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8 Ways to Save Money on Organic Foods

What produce is better organic? Produce with thick skin doesn't have to be organic.
Produce with thick skin doesn't have to be organic.

In June of 2017, the online reseller Amazon.com announced they would be buying the upscale grocery chain Whole Foods. Long admired as one of the nation’s largest sellers of organic foods, Whole Foods is routinely mocked by customers for its high prices, earning the nickname “Whole Paycheck.”

When the multi-billion dollar purchase went through, one of the promises made by Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, was that the prices would drop. Within a couple of weeks, after the purchase was finalized, prices did fall, but only on a few items. An analysis conducted by research firm Gordon Haskett found that frozen foods were 7 percent higher after five weeks of ownership, snack foods were up 5.3 percent, while dairy and yogurt were up 2 percent.

I happened to be in Whole Foods at that time to pick up some items for a family dinner. I was astonished to find mushrooms and chicken breast selling for nearly twice what I was used to paying in my local supermarket, while eggs were almost three times the price. When I went to checkout, I asked the clerk what had changed since the buyout.

“Well, they lowered the price of bananas, some apples and a few items in the bakery, but that’s about it. Amazon would be crazy to lower the prices and lose out on all that money!” I was surprised at his honesty, but it got me thinking. Do organic foods have to be so expensive? Isn’t there a way to purchase organic foods without breaking the bank?

If you aren’t sure what organic foods are or what their benefits might be, read this article: Organic vs. Conventional Foods.

DON’T buy organic fruit and vegetables that have a thick skin. One of the advantages of organic foods is that they are grown with fewer pesticides. There’s less chance you’ll take in small amounts of those poisons when you eat them. However, if you’re eating fruits and vegetables with thick skin, you’re peeling off or somehow removing the layer that contains much of the toxins. Examples of items you DON’T need to purchase organic include avocados, cantaloupe, eggplant, grapefruit, mangoes, melons, oranges, papayas and pineapples.

DO buy organic items on sale in bulk under two circumstances. If you can freeze them, or if they have a long shelf life. Bags of frozen organic produce will stay good for months and you only have to thaw out just what you’ll need. Fresh produce may only have a shelf life of a few days.

DO buy produce when it’s in season because the price will be lower. There are several seasonal buying guides online, but we've put together a simple list in our article: Seasonal Produce Guide - When's the Best Month to Buy Fruits and Vegetables?

DON’T spend extra money buying organic fresh fish or shellfish. The USDA does not have standards in place to regulate what “organic seafood” is. Generally, companies that put the word organic on seafood mean it was farmed (and treated with potentially harmful antibiotics) rather than caught in the wild.

DO consider the store brand organic products first. They tend to be cheaper than national brands of organics. Publix offers Greenwise, Costco has Kirkland Signature, Safeway has Organics, Target has the Simply Balanced line, Walmart has Wild Oats Marketplace, Wegmans has Wegmans Organic, and Winn Dixie has SE Grocers. All the major supermarket chains offer some version of their own “house brand” with less expensive organics.

DO use coupons. If there’s a particular brand of organic product you always buy, go to their website. Many manufacturers offer coupons on their products if you sign up for their newsletter or participate in a quick survey. You’ll find options with brands like Amy’s Kitchen, Bob’s Red Mill, Eden Foods, Morning Star Farms, Newman’s Own Organics, Organic Valley and Simply Organic. If you’re concerned about giving out your email address, use a temporary one until you’re satisfied they’re not spamming you or selling the information.

DON’T buy organic junk food. An organic soda is still just a can of sugar water, even if that sugar is organic. The same is true of other highly processed foods that come in boxes. Save your money for fresh or frozen organic foods.

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Updated 5/29/2022