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?


How To Save Money On Your Grocery Bill

  • Coupons: Check the Sunday paper or your local grocery store website. Check out or both sites feature printable coupon deals organized by region.
  • Budget: Have a specific grocery budget for the week and stick to it. One great way to do this is by shopping with cash.
  • Make A List: Set aside some time each week to plan out your meals and make a specific grocery list. Try to base your meals on the coupon deals and what you already have on hand. Then organize your list according to the layout of the grocery store, you’ll save time and money by avoiding impulse buys!
  • Buy In Season: Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, they are cheaper and a lot fresher. Try going to a farmer’s market, you can find good deals and the produce is fresh! Or, support a local farm by joining your local CSA.
  • Going Organic: It can be hard to buy organic on a small budget. You may not be able to buy everything organic, but you can be more conscious about where you get your food. Check out your local co-op, join a CSA, or go to a farmer’s market. Or, try out one of my personal favorites Trader Joe’s that features tons of organic food and products at lower prices.
  • Buy Less Meat: Meat is often very expensive. Try cutting down on your meat consumption by eating vegetarian for most meals. If find a good deal on a large amount of meat, re-portion it into individual servings and freeze it for later use.
  • Store Brands: Don’t neglect the generic, store brands, often they are the same product as the name brands. Sometimes the store brands even offer organic or all-natural options!
  • Avoid Prepackaged Foods: They may be convenient but they really add up. Instead of buying prepackaged cookies, why not make your own?
  • Check Unit Pricing: One of the best tips for finding a good deal is to check the unit pricing on items.
  • Watch the Scanner: This will help you keep track of costs, make sure your coupons actually went through and it will keep the cashier more alert.
  • Limit Your Trips: Make fewer, larger trips. While shopping around can be very good, it can cost a lot in time and gas. Check out what you can get for the best price at different grocery stores in your area and make trips once a month to those stores for specific items.

Join the Conversation: What tips do you have for saving money on your grocery bill?