Today’s question is from Carrie:
I’m a stay at home wife and my husband and I just started Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover this year (we’re on baby step 3). We’ve definitely become much more conscious of our spending now that we’re paying cash at the grocery store and I’m shocked to see that we’re spending about $600 a month on groceries for 2 adults (that’s strictly food not household stuff)!
We do meal plan and eat at home most meals, however I’d really like to bring that number down. How do you decide what’s worth buying organic versus conventional? And how do you decide what’s worth buying brand name versus store brand?
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If you go to the ewg.org web page its the environmental working group you can look at the clean 15 and the dirty dozen for produce which is what I go buy when buying organic or not this is referring to the amount of pesticides in the produce.
I buy what is in season for organic produce. Often I have found organic cheaper or the same price as the nonorganic counterpart if I am buying inseason. I buy mostly organic for the produce (everything on the dirty dozen list even though it is more than a dozen now) unless it is something that you don’t eat the peel of and it is cheaper conventionally (i.e. bananas, kiwi, hard squash, pineapple, persimmons, melons, etc). The stuff I buy conventionally I do wash it in a vinager/water mix to get rid of pesticides that may be lingering on the skin. You also need to figure out how to swap things in recipes. If something calls for peaches and it is winter use apples or really ripe pears, etc As far as meat goes we buy the better homone/antibiotic free humanely raised poultry (we don’t eat beef). We also have fish or shrimp once a week depending on what is on sale. Shop the sales and stock up. Lots of organic/all natural brands offer coupons through their website or facebook page. Also check out commonkindness.com it is a relatively new coupon site with lots of natural/organic coupons. We spend about 120-140 every two weeks for two adults and one toddler on food (total grocery budget is 480 a month but we have 4 cats and 3 dogs to feed too 🙂 )
I’ve cut my budget down to $340 a month on groceries for my family (me, husband, and 2 year old). I always check the circulars (and I get the weekly deals emails for my favorite stores through moneysavingmom.com). We stock up on veggies when they’re on sale then prepare them and freeze them before they go bad. This also helps save time later because everything’s cut up and I can just toss it in a pan and saute them. We avoid processed boxed stuff because it’s terrible for you and expensive. We also almost always buy store brand. The taste difference is virtually the same and often times the store brand tastes better and has less sodium (except the cereal, I just can’t handle store brand cereal).
If you want to save on organic, try looking into farmer’s markets in your area. Not only will you get better deals because you’re buying directly from the source, but you’ll also support your local economy.
For store brands, I’m most likely to buy store brand of basics – tuna, flour, cheese, canned beans, etc. Single ingredient things seem (to me) like there’s not as much variation between brands. When it is more complicated stuff like cereal, I’m more likely to get name brand.
We buy fruit every week, but the price determines what we get. If I can find apples for a good price (I’m looking for organic under $1.99/lb), I’ll get that, if not, I’ll look for pears under that price, etc. It helps me to think about price per unit there. I just bought a $7 watermelon, but it will last the week. Bananas are always the cheapest, so we usually have them on hand, but it’s nice to have variety. I love berries, but they’re so high on the dirty dozen that I really want organic, so I’m usually keeping my eye out for a REALLY good price. (Or recognize it as a splurge, which does of course happen. 🙂 )
And another vote for the Dirty Dozen as a starting place for organics (plus corn, because of the GMOs).
Kristen @ Joyfullythriving says
I find it very interesting how many opinions there are on the two organic / non-organic sides of this issue – and am thankful that so many pointed out this is a personal decision. To me, when looking at living on a budget, I’m much rather my money is spent on good foods that I can afford. I am trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into our diet and budget. Right now, for me, that means buying mostly conventional because I can afford to buy more. Otherwise, I coupon and buy the low cost product, whether it’s a store brand or name brand with coupons. Thanks, everyone, for giving lots of food for thought on this topic! 🙂
We stick to not buying the dirty dozen. Also, make your own bread. Find an inexpensive bread maker on Craigslist and you can make all your own breads and doughs very easily and then you know what ingredients are going in them. The bread machine will pay for itself in just a few weeks.
Look into a CSA, but better yet try your hand at veggie gardening. Many items are very easy to grow and you can even grow them in containers (pots) if you don’t have much room or want to start smaller. If you’re adventurous try starting from seed, which is also the least expensive, or you can buy veggie seedling at any nursery/garden center. Just buy what you already know you like to start out.
Eat in season! Basically, don’t buy tomatoes in the middle of January, etc. That will save you a ton of money on produce. Buy lots and can/freeze for later.
Also, for those who have remarked that organic isn’t healthier, the same nutrition is in the same produce (organic vs. non organic). It isn’t more nutrition people are after by eating organic, it’s not ingesting the chemicals and pesticides.
Eat organic as in the long run you are buying your future health!
If you can’t afford to eat all organic, then either cut something else out of your budget or at least purchase according to the “dirty dozen” list
I seriously doubt that two adults are eating $600 worth of organic produce per month. How much are you throwing away? Cut back on the waste and prepared foods and you should still be able to eat organic if you want.
I try to buy mostly organic vegetables.
I buy conventional meat, but we don’t buy a lot of it. My husband hunts, so we have the ultimate in organic in terms of red meat, and I buy chicken in bulk from Zaycon. It is Not organic, but they do say it’s free of additives and hormones.
I get our milk delivered from a local dairy. It’s not organic, but they don’t use antibiotics or hormones, and they don’t milk sick cows (well, they don’t sell the milk from them-lol).
