Understand Your Finances
Organic food is expensive. Here's how to save
Savvy tips to make organic food good for your health and wallet
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When you hear the word organic, generally two words come to mind: healthy and expensive.
Organic foods are grown without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms and other harmful ingredients, so they are often better for you.
It's also true the nutritional edge can come at a premium price.
In 2015, Consumer Reports shared organic food costs 47 percent more than non-organic varieties.
The good news is buying organic no longer has to be a luxury—if you know how to shop for it. Below, several food experts weighed in on how to save money on organic groceries:
1. Buy frozen produce
Fresh fruits like berries and mango—especially when they're not in season—can be expensive, and you're often paying for waste like the peels and pits. Plus, if you don't eat it all in a few days, the fruit goes bad and you'll end up throwing it away.
"With frozen varieties, the fruit is already peeled and cut, so there's no waste," says Leslie Bonci, founder of Active Eating Advice, a nutrition consulting service. "You can use what you need, reseal the bag, and come back to some tasty fruit a couple days later. It saves time and money."
Prices vary based on factors like droughts, market availability, and how much you're buying, explains Bonci, but you can shave a couple dollars off your bill.
2. Shop the farmer's market in the late afternoon
Swing by your local farmer's market after your lunch break. Why? Many vendors discount their offerings by up to 50 percent toward the end of the day, says Lindsey Becker, certified health chef and founder of Farm Cut, a healthy catering company. "Not only can you buy organic produce for less, you get to eat local, which is usually fresher and full of more nutrients," she says.
3. Try different cuts of meat and poultry
Buying organic meat, like poultry, is often the hardest thing to do on a budget. But buying "less popular" cuts will help you maintain an organic lifestyle. "Skinless chicken thighs are more flavorful than breasts and cost a fraction of the price" says Becker.
If you're craving some beef, trade the rib eye for a more reasonable flank or hanger steak.
"Organic grass-fed beef is also reasonable," Becker adds. "You could save up to 20 dollars per pound for steak and four to six dollars per pound for chicken—or approximately 10 dollars on one two-pound package."
4. Shop store brand if it's available
Most mass-market grocery stores carry their own lines of organic food, which can be less expensive than the bigger brands.
"When stores are running a sale, you can get great bargains on organic, too," says Bonci. "Savings can be anywhere from a couple cents, to whole dollars, which can add up over time."
Generic brands also tend to be cheaper, so if you have the option to buy those, you can save as well, explains Bonci.
5. Shop around for the best organic prices
It pays off to shop around for the best deals.
Instead of going to the same grocer, try going to a different retailer until you're familiar with which one has the best rates on organic. Or, if you're short on time, surf the web for any special sales or promotions in your area.
"You can find low prices at large superstores, farmer's markets, or smaller boutique grocers," says Jennifer McDaniel, founder of McDaniel Nutrition Therapy. "Most of us don't have time to shop at multiple stores every week, but find the store that has the best prices or sales for the organic items you or your family regularly eat."
Amy Schlinger is a Chase Newsroom contributor. Her work has been featured in Self, Women's Health, and more.