Ocnutrition’s Blog

Savvy Organic Shopping
September 1, 2011, 3:32 am
Filed under: General Nutrition

Why does organic food have to be so expensive?  The cost typically tops the list of reasons why people don’t incorporate more organic foods into their diets.  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, higher production costs and a limited supply compared with the demand are two factors that lead to higher prices in many organic products.  Eating organic foods while on a budget isn’t impossible, it just takes some planning.

Prioritize What’s Important– If eating organic foods is important to you then identify which of the organic foods you are most interested in.  There are the “dirty dozen” foods which most likely have the highest pesticide residues: celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, pears, nectarines, sweet bell peppers, spinach, cherries, potatoes, imported grapes, and lettuce.  While the “dirty dozen” is a great place to start, if you aren’t going to be eating those foods regularly then it won’t make an impact financially.  Or are you most concerned with growth hormones in dairy and meat products?  Some feel there maybe a health gain by choosing organic foods higher up the food chain such as, dairy, meats and other animal products.  Choose organic items that you consume most often during the week. Also, what is most important to you? Do you want to avoid pesticides, then choose organic produce, if you want to avoid growth hormones, then choose organic dairy.  There are no wrong answers; it is really a personal decision.Check out the USDA Organic program’s website to learn more about organic products.

Buy in Bulk–  Buying frequently used items in bulk or in larger amounts is a common way to save.  Many organic items are now being packaged in bulk or in larger amounts.  For example, a tub of organic yogurt is more cost efficient than the smaller individual servings.  Be mindful that you are able to consume the entire product in a timely manner so that it doesn’t exceed its shelf life needing to be discarded before you are able to consume it.

Buy in Season–  Seasonal shopping always helps the bottom line regardless of whether you are purchasing organic or non-organic items.  Buying products in season enables you to enjoy the produce at its maximum freshness and it provides the best nutritional values. Depending on where you live buying organic items in season may be tougher, not so much here in Southern California.  Shop at Farmer’s Markets, by buying from local farmers, you can find ripe, organically grown produce at pretty reasonable rates.

Search for Sales–  Watch your local grocery store for sales. Often there will be sales on organic peanut butter, or frozen or canned organic items.  On shelf stable foods this is a good time to stock up and save money. Buy organic frozen—less waste/prep time, with all the nutrients of fresh.  Grocery stores often have sales on produce particularly when it is in season. You can even buy “more than you need “of some seasonal produce and then freeze it to use later.

Purchase Private Store Brands–  As the popularity of organic food catches on more stores are developing their own organic brands.  Compare prices of national brands with store brands.

Plan Ahead– Planning ahead can be an economical way to not only reduce waste but also make the most of the money spent on organics.  Create weekly menus that utilize the items purchased, so that nothing goes to waste. Plan a few vegetarian or plant-based meals.  Start a “meatless Monday” routine.  Plant proteins are very economical.  Another trick is to make a grocery list beforehand knowing the items you already have at home.  Use recipes to guide the purchases. Also, keep in mind portion sizes, there is no need to buy more than you are going to eat. Planning ahead may eliminate the need to make multiple trips to the grocery store.

Bottom Line–  Buy only what you need and know you can eat, there is no point in purchasing an item on sale which you know no one will eat or will not be able to finish.  Clip coupons and purchase items in season.  Look at your daily habits to see how you can budget more effectively to include better-quality foods in yourmenu plan.  The savings from this strategy could mean more than just a balanced budget. 

This information was brought to you by Robyn Moss, MS, RD and OC Nutrition, Your Trusted Source for Health & Nutrition Advice. OC Nutrition offers nutrition counseling services over the phone or in person in Newport Beach, Irvine, Orange, Anaheim Hills, Chino Hills and Long Beach.  If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact:

Kristy L. Richardson, MS, MPH, RD, CSSD,CHES
Registered Dietitian & Exercise Physiologist
(949) 933-6788