I’d encourage you to check out farmer’s markets and local farms and stands. There are some that don’t have organic certification but use organic practices.
In terms of store brands, I don’t buy name brands unless I’m getting a better deal on them by using a coupon/sale match up. There are a couple of exceptions, but in general, store brands have gotten very good over the last several years. I have to say, 600.00 is really high for food for two adults. I think you might want to look at meals that use cheaper proteins. You can do a lot with rice and beans, and even if you buy all organic, you’ll have a hard time spending 600.00!
We also like Costco for produce like salad mix (a head of lettuce would be even cheaper, but it’s such a time saver)!
michelle brown says
As far as organic fruits and vegetables go I would suggest looking up a list of the foods that are known to have the most pesticides and making those things a priority in your organic food budget. Some of those things are potatoes, tomatoes, apples, berries, and milk and dairy products. Store brand foods are often as good as name brands, but one needs to read and compare label contents as well as choose items after trying according to your taste preferences to get the most bang for your buck.
Also, try incorporating potatoes into your meals–a 5 lb. bag sold for $1.50 at my local Kroger this week (!) . . . you can fill a lot of belly for not much money that way.
I buy the dirty dozen organic. But we’ve found the best way to eat organic is to grow many of our own veggies ourselves.
Store brands are usually just as good as the name brands now, they’re much cheaper, and most stores have some kind of satisfaction guarantee. Basically, you have nothing to lose by trying everything at least once! I buy just about everything store brand and over time have picked out the few items that I’m a “snob” about: for me that list includes spagghetti sauce, Coke, canned soups, orange juice, and . . . I think that’s it. It’s worth a try!
kim t. says
decide what your values are. cooking from scratch is comparitavely inexpensive. when you cook a whole chicken, you can get gallons of broth from the frame – have it simmering all week and keep taking broth out to cook with or to freeze, and replenish the water. add a splash of vinegar to help get more minerals out of the bones. think of how much broth goes into a pot of soup and how expensive that can get. Dried beans are cheaper than canned. Bulk foods are often cheaper – esp. spices! While you are paying down debt, it might be more worth it to buy conventional and only organic when affordable. If you are eating right, that is a good thing for your body. Which will help keep illness and then doctor bills down.
If you have Aldi in your area they are a very clean food source. Aldi store brands have very few ingredients and many of their products are the same as Trader Joes in different packaging. My daughter has a good friend who is German and knows people who work for Aldi in Germany and she has told my daughter that they are very picky about what gets sold in their stores and strive to sell products that are GMO free and organic even though they may not be labeled that way. This young German mother shops at Aldi here in the USA. GMO corn products cause me tummy troubles and Aldi corn based foods give me no trouble which is proof enough for me.
We belong to a CSA during the growing season (in ND) and get 1/2 a grass-fed steer. We make as much as we can from scratch to keep costs down & healthy ingredients up. I also keep a price book of the best price/ounce of our preferred groceries at our favorite stores. It requires up front work over a few months to get the lowest prices, however I can tell at a glance if I’m getting a good deal. I bought a very small notebook from Target and tabbed different sections-frozen, baking supplies, canned, boxed, etc. Then each time you see a lower price/ounce write it in the book. I also keep track of which store I get items from as some are better prices at the grocery and others at our bulk store. Good Luck! Dave Ramsey
100daysofrealfood.com will save your budget, hands down.
She committed to eating only REAL FOOD for several months on a food stamps budget (and passed with flying colors). I believe it was a family of 4 with a little over $300 a month. Now her family lives off of real food completely. It’s amazing.
IMO, as long as you’re cleaning your foods, I don’t see the fuss over the two. I would bet that if you compared to kids on the same diet but one was on organic and the other wasn’t, that they’d both perform the same. I can honestly say organic food doesn’t give me any more energy than conventional.
On another note, healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. Make sure you’re eating hearty meals and you won’t spend as much. Oatmeal for breakfast, noodles in soups to bulk them up, veggies in place of meat, etc.
I agree with August – it’s amazing how well (deliciously and healthfully) you can feed your family by avoiding processed/packaged foods. My husband and I both work full time, but I am very lucky to have a job where I get to work from home on Wednesdays each week, which really helps me to have extra time required to prepare meals from scratch each morning for breakfast and dinner for my family, plus treats and things for lunches. We have 2 teenage boys who are big eaters! For breakfasts during the week, I do eggs & pancakes one day, scrambled egg sandwhich or breakfast burrito (with potatoes, often leftover from a dinner meal) another day (we have hens and take pride in what we feed them, so we have “free” great eggs), hot cereal twice a week (usually served with homemade muffins, coffee cake, rolls, etc) and one day a week I do smoothies – for the smoothies I buy an organic mixed berry frozen bag that I can get at Costco (I buy organic when it’s on sale, or when I can get it in bulk from Costco for a good price.) Dinners during the week usually go like this – chicken of some sort twice (the rotissiere chicken at costco is a great time saver, delicious and inexpensive for those extra busy nights when we have boys scouts), ground beef (or pork, or steak) once or twice a week, homemade pizza on fridays, and at least one night a week a meatless dish (like cheese lasagna, pesto or chile relleno casserole.) Leftover dinner is usually what my boys take for lunches, they have thermoses they take to school, and my husband and I usually do the same. I buy all of most – consumed foods at Costco – like flour, sugar, milk, cheeses, ground beef, chicken breasts, favorite produce (apples especially – I make applesauce in the crockpot and can it) and some breads, though I am working hard to make more breads from scratch to save money there (have almost perfected yeast rolls! 🙂 Coffee and juices we also buy at Costco, and only buy soda or beer occasionally, usually if we have company coming. I bake from scratch weekly, keeping cookie dough that I roll into balls and flash freeze, in the freezer at all times in labeled ziplocs, and I make ice cream from scratch. Soup is also great to make on the weekends for lunches during the week with leftover rolls. I hope these tips help!
