Can’t Afford to Go 100 Percent Organic? You Still Have Options

How to afford more organic foods

Coupons

There are two main ways to get your hands on coupons for organic food: from the manufacturer or from the store. Manufacturer coupons can be found through coupon sites, newspaper inserts, manufacturer websites or a product page on Facebook.

Popular coupon sites to find savings on organic products include Mambo Sprouts, Organic Deals, Saving Naturally, Organic Deals and Steals, Organic Food Coupons and Health E Savers. You can also find store coupons at store websites, in the aisles of the store, or at the front entrance.

Store cards

Sometimes stores offer store card savings instead of offering coupons or in conjunction with store coupons. Stores like Walgreens, CVS Pharmacy or Target have cards you can swipe for additional savings. The beauty of using the store card along with coupons is that you can pile on the savings! For instance, if you have Target coupons from Target.com, manufacturer coupons and a Target card, you can save three times on the same products!

Do-it-yourself

Sometimes it’s better to keep things simple. By buying organic produce and staple foods, you save more than if you were to buy expensive organic specialty treats. Instead, make your own using simple, healthy, organic ingredients. For instance, instead of buying apple chips or granola bars, make them yourself. Not only will you save money, but you will learn a new skill and be able to customize your own specialty foods.

Grow it yourself

Another way you can save on organic produce is to grow it yourself. If you don’t know how to grow food, start with perennial plants and herbs that are easy to grow. You can buy the seeds, sprouts and small plants to transplant and grow yourself. Buy or trade for them at a farmer’s market, buy them online or from a store, or you can just use scraps.  Use Facebook groups and farmers’ markets to find an organic food producer who will be willing to swap seeds or items with you. This is also helpful if you are already growing some organic produce because you can trade something you have in abundance for a new crop and expand your food garden at no extra cost. Food you can grow from scraps include celery, lettuce, onions, parsley, pineapples, apples, avocados, mushrooms and even tomatoes.

Food co-ops

Other than swap meets and farmers’ markets, you can obtain good deals on organic produce from local food co-ops. Box deals are convenient because they provide a variety of local, organic produce directly from farmers for a fraction of store prices. Plus, this gives you a chance to try new produce and play with ingredients depending on what you receive that week. Some food co-ops offer a flat box fee or weighted fee and allow you to pick what you need.

What to do when you can’t afford organic

The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen, a list compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), includes produce that contains the largest pesticide load. According to the EWG, these fruits and vegetables are singled out because, “Each of these foods tested positive [for] a number of different pesticide residues and showed higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce items.” This list helps consumers who can’t afford to go all-organic to make educated decisions on what products they should prioritize. Below is the 2015 Dirty Dozen list. It is recommended, whenever possible, to choose organic over commercially-grown produce when buying the items from the list. 

  • Potatoes
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Imported snap peas
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Imported nectarines

The Clean Fifteen

On the flip side, another list compiled by the EWG presents produce that holds less pesticide residue. The Clean Fifteen is a list of conventionally-grown items that contain fewer pesticides and therefore the non-organic varieties are safe for consumption. Since most people wash their produce, these non-organic fruits and vegetables can be purchased to save money while still ensuring the safety and health of your family.

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Avocadoes
  • Sweet corn
  • Cabbage
  • Frozen sweet peas
  • Pineapples
  • Onions
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Domestic cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Asparagus

Wash your food

Carrot on a wooden tableIt seems obvious that you should always wash your produce before using it. Sometimes we forget and that mistake can make us very sick. So instead of risking it, always wash your organic and non-organic produce. If you are using conventionally-grown produce, wash your food with vinegar water to remove the harmful pesticides. Just fill up a large bowl with four parts water and one part vinegar and allow your produce to soak for an hour before using it. Then rinse and enjoy. If you are using non-organic apples, you might need to let them soak for an additional thirty minutes to ensure the coating is fully dissolved.

Toss the skins or scrub them

Sometimes washing your produce isn’t an option. If you are on a hike, in a hurry and need to grab an orange for the road, or you are just away from a sink, you can enjoy your conventional produce and still be safe. Please note that this only applies to fruits that have thick skins, like bananas or grapefruits. All you have to do is toss the skin and enjoy.

It sounds like a no-brainer, but how many times do we often forget this rule of thumb and grate some lemon zest, lime zest or orange zest without washing it first? If we are using fruit peels for zest or homemade candies, always wash them first and scrub them well to get the waxy film off the produce to make it safe for consumption.

DIY produce spray

If you want to add zest to your meal, instead of throwing away your peels, you can make your own produce spray that will reduce your exposure to pesticides. First, wash your produce with vinegar and water. Then take out this potent and frugal mixture and spritz it on your conventionally-grown produce. 

Here’s how you make it: In a spray bottle, mix one cup of water with two tablespoons of baking soda and one tablespoon of lemon juice. After spraying this mixture on your produce, allow it to sit for five to ten minutes and rinse it off before enjoying your fresh, clean and safe produce.

Following these money-saving tips can help you stay as healthy and safe from pesticides as your budget will allow. What tips do you have for saving on organic items? How do you balance your health and budget? Leave us a comment below.

—The Alternative Daily

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