from local farmers. Co-ops are fairly inexpensive to join and they often provide good member discounts. The Twin Cities has many co-ops, some even offer discounts to members who volunteer for just a few hours a month.
  • Sales: Keep your eyes peeled for sales so that you can stock up on products. Clip coupons and shop the house organic brands.
  • Buying Club: Buying clubs allow you to buy organic products in bulk year round for up to 30-40% off retail price. Ask your local co-op about starting a buying club with your neighbors, or contact the distributor directly.
  • Buy in Bulk: Buy in-season in produce in bulk when it is fresh and the prices are low. Then preserve it by freezing or canning for use during the winter months. Buy dry goods like rice and beans in bulk, but be sure to do the math to make sure the deal is worth it.
  • Use Preserved Organic Food in the Winter: In the winter, use preserved organic foods (canned, frozen, or dried) that you have preserved yourself or have an “organic” label on it. This will be better for you and generally taste better than the fresh produce available during the winter months.
  • Growing Your Own Garden: Got a green thumb? Here are some tips for starting your own vegetable garden. It is best to start small. If you don’t have much gardening experience, you might start by growing your own herbs. You can even grow your own herbs indoors, so don’t let lack of space stop you!

It can be difficult for someone to go from straight from shopping at a conventional grocery store to shopping around for organics. While there are certainly ways to do organics on a budget, it is almost inevitable that you might see a small increase in your grocery bill. You can start making the gradual shift to organic by just picking one of the suggestions above to follow or by picking one item (dairy, meat, produce) to begin buying organic. For more information, check out these articles from bankrate or MoneyNing.

Join the Conversation: How do you buy organic foods and products on a budget?

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Spring Green: Fresh and Frugal Produce

Want fresh produce that doesn’t hurt your wallet? Check out some of these options this spring and summer!

  • Farmer’s Market: Farmer’s Markets are a great option for getting a variety of fresh produce items and supporting local farmers that is easy on your wallet. There are many markets throughout the Twin Cities area. The Downtown St. Paul Farmer’s Market begins April 28th. This market hosts a variety of farmers on Saturday and Sunday mornings throughout the farming season, featuring fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, flowers, as well as local bands and fun crafts to entertain the whole family as you shop!
  • CSA: Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a great way to enjoy fresh produce, support local farmers, and lower your grocery bill during the late spring, summer and early fall. Buy a share and you will receive a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. There are a wide variety of CSA options in the Twin Cities area that offer a wide variety of produce including vegetables, fruit, eggs, herbs, jellies, and even flowers. One share can feed 3+ people for one week, so consider going in on one share with a few friends.
  • Co-op: Co-ops are more than grocery stores, they are a great way to get fresh, organic groceries year round from local farmers. Co-ops are fairly inexpensive to join and they often provide good member discounts. The Twin Cities has many co-ops,  the Hampden Park Co-op, close to Luther Seminary in St. Paul, offers discounts to members who volunteer for just a few hours a month.
  • Community Garden: Community Gardens are a great way to gather people together, beautify your neighborhood and enjoy fresh flowers and produce. The Twin Cities area is chock-full of community gardens . See if there is one in your neighborhood, if not why not get a few neighbors together and start one of your own?
  • Growing Your Own Garden: Got a green thumb? Here are some tips for starting your own vegetable garden. It is best to start small. If you don’t have much gardening experience, you might start by growing your own herbs. You can even grow your own herbs indoors, so don’t let lack of space stop you!

Join the Conversation: Have you ever grown your own garden? What are some tips that you have for successfully growing herbs and produce in the city?