I focus on buying organic for dirty dozen foods that we eat a lot of. Steamed broccoli is a staple side dish for us, so I buy that organic unless I can’t find it. I sometimes break off the stems so I don’t have to pay for them, if they are really long (sorry Whole Foods, your stems are too long!!!).
It also helps to find organic produce where you get lots of bang for your buck, meaning lots of bulk for a cheaper item. Kale will sometimes provide that. Sweet potatoes. A red bell pepper, organic, is a luxury item for me because it’s gone so quickly!
And also for the frozen berries for our smoothies, because supposedly berries are just loaded with the worst pesticides. We have a store called Fresh and Easy here, and their frozen organic berries are pretty cheap.
I never buy from farmer’s markets (sorry!). Their stuff is way too expensive, and from what I can tell, no one can tell them not to save a dying berry supply by doubling up on whatever pesticide they do use. You just need to trust people, which for my money…..eh. I’m sure most farmers are great, but not worth the risk. At least the grocery store stuff is inspected.
Cheese is expensive, so I buy really flavorful stuff and make it last a long time. You just gotta know what’s expensive, pound for pound, and use less of it. I never waste coffee, I save even a cup in the fridge. It’s expensive. When we are living “lean” to save money, I never cook steak. Ground beef tacos provide similar nutritional benefits. So do beef stews.
You don’t need a $5 chicken breast for dinner, and it doesn’t have to be organic. Wait until it’s on sale. Boneless skinless conventional should have less toxins because the toxins are in the fat (at least that’s my understanding), and laws prohibit added hormones anyways. If I eat the skin, I try to buy more natural brands. Many toxins get stored in fat.
While pregnant I eat more organic, because the fetus may be more sensitive. Will probably do the same while breastfeeding. After that, I will probably only worry about things like berries with my kids.
I buy whatever pasta sauce is on sale. Rinaldi is really good and cheap. Ragu tastes like nothing but sugar, my opinion. Same with pasta itself. Don’t become married to one brand, buy whatever is cheap, whether it’s store or name brand.
I only buy non-farm raised fish (Except maybe shrimp). I have had good luck finding Sockeye salmon filets, packaged and frozen, on sale at our Kroger affiliate called Ralphs. Frozen is the way to go with deals and fish. Some of the stuff under the glass was “previously frozen” anyways, then thawed. Put some A-1 on your salmon before baking, and it tastes amazing. You don’t need to thaw it first.
Walmart is great for a lot of things. I buy produce there sometimes.
The great thing about a budget is that just having that goal, forces you to somehow find the best way to make your money work. So I think you will figure it out with time, what is worth it to you and what’s not. I know for me, it didn’t take long on my cash budget to figure out what was eating up the money. Then you just make choices based on what is important to you. The money will naturally get spent where it means the most, and the other stuff will fall by the wayside.
You might try growing some of your own food as well. We’ve really stepped it up this year and right now I am enjoying a spring mix-like lettuce blend that my husband grew from free seeds and has barely put any time into, which is much cheaper than the stuff I pick up at the store.
You might consider focusing on “local” rather than “organic.” Many smaller scale farms use organic growing methods but do not seek official certification. These farmers will often invite you to their farm so you can see how they raise their produce or animals.
Perhaps look into a CSA or at least check out some area farmers’ markets for produce, meat, and eggs. You might be able to find a reasonable price on a large quantity of produce that you can freeze or jar for later in the year.
Kelly @ Fru-Gal.org says
I try to buy organic as much as possible, especially with the dirty dozen produce and meats/dairy. Besides milk for the kids and I, we eat dairy-, egg-, and nut-free (hubby’s allergies), so it can be tough to make all that work on a budget, but it can be done, too! A lifesaver for me (I live in Colorado) is a grocery chain called “Sprouts.” They have excellent prices on organic, usually apples for $1-1.50 lb, carrots for $.69 lb, beef on sale for $4.99 lb, chicken for 1.99 lb. I stock up when it goes on sale and use meats sparingly in meals (lots of soups with homemade broths, including veggie broth from scraps). We are a family of 4 and my budget is $280/month. I’m about to post my shopping trip today on my blog, which shows some of the organic deals. I also buy pretty basic ingredients and bake from scratch. We don’t eat out unless a special occassion or we have a gift card.
What is your blog name? I live in Central CA and a Sprouts opened here last week. I’ll have to drop in!
Lea Stormhammer says
For me the easiest way to cut our costs for groceries (whether buying organic or not or name vs store bran) was to buy only what we will actually eat and to watch our serving sizes.
I do have a “stockpile” of sorts, of things we eat regularly (I buy rolled oats in bulk for example), but I only buy things that we will eat. I had a moment a few years ago where I went through the cupbaords and threw out everything that was expired or that I knew we wouldn’t eat – WOW! Watching portion sizes makes things stretch farther – meat servings at 3-4oz not the 5-8oz that most people eat at a minimum. Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies – even if organic they’re less expensive than meat!
Track how much food you throw away each week and have a an eat from the pantry challenge. You might be amazed at how much you have! Also, take a good look at what you’re buying to drink and snack on. Soda Pop, chips, pretzels, bottled water, etc. all add up quite a bit, and you don’t even need them!
