The Saver’s Guide to Buying Organic

Article posted in: Lifestyle
organic food

If you’re worried about how many chemicals your family is consuming, switching to organic food can reduce your exposure. In one study of preschool-aged children, switching from conventionally-grown produce to organic food for just seven days reduced the amount of certain pesticides in the kids’ urine by almost 50 percent!

But while they can take chemicals out of your body, organics can also take all the money out of your wallet: At one major supermarket, organic produce is about 1-2 cents per ounce more expensive than conventional on most items. Those pennies add up. For Fuji apples, a three-pound bag goes from $5.19 for conventional to $5.99 for organic.

For strawberries, a 16-ounce container goes from $5.99 for conventionally grown to $6.29 to organic. Make these types of choices 20 times per week, and your grocery bill can go up $50 or more per month.

The good news is that you don’t have to choose between budget-friendly and organic. Use these five strategies to save money on organic food:

1. Buy the “Clean 15” in conventional form.

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group uses information from the FDA and USDA to produce lists of the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15.” The “Dirty Dozen” are foods with the highest levels of pesticide residue after being washed, peeled, and chopped. This includes strawberries, apples celery, and other susceptible varieties of produce. The “Clean 15,” on the other hand, have the lowest levels of pesticide residue.

Most of the “clean” options, like pineapples, onions and avocados, have rigid, inedible skin that is discarded, rather than eaten. Because most of the pesticides stay on the skin, the EWG says that these 15 foods are the safest to eat in their non-organic form. So, check out the complete lists at and save the dough by buying (some) conventional.

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2. Don’t buy “baby carrots.”

They’re not really babies at all: “Baby carrots” are just regular carrots that have been cut down to size—and you’re paying for the cutting. One major supermarket’s store-brand organic baby carrots are 13 cents per ounce, while organic whole carrots are six cents per ounce. By cutting and peeling your own carrot sticks, you can save 50 percent!

And it doesn’t stop with carrots. Pre-sliced, pre-cut celery sticks, mushrooms, more are stuck with higher prices than the same items whole. Grab the whole ones and save.

3. Yes, there are coupons!

Coupons for fruits and veggies aren’t common, but organic milk, eggs, frozen produce and cheese do get discounted. If you can’t find any deals in the Sunday paper—or if you just don’t want to sift through 25 pounds of coupons for sugary cereals to find them—technology comes to the rescue. Check organic-focused coupon websites like for discounts.

4. Buy organic dry goods in bulk.

A big pile of fresh organic eggs might spoil before you eat them, but there are ways to go organic at Costco: Stock up on rice, pasta, flours, dried fruits and various grains to save some scratch. If you don’t have a membership for a bulk foods store, co-ops also typically have bulk food sections.

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5. Shop for organics at the regular grocery store or a discount store.

You don’t have to go to a special organics-only store to get these items, and you can save if you don’t. In some instances, you’ll find the same package of produce—from the same local farm, with the same sticker on the carton—at the “fancy” grocery store and at a discount store, with a price difference of a few dollars. For instance, at one leading organics-only store, a 16-ounce package of organic strawberries is $7.99, compared to the $6.29 mentioned previously. Get the cheaper strawberries at your normal store.