Economical Organic Food - Oxymoron?

Updated on January 19, 2012
I.N. asks from Chicago, IL
10 answers

I'd like to start giving my children more organic foods to eat. I'm aware of the dirty dozen, etc. Does anyone have any advice on how to do this somewhat economically? What places have what at the most reasonable prices? Thanks.

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answers from Chicago on

Trader Joe's has pretty affordable organic products - including produce. Costco also carries a number of organic items. Another way to save some money is to just buy what is on sale.

Good luck!

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answers from Chicago on

Not sure if you eat meat, but we ordered a 1/2 organic grassfed cow from (they had an ad on this site last year). It was WAY cheaper than buying organic, even cheaper than some regular grocery store prices. It is a freezer full.

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answers from Chicago on

Hi I.,

Stanley's Produce Market at the corner of North Ave. and Elston has a pretty good selection of organic produce at really good prices. Their selection varies from week to week. If Stanley's insn't convenient to you, maybe another produce market closer to you also sells organic produce.

Trader Joe's has more reasonable prices on organic produce as well.

Also, buying things when they're in season helps reduce the cost.

We often use a service called Irv & Shelley's Fresh Picks --, which delivers organic produce (mostly local, when possible) to your door. You can either pick and chose or get one of their boxes. And you can sign up on a week-to-week basis. I find that they often have specials, and their box is pretty reasonably priced (much more so than bigger businesses like Ripe Organics or Door-to-Door Organics).

While I also try to stick to the Dirty Dozen list, it's certainly better to eat conventionally grown produce than none at all. If you can afford organic produce most of the time (or go without the stuff on the list), then great. But if you want/need to eat that stuff (especially the stuff that's lower down on the list), I don't think it's a huge problem to buy the conventionally grown equivalents occasionally -- especially if they are locally grown.


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answers from Chicago on

Sam's Club and Costco often have great deals on organic berries -- raspberries in particular -- which are on the dirty dozen list and cost 5x as much at Whole Foods. Trader Joe's has better prices on a lot of organic things. Then, I just shop the sales at Whole Foods and Jewel. WFs often has one apple type on sale, so I'll buy that variety. It's a pain, but you have to shop around and stock up when you find a good price. I freeze the fruit and use in smoothies and yogurt, make soups etc. with veggies. I also just pay the higher price sometimes and have that item as more of a treat than a staple. Other times, we just go with conventional and hope that washing well and going organic as much as possible will mitigate the danger. Crazy that we have to worry about food harming us, right?!

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answers from New York on

Use similar money saving strategies that you do for conventional foods -
1. buy in bulk (especially for grains, legumes and other non perishables).
2. buy in season, zucchini in the heart of summer, asparagus in early spring.
3. grow your own.
4. buy "seconds" every bunch of carrots has some which are not pretty enough for market. they are just as nutricious, and just as organic. see if you can source some of those.
5. make your own (but consider the time value of your effort). It might be cheaper to make your own organic salsa, but the pre-fab organic might do you right, if that's what you prefer).

Good luck to you and yours,
F. B.

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answers from Seattle on

Tee hee hee. Total oxymoron.

BUT, there are some ways to do it more economically, in our area.

1. We don't buy all organic. I figure, non-organic fruits and veggies are better than no fruits or veggies at all.

2. I shop at several stores, Costco, Trader Joe's, Farmers Market and Co-op, oh-crud-we're out of milk General store runs. I can buy a LOT of organic baby spinach from costco, for just a few (4) bucks. Same with carrots. Organic wild rice is cheaper there, as is pasta sauce, pasta (not organic), frozen corn and peas, cleaning supplies, half and half, olive oil, honey, nuts, raisins and dried apricots. (Most of the later is not organic). I just get staples and stored goods from costco.

Nice local-ish fruit (apples and tubers esp.) from the co-op. Asian market for some stuff like miso, nori, wasabi, ginger.

Bread, milk, cheese, tortillas, and some pre-made-I'm-not-cooking-tonight goodies from Trader Joe's.

Fish and beef from fish market or meat market, depending. More often from one of the bigger chain stores.

3. Garden and swap veggies w/ friends.

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answers from Chicago on

Join an organic CSA - community supported agriculture - i.e. an organic farm. I belong to The Green Earth Institute Farm in Naperville. You can buy a share or half share - or even split a share or half share with a neighbor or friend - and you get VERY local, fresh organic produce. I split a half-share, spring share and fall share with a friend. We pay $321 each and get tons of fresh produce from end of May to end of November. That's six months at $53 a month or $13 a week. I get so much produce, I can and freeze stuff and have it all winter as well.

Right now I have frozen onion, squash, tomatoes, green beans and leeks and I still have two fresh cabbages in my fridge from the November pick up and some garlic. Local fresh food lasts so much longer. When you figure that I still eat some of the produce in the winter, that reduces the costs to even less - maybe $7 a week.

Of course with a CSA, you don't necessarily get everything you want - you eat seasonally or you supplement with organics from grocers. But as the others have said, if you learn to freeze and can, you can really save the seasonal stuff for all year long. I grated and froze my zucchini to make zucchini bread. Froze tomatoes in can-or-freeze jars for use in sauces.

Also, plant some of your own foods - and start with the easy ones - the perennials: Asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, peaches, apples, herbs. I planted a dwarf peach tree two years ago in fall from Home Depot and the very next season it produced fruit, which I canned and now I'm eating m organic peaches in the middle of winter - and are they good! I showed my friend how to can and in exchange she let me have some of the cucumbers we canned as pickles. Look around your neighborhood for fruit trees going unpicked. Two people within five minutes of me have huge apple trees and they don't use the fruit. I just asked them and I got two huge bags. I froze apples for apple pie, grated some for apple bread, made homemade apple butter (so easy), and froze some apple salsa. Ask your friends to buy meat from an organic farm together.

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answers from Chicago on

I go to Whole Foods. I tried getting organic at Dominicks and one time found all the blueberries had mold and were still sitting on the shelves. I brought them to the front desk and the manager told me that their organic produce doesn't move as quickly so their food can spoil! I have found that WF prices are the same for much better quality produce. However, I just get fruit and veggies there.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Whole Foods (if you have them) carries their own line of foods called 365 Days - I don't know if 100% of it is organic but much is and it is very reasonably priced. During much of the year, our local farmer's markets carry reaonably priced produce that is either organic or pretty close - since the farmer is often their, you can discuss their practices with them and make an informed decision. Starting a vegetable garden is a great and affordable idea - you don't need a lot of space to grow depending upon what you grow and if you use the vertical space (trellis/grow on tee pees, hanging baskets). I also found this link if you haven't already looked at it -

One thing that is economical and healthy is to avoid prepackaged foods and cook as much as possible from scratch. That and to invest in a freezer or learn to can - buy LOTS of local tomatoes when they are in season and make sauce, can and/or freeze. Nothing tastes as good as local summer peaches and they are cheap at the height of the summer - blanch, peel and chop and you have freezer jam and fruit for yogurt for the whole winter.



answers from Chicago on

It is difficult because I always find that the "junk" food is, of cours, the easiest to afford on a budget! Sometimes the best I can do is make sure we mostly cook at home, and avoid eating out or quick foods. Love, love, love my crock pot and also a good cook book called "Organic Baby and Toddler Cookbook" for ideas.
Good for you for trying, we just have to do the best we can for our little ones!
Oh! Here is the link, if you want to check out that book:

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