We have a CSA and are exploring a bulk meat purchase in the near future. Both of these are organic but we don’t feel we need to buy organic. We do wash all our fruits and veggies with water and a little dish soap, rinsing well, before we eat them. We are a family of 4 – 2 adults, 2 8-year-olds, and we spend $40/wk or $160/mo on groceries/toiletries/paper products.
Hope you get some helpful hints from the comments,
Name-brand vs. store-brand: Start buying all store brand. If there’s something you don’t like, consider moving back up to name brand. We probably have less than five things we buy in specific brands; for the rest I just get whatever is cheapest and it works for us!
We don’t do any organic at this time. Our store doesn’t carry it. We’re not dead yet. 🙂
Karin Jones says
My family is on a whole foods diet. I make pretty much everything from scratch. We buy mostly organic whenever possible. It is expensive, however my family goes without a lot of extra stuff in order to pay for the cost. It’s our priority. Simple as that.
As far as Conventional Brands vs. Store Brands, it really depends on you. Most store brands are just as good and the name brands. However, I have found that paring a coupon with a great sale will get the name brand item much cheaper than the store brand.
How funny – I JUST spent the last few hours writing a post about it this morning! Our family has slowly been switching the past 5 years depending on our budget and this is my 5 tips:
maria @ me in the kitchen says
I choose to eat organic as I would like to avoid GMO’s and pesticides. If I can’t afford the organic prices then I won’t buy that item. When strawberries are $6 a pint, I buy more bananas which are usually only 10-15 cents more than non-organic. Also, try buying frozen organics, those are usually cheaper than fresh. If you have an Aldi’s in your area, give them a look around. They have recently started selling organic items.
I was going to mention the dirty dozen and clean 15 to you…it looks like that’s been mentioned. I try and buy as much produces as I can that doesn’t need to be organic…lots of pineapple, kiwi and oranges. We do also try and buy organic meats. Most everything else, I buy store brand. Trader Joe’s is wonderful and pretty cheap for organics. I hope that helps some!
Everyone has already covered most of the organic produce topic and explained the dirty dozen and buying locally from farmer’s markets to save money. So, I’ll just say if your main goal is to eat healthier, besides the produce you purchase, you probably have a few organic or non-GMO brands you trust. Look those brands up online and find their websites because they will often have coupons. Not all stores accept coupons, but most do and most stores in larger cities have started selling more real food along with the chemical junk that keeps the drug companies in business.
There’s more demand for the good stuff so it’s becoming more available. But like someone else here mentioned, larger corporations have noticed that folks are getting wise to them. They see that real food is gaining market momentum, so they started going after that market too. Unfortunately, when money is what matters, they fall back into their science-experiment ways. For instance, Kellogg’s owns Kashi, Garden Burger and Morningstar Farms, and has faced serious scrutiny from customers who want to eat real food because Kellogg’s continues to use potentially cancer/disease-causing GMOs in their ingredients. There just hasn’t been enough testing on genetically modified organisms. So, it’s important for us to be mindful of ingredients.
I have this dilemma too. I like to keep our grocery bill including paper goods under 400 a month (for two adults, one pregnant!, and a toddler), which I know is more than some here, but I hate couponing and shopping around at different stores for deals! I really hate it…anyway, I keep our meat consumption low (a few times a week) and stretch the meat out and try to buy grass fed. I don’t buy dairy grass fed cuz it is so expensive, but I wish I could manage that (except Stonyfield Whole Milk Plain Yogurt!-totally have to go brand name with that!). When I get an extra freezer, I’d like to buy quarter-cows and chickens in bulk to save on meat. Otherwise, I try to stick to dirty dozen stuff with produce and buy store brand on most things and keep it to basics. Hardly any convenience foods or snacks and cook things from scratch. It’s a decent compromise but I would like to be able to do a little more organic. We also have a veggie garden and hope to get most of our salad stuff out of that this summer!
I’ve seen many comments about store brands. While store brands may taste the same and have almost the same ingredients, I would encourage you to compare the nutritional value. Recently, I decided not to buy the store brand tomato sauce because it had more than twice as much sodium as Hunt’s. No thank you!
Kim in Cali says
thank you for this reminder!
Trial and error on the store brands. My husband is in the packaging industry and a lot of the store brands are made by name brand companies.
Hi, I’m a bargin shopper, coupon user, grocery store flyer user, and plan, plan, plan before you shop. I buy for 2 adults, 10 year old girl, 8 year old boy. For me, I pick usually one morning a week I typically shop and I have a cash budget at $500 a month (sometimes $600) My husband gets paid straight commision. This includes all food, paper products, cleaning, health and beauty. I first make a list, menu plan for the week, using whats on sale for the week to decide if we will be buying chicken, pork, or beef. I cook from scratch and rarely buy convenience foods so that helps. I always buy fruit that is on sale and seasonal too. (same with veggies) Plus, we have a garden so we can and freeze, We also have 9 hens so eggs are plentiful. I’m a firm believer in leftovers, and when I plan meals for a week, I make it according to our work/sport schedule..In a typical week, I’ll have 4-5 meals planned, allowing for leftovers too. Hope this helps!
Personally, knowing how bendable the USDA organic rules are, I only buy organic if I know who grew it, their growing methods, etc. Otherwise, you’re likely paying for certified organic produce that really isn’t any better than conventional.
