If, like lots of people, you have decided to “go organic”, you’re probably wondering what effect organic food prices will have on your grocery bills.
Well, brace yourself because they are going to go up. But don’t worry - read on.
Organic food prices are definitely higher than “normal” food prices. You might be asking why this is the case, when organic produce doesn’t have any of the added extras–insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers , etc. We don’t want you to nod off in the middle of reading this, so we’ll leave the complicated facts about exactly why organic produce is pricier than conventional produce for another time (when you have insomnia, perhaps). In a nutshell, organic is more expensive because the systems used by organic farmers are laborious and time-intensive. In addition, organic farmers don’t get the government subsidies that a lot of conventional farmers do.
(If you care about farmers at all, incidentally, you should also be thinking Fair Trade or similar. Read our article about fair trade chocolate facts to find out why. )
Anyway, you’re thinking about going organic and that deserves a pat on the back! Go you! Fancy some good news? You won’t need to take a second mortgage out on your home to afford those organic apples (unless they’re diamond-encrusted as well). Obviously prices vary depending on where you shop, but generally you should only expect to pay around 5c more for an organic apple. For a week’s supply of fruit–apples, bananas, oranges and strawberries–there should only be around $1.50 increase in your bill. (About the same for savvily-shopped UK organic produce, in pounds - Hugh)
The best tip when it comes to organic food shopping is to be a more savvy customer. Look for discounted organic produce (fruit and vegetables often get reduced, which may bring their cost down to even less than their non-organic counterparts). Get rummaging in those bargain bins, and buy in bulk wherever you can. Not when it comes to those apples, unless you have a serious fruit addiction, in which case organic food prices is the least of your worries! It makes sense to bulk-buy pasta, rice, beans and other produce that has a long shelf life, if it means taking advantage of decent discounts.
Follow these other tips to save money on your organic grocery bill:
Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to get your hands on food that is both fresher and cheaper than supermarket ranges. Food co-ops are another good bet.
Stay away from convenience food, which is far pricier than making meals from scratch. Who knows, you might unearth some hidden culinary skills and become the next Gordon Ramsay–and then you won’t need to worry so much about your weekly food budget.
Make meals in large quantities and freeze them in individual portions.
Cut down on waste. Eat every part of your organic vegetables. Cauliflower stalks, potato skins and lemon zest can all be used in a ton of recipes (peach stones are not so tasty, however…)
Plan your weekly meals in advance and buy only the ingredients you need. Make a list before each grocery store trip and don’t be distracted–do not pass go; DO pass those tempting snack foods!
Look for cheaper cuts of organic meat, such as stew beef. You can also cut down on the amount of meat you eat by using more of other high-protein ingredients, like lentils and beans, which are far cheaper. (And of course you can use sous vide cooking with a lot of tougher meats if you’ve got the kit - Hugh)
Grow your own fruit and vegetables at home. Even if you only have room for a window box of herbs or tomatoes, that’s something you don’t need to buy at the store!
Visit your local farmers’ market. You can give yourself another big pat on the back (watch you don’t choke on that halo) for supporting your local farming community, plus you will benefit from lower prices than at the store. If you’re lucky, some of the farmers might even let you haggle with them. Prices vary between farms, so you might want to go a bit further afield to find the best prices.
Go foraging for wild food. Yes, even you city dwellers–get hunting for fresh herbs and fruit trees. Draw the line at rummaging through your neighbor’s trash though; you don’t want to get arrested.