Justi Thomas says
We spend about $140-150 a week on groceries for my family of 6 and eat mostly organic/grass fed/clean. I have found the key is to find local farmers who are committed to growing produce/meat in an organic fashion but perhaps haven’t spent the money to become USDA certified. Localharvest.org and eatwild.com were hugely helpful in finding these options locally as well as talking to the farmers at the farmers market. Eating seasonally is also essential. The summer time is a bounty for fresh fruit and veggies so freeze and can. The winter is citrus season, so we don’t eat fresh berries/peaches etc.
There has been research done showing that organic foods do not have any better nutrition than conventionally grown foods. If you really want to save money, grow your own produce. If this isn’t possible, many people stick with the “Dirty Dozen”. However, even if I did that, I couldn’t afford to buy enough food to feed my family.
I simply don’t understand the pricing on organic products. Often times when I do my grocery shopping, the organic foods are already spoiling, and who is going to buy that let alone pay more for the privilege? Our local farmer’s market is the same way. Sorry, but I can’t afford a $6 pint of “organic” strawberries.
As far as store brands, I buy them if that is what will be cheaper. If I have a coupon on name brand that makes it cheaper, I buy that. Many things I notice no difference. There are some things that I do. Some stores offer a money back guarantee on their store products if you are not satisfied.
so true. I go to the store and see big gorgeous unblemished produce next to brown spotty shrively “organic” produce for three times the price! I say stick to the dirty dozen if possible. Also don’t waste your time on prepackaged “organic” garbage like snack foods or even more ridiculous “organic” toilet bowl cleaner etc. i also grab ton of produce at ethnic markets. I have a great one by my house and they carry local and organic items as well. I fill my cart for 20$ which also includes a gallon of whole milk, half and half and a dozen eggs! AND I live in overpriced everything New Jersey… so maybe think outside the box a little and be willing to shop in a couple of different places.
That’s because the produce has been genetically engineered to look fresh, whether it is or not. Produce companies have figured out people eat with their eyes. 😉 I’m not saying its better to eat a moldy strawberry..but that conventional strawberry might have been doused with fungicide and then ripened with butane. Also, much of the research you speak of is headed by the main pesticide manufacturers, i.e. Monsanto and ConAgra…Im not saying its invalid, just highly corrupted.
There’s also been research that shows that says the opposite (about the nutritional value of organic).
Yes, I was just going to comment on this. There was a study done (I forget which university) about organic strawberries verses conventional strawberries. THere were significant differences in nutrient content. The organic had more of several nutrients, while I think perhaps conventional had more potassium (I could be mistaken about this, but for some reason, it’s ringing a bell).
We eat lots of organic foods. I just want to share what we do. It may not work for your family, but take what you need, leave the rest 🙂
We eat organic bc of the safety and ethical concerns regarding pesticides, growing practices and GMOs.
We are 2 adults and an 8 mo old who eats solids. I breastfeed, so I eat a lot. We are spending $50 on food every 2 weeks. We eat lots of organic food, but not everything. I also am gluten and dairy free. We purchase very basic foods, the only “processed” foods we buy are chips for my husband, occasional cookies for him, canned tomatoes, tortillas, and white bread. Maybe occasional canned beans, soup, etc. We eat lots of beans, eggs, vegetables. When we do eat meat, it is venison (hunted by husband) or chicken. I buy organic when I can, “natural” if not. I cook the whole bird and use it sparingly, in tacos with beans, quiche, etc. Then I make broth. I shop at Aldi primarily, then pick up what I can’t get there from Kroger, Health Food Store, Farmers Market, Trader Joes as needed. We shop biweekly and menu plan. We grow as many veggies and fruit as we can.- even if it means salad every night. All that we grow it heirloom organic, and we seed save.
Buy local and in season, if at all possible. Figure out why you want to go organic- I found strawberries locally that were not “certified organic” but were pesticide free grown by a small farmer. Figure out what is most likely to be GMO, and avoid. We buy very little corn products or soy products for instance. Avoid dirty dozen.
Hope I helped.
We feed a family of 6 on about 600 a month and we eat about 75% organic. We focus on buying good meat and limit to eating meat to about 4-5 times a week. We buy raw milk and cheese. Organic produce or stuff that isn’t on the dirty dozen list. What has helped tremendously is that I broke up my monthly amount like this: I spend about $200 a month through Azure Standard (organic canned goods, pasta, oats, some produce, etc), I set aside around $100 to spend at the farm (milk & meat), about $100 to spend at Costco to buy mainly organic products (butter, chips, frozen berries, etc), then the remainder I divide and put into weekly envelopes for last minute needs at the grocery store (about 30-40 a week). I also menu plan and I have to say that our menues are pretty simple. Yeah Dave Ramsey!
My budget is $100 per week for a family of 5 people, including a baby on formula (my milk production failed with this baby due to me developing a severe thyroid disorder). This budget includes cleaning, toiletries, OTC / healthcare, cat food and cat litter as well as diapers, wipes, formula and people food.
The only beef I buy comes from my uncle who raises grassfed organic beef. I also get venison when an uncle or my dad hunts it. I do this because my uncle charges $2.50 per pound hanging weight. A 1/4 cow costs $450-500 for about 200 pounds of meat – ground beef, roasts and a variety of steaks. That is a lot less than I’d pay at a store for conventionally raised meat.
Otherwise, it’s just not affordable. My DH, ODD and DS drink 4 gallons of milk in a week. I can’t afford the $6.49/gallon price of organic milk on my budget, nor the $6 pint of strawberries.
We eat healthy, well balanced meals all prepared by me at home. Until organic is affordable, it’s just not an option in every category.
I stock up at rock bottom prices. Here’s what we’re eating this week for dinners:
grilled steak, potatoes and a veggie
pancakes & scrambled eggs
grilled cheese & steamed veggie
pork chops (raised by my uncle), noodles, corn on the cob
beef fried rice
Lunches are sandwiches or leftovers. Breakfasts are a homemade baked item, or fruit, or cereal. Snacks are fruit, homemade granola or popcorn.
Hannah J says
My husband and I stick to organics as much as we can, but with things with thick skins (oranges, bananas, lemons, ect.) we buy conventional. We are part of a CSA(community supported agriculture) program, they drop off a large bag of local organic food (including produce, 5lbs organic meats, raw honey, free-range eggs, ect.) once per week. Mine costs me $40 a week, but it covers half the groceries for my family of 3.
This site will help you with the non-perishables especially. Play the drugstore game for them. Toilet paper goes on sale a lot at Walgreens. Or, if you don’t have the time, buy non-perishables in bulk. If you have an extra freezer you could invest in half a cow or a whole pig. The price per pound is SO low, it’s worth it if you have the space, and my freezer only adds $5-7 more per month on electric for me.
Aldi’s has been expanding its inventory. They have a lot of organic choices now, including things like Kefir and organic milk.
I hope this all helps.
Feel free to visit me at my site at:
Amy H. says
For our family, organic vs. non-organic is not an issue, so I won’t address that question.
As far as name brand vs. store brand, you just never know until you try. For me, almost every purchase comes down to “is it worth it to prolong our debt (or long term savings plans, or short term savings plan) in order to purchase this name brand vs. store brand item?” Sometimes the answer is yes, but most often it’s no. Also, if you comparison shop and coupon, you often can get name brand items for less than store brand, so make sure you’re doing that for the items you REALLY have to buy store brand.
Also, since you said you mean plan, perhaps look over your menus and see if there’s anything there that you could eliminate or substitute for a healthy, lower costing alternative. Eating at home doesn’t always save if store purchases are things you could make at home, too. Like a store bought lasagna would be considered at “at home meal” but could easily cost two to three times as much as making it yourself.
What do you eat most ? We have lots of steel cut oats for breakfast. It is pretty cheap at Costco. All flour is organic. Whole Foods and similar stores often have their own label brand. I can find organic milk, butter and eggs at prices that are comparable to regular brands. I can bake many things with organic ingredients at home for much less cost then buying them at the store.
We rarely buy organic produce. I just can’t afford it. We wash everything in the sink with vinegar. I do buy organic dairy and meat, because I don’t like all the hormones and antibiotics in conventional animal products. We used to buy organic produce, but my son has to be gluten free now, and those things can be expensive, so we switched back to conventional produce to help balance out the extra money we spend on gluten free things for him. If you can garden that helps a ton. We don’t have the space for a garden, but my parents have a huge garden and they grow way too much for 2 people so we always get all our tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and squash from them in the summer, plus this year my dad is attempting to grow lettuce which is awesome. Also I buy store brands of almost everything, but the things that are especially good to buy store brand are canned beans and canned veggies and tomatoes. We generally find the most difference between store brand and name brands in snack foods, but if you just try it sometimes you can find good store brands. My daughter actually prefers Kroger brand granola bars over the Quaker chewy kind.
I am not a nutritional expert or food expert. Just throwing that out there. With that said, my daughter has a lot of food allergies and I have spent a lot of time and effort researching food and nutrition. A lot of organic food has been commercialized and the standards for Organic certification is becoming more lenient. With that said, I believe organic farmers and food producers never intended for Organic food to come off more healthy for humans- but more for the environmental sustainability. Now that organic is becoming more popular, a lot of its core principles are lost: thats why you can go into Walmart and find Organic X from South America. Do you know how much gas it took to get it to you? On the other hand, would it be worth the few extra dollars to pay a local farmer and keep the food in your region and fresh? Would it be a smart investment to ensure the farmer can afford to sustain his land so that, say in 20 years, we aren’t shipping in lead filled apples from China? Thats an extreme but plausible example. Now, for health. There are a lot of disagreements even within the health and science communities on whether GMOs(Cant be in orgnanic-for now) and pesticides are harmful for humans. A lot of people believe organic produce doesn’t use pesticides-which is totally false-they just use *organic* pesticides, some people are saying these are worst because they are not scientifically formulated for certain pests but are poisons in general. Generally, soft peels(i.e. blueberries, grapes, etc.) will retain more toxins than a hard peel fruit (i.e. bananas). Hope I didn’t confuse you further but there are really a lot of variables to consider.
I’m glad you pointed out the fact that “organic” does not mean pesticide free. It might or might not mean that. And if you aren’t buying from a local farmer, you really don’t have anyone to ask. As you said, organic foods are allowed to be sprayed with pesticides that break down more quickly & easily in the environment than conventional ones. This sometimes means that organic produce has to be sprayed more often than conventional produce. Like others, I’m not saying that people should or should not buy organic. Just don’t buy under false assumptions. (Our local farm magazine had an article on this stating that one of the pesticides allowed on organics was pyrethrin sprays. When I worked at the vet’s office, guess what we dipped cats & puppies in to kill fleas. If you guessed pyrethrin, you’re correct.)
Yep. If you’ve ever done any gardening, you quickly realize how hard it is to battle the pests!
Amen to that. We have a large garden each year and I can & freeze veggies that we eat on the following year. We too have LOTS of pests. There is no way we could do it without spraying at least some items. Even with spraying, bugs have still eaten all the leaves off of my green beans towards the end. But at least we know which plants we’ve sprayed with what, how often & when it was done.
So glad to see you say that about organic. Most folks don’t realize that the farmer has to pay the gov’t to use that title and that it means whatever the gov’t wants it to. That does NOT mean it’s healthy! I am blessed to have a farm and raise food myself, including goats for milk and chickens for eggs. They are not registered ‘organic’ but they are totally natural and free-range. Folks, buying local is a much better option than organic from the store…where at all possible. Go find a farmer’s market in your area as well. Join a local CSA. It is totally possible to grow tomato and pepper plants in pots on your back deck. Strawberries make great container plants! You can trellis melons, squash and cucumbers too. Carrots can be grown in a 5-gallon bucket as can potatoes. Corn is the only thing that might be hard in a container. If you really want to garden or at least grow a few of your own plants you certainly can do it! Even on your back deck, patio or balcony.
Strawberries and potatoes hold the most pesticides if they are sprayed, so we never buy anything but organic for those. As for the rest, we just try to do our best. Our local health food store often has really great deals on organic fruits or veggies (sometimes less per pound than the traditional store!) When that happens, we stock up and freeze as much as we can (tomatoes, berries, etc, all work well).
Also, buying local (but not organic) can often be a great way to save money and get better produce than the traditional stuff in the store. When I lived in Texas, when grapefruits were in season, you could get 5 pounds for $1. Seriously. I just about fell over when I saw it for the first time. Same thing with peaches… if you bought the local stuff, you could get a pound for $1, versus a pound for $2-3 at the store.
Those are my initial thoughts. Hope they can help! 🙂
Mrs. Waste Not says
It is a very personal choice, but you could always refer to the dirty dozen list in terms of produce, and save a bundle in this area by growing your own. If you are worried about other products, you could rely on taste as we do. My husband grew up in a foreign country, and milk and meat don’t taste good to him unless it is organic. When the budget allows that is what we buy. Also rather than approach it as top down – what do we want and how much does it cost – you could work it backwards. Look at how much you need to be saving, see what is left, and then determine what the grocery budget should be. Good luck!!
I believe that a 10:1 vinegar solution does a good job of removing most pesticides, etc. (10 parts water to 1 part vinegar). We don’t do a whole lot of organic unless it is close in price to non-organic. If I had to pick just one thing to get organic I think it would be spinach and the other dark salad greens.
You can’t control everything. You can drive yourself nuts trying to eliminate every potential harmful thing from your diet. Do what makes sense for your family.
Natural Grocers is a chain available in the West, a lot like Trader Joe’s. Often I find the prices very competitive if not cheaper than our conventional grocery store. Also check out becoming a member of a food co-op. You will sometimes get a discount for your membership.
We also look for saving in other areas, such as doing two-three meatless meals/week.
Cheryl Weber says
I don’t do Organic, but have heard that if you are wanting to go that route there are guidelines. Things that you can wash or peel are not as important to buy because the pesticides don’t penetrate..but things such as meat and milk are good buys. I know there are some that will disagree..not trying to debate only passing along what I heard..as far as store brand vs. name brand. I personally try store brands. sometimes they are equal or better. If they don’t meet your standards then you can pick and choose. Name brands usually have coupons so you can save there. save big where you can, it helps offset those things you are not willing to compromise. I find places like the $1.00 store, Big Lots, and grocery outlets sell fabulous name brands @ bottom of the barrel prices, you just need to frequent these stores. For instance our 99 cent only store carries DOLE products salad, fruits, all for 99 cents. also name brand yogurts, coffee creamer, frozen foods and always snacks like granola bars (quaker)..check them out….I think the best way to save on a grocery budget is soup once a week and eating from your pantry and freezer only, for a week every 6-8 weeks…we usually think we don’t have anything for dinner but get creative and you will eat well and save $$$$…
I think what you need to look at is your reasoning for buying organic foods. It’s a very controversial topic, but here is a good site that might help you make some decisions:
Bottom line for me is, people should buy food that will nourish them without killing the budget doing so. Conventional foods fit that bill for my family; we wash our produce well regardless of whether it’s bought at a farmer’s market or grocery store, conventional or organic. As far as generic, we mostly shop generic just because on most items, we don’t notice a difference between generic and name-brand. On some items we can get a better deal on name-brand using coupons, so on those we buy name-brand. Again – it’s all about your preference. 🙂
Thanks for sharing those links! It’s always nice to get a balanced perspective!
The perfect place to start is the dirty dozen. However, if you cannot afford those then just fill a sink with water, mix in vinegar then wash. Even though this does not get the pesticides that have made their way inside, it does help.
I would also say to invest in quality real ingredients. Spend a little more on REAL food (not processed) will actually save you tons in the long run. You will either pay the Farmer or the Doctor! I would rather pat the farmer 🙂
Trader Joe’s is a PERFECT place to find this balance. All of their produce and brand name items do not have any GMO’s and their food is very reasonably priced. My husband and I do not go anywhere else and make all meals during the month (one night a week out) on $400 or less which includes toiletries.
Pay the farmer. No patting.
Trader Joe’s private brands/house brands are supposed to be GMO free, but they carry products like Kashi which definitely are not.
Correct. By brand name I meant their Trader Joe’s brand name alone.
Does anyone know if there TJ produce that is not a different brand and not organic if GMO free? I am trying to go organic only but not there yet. But want to be GMO free. Thank you
Yes I was told last Sunday that their produce is GMO free. Even corn on the cob!!!!
I find that we prefer the store brands of many products over name brands, the exception being high fiber cereal. For that we prefer Fiber One.
For us, organic doesn’t happen unless it’s the same price as or cheaper than conventional. Sometimes this happens with a coupon or I just happen to find a great deal. I get really pumped when it happens! There is very, very little I would every insist on buying name brand of if the store brand is cheaper. However, name brand is usually cheaper for most things with sales/coupons. 🙂
Same here. I used to buy more organic, but just simply cannot find any extra money in our budget lately so if it is the same price or cheaper we buy organic, otherwise I can’t justify the extra cost lately. (I did pay a little more for organic baby food or organic fruits/veggies to make into baby food, though.) Same with brand names, we seriously buy what is cheaper lately just to try to keep our grocery bill within our budget. We try to use coupons or use less meat in our meals since that is such a big part of our grocery expense. In the past I used the dirty dozen list to buy organic fruits/veggies.
We, too, are paying down debt, but we are committed to eating organic produce and grass fed meat. Our health is too precious. I learned that the hard way after having some health issues.
To buy organic and save, we subscribe to both a produce CSA and a meat CSA. I freeze all the extra vegetables we get for the winter. We also grow a small garden in our community garden for free organic veggies. We buy 1/2 side of beef from my cousin whose husband is an Angus beef farmer. I love to shop at Trader Joe’s for organics.
Of course, not everything we buy is organic, but I would say at least 75%. We spend about $200 a week for our family of 5. It is high for groceries, but considering the quality of food we get, we’re okay with it. Paying for health issues later on will be more expensive. I also lost 70 pounds over a year eating this way, which I think will also save me money in the long run.
Could you please email me your blog or how you did it? We, too have started the whole food journey and feel our health is important
Hi, Lauren. My blog is momsplans.com. E-mail me if you have any questions. I’d be glad to help!
I do pretty much the same as what Melissa says: I joined a CSA for fruits and veggies and another for meats/milks etc. The other thing I do is go to my local farmer’s market. Local, especially when you can talk to person growing your food, sometimes trumps organic from far away. There are a lot of resources out there to find CSA and farmers for meat.
I am in complete agreement with Melissa.. I too joined a CSA and while it seems like a lot of money up front.. when you break it down by the week, Im spending $32 a week on vegetables.. All I really need is some meat which I get a lot from a partner farm of the CSA which raises Grass fed meats & birds. I keep a freezer full of meat & veggies & I dont need all that other junk from the grocery store.. I also have a good sized garden & I can & freeze my extra veggies.. Life is good & we’re eating good!
For organic, I’d say stick with the dirty dozen…the foods that have the most pesticides and other unnatural things left behind at the store. I also stick with anything with thin skin to being organic. As for store brand/name brand. We hardly buy anything name brand anymore unless we have great coupons. I’m not a couponer, but when I see great deals on here then I use them if I have access. I had a hard time switching over to yogurt, so I just buy big things of greek yogurt instead which is cheaper and tastes the same. Plus, way healthier. I have found that most store brand items aren’t too different than name brand items or you try different ones to find which are the best/most cost effective if it really does bother you 🙂 My husband and I live on between 180-200 for our monthly grocery bill in case you are wondering and shop mostly at Aldi (who does sell organic now) and Hy-Vee for reference.
It boils down to what is best. Some store brand is full of nasty ingredients that I’d rather avoid so it actually is better to pay the name brand price (no not all brands are created equal!). If it comes to choosing organic vs. conventional I’d stick with the dirty dozen and clean fifteen guidelines for produce. Also, try cutting back on meats and use less meat more fruits and veggies, or maybe cook more from scratch and less pre-packaged meals. We spend about the same amount per month ($600) for our family of 5, and I’m pregnant again so eating a little more than normal at the moment. Our two freezers are stocked so full I can’t add anything else, so is the pantry. We do no processed foods, almost 100% organic fruits, veggies, and meats. It can be done on a budget, you just have to cut out stuff you probably don’t need anyway.
There’s a list called the “Dirty Dozen” with the produce it recommends you buy organic:
For our family, I don’t buy all of the items on the dirty dozen organic. We just can’t afford it. When there’s a good price on one of those items, I will buy it. We choose instead to buy organic meat and I’ve been trying to avoid GMO’s, so buying organic corn and soy.
I almost always buy store brands. We cannot tell the difference and since I cook mostly from scratch, it doesn’t matter what brand of canned tomatoes I use. There are some things like spaghetti sauce that I buy brand name because I prefer the specific flavoring, but 90% of my groceries are store brands.
Yes yes yes and yes.
I agree, too. If you are concerned about buying organic, you might check Aldi’s if you have one near you. They have started carrying some organic produce. I buy store brand unless it’s something I know is not as good as name brand. Flour is one item I did not care for in any store brand (very clumpy) until I tried Aldi’s.
The dirty dozen list is great! Gives me something to go by when I am not ready to dive into ALL organic- and it has some handy printables to keep in your purse!
Completely agree – we get organic veggies if there’s a deal, and grow what we can in our garden and can or freeze good deals from the farmers market when they have a lot of say, local tomatoes or corn for cheap.
We focus our food budget on getting good meat – and the only way we can afford that is by buying a quarter cow, a pig, and chickens straight from a farm each year. We end up with two chest freezers to make it work.
Personally, if we can handle the store-brand, we buy it and eat it (same with medicines). Some brand names we buy since my husband as Celiac, and not all store-brand products are as clear about their gluten-free status. We don’t buy much in organic produce mainly because we either buy produce not-organic most of the time or we don’t buy it at all since we can’t afford it. I’m sure others have found ways to buy organic less expensively, but I haven’t yet.