Let’s face it, you can’t help but notice that organic and natural foods cost a lot more…or do they? It really all depends on where you shop, what you buy, and how savvy you are when it comes to food. So I am putting together a few tips to help you eat more whole, natural foods for less $$.
Natural Food Rules to Shop By:
1. Discover Trader Joe’s. Although their food is not all organic, it is mostly natural and made with whole food. They are very inexpensive and carry a small, but wide variety of items. If you are looking to buy foods made without trans fats, HFCS, or artificial ingredients, but don’t want to spend a lot, find the nearest Trader Joe’s and check them out.
2. If you visit a place like Whole Foods, you will notice all kinds of gourmet foods, but you will also notice the arm-and-a-leg prices. You can shop smart in Whole Foods if you know some tricks.
c. Don’t do major grocery shopping in a place like Whole Foods, stick to a few items that are exclusive to the store that you really want. For example, I have young children so I buy a lot of cereal there. The cereal is kid-approved, but without anything artificial. And the natural, kid-friendly cereals are much cheaper at Whole Foods than at the regular grocery store.
3. When shopping for deli meats, choose the store-baked meats (and don’t buy these from a place like Whole Foods; way too expensive). They typically have the least amount of preservatives and taste the best. No need to buy organic. Also get your deli meats fresh cut and not in prepackaged containers. You will save at least 50% by waiting in line with your little paper ticket.
4. Don’t buy organic boxed items from a regular grocery store (unless it is a store-brand). Get them from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods (or equivalent). They will actually be cheaper as it is their specialty.
5. Remember, if you give your fruits and veggies a thorough washing in soap and water, you can wash away most chemical residue. If you are still concerned, a good rule of thumb is to buy organic if you will be eating the exterior, but if you eat only what is inside, you can get away with conventional.
6. Remember, natural food means natural. So think of simple ingredients and you can’t go wrong. Usually what makes groceries so expensive is when you pay for boxing, packaging and processing (or pre-making). If you make more foods at home, it will be cheaper and healthier.
7. Except for milk, a little juice, and maybe some seltzer, don’t waste money on too many bottled beverages. You can make iced tea or iced coffee at home and drink more water. Save your money (& your calories) for food.
8. There are many non-organic foods that are very nutritious. Don’t think you need to buy organic, you don’t. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are always just as nutritious, organic does NOT make any food more nutritious, it just usually means it has less chemicals. There is a difference. In other words, a conventional orange and an organic orange have about the same amount of vitamins & minerals. There are also many non-organic products such as Raisin Bran, Chex, or Shredded Wheat which are full of nutrition and can be bought at low prices as they usually come in store brand. As for crackers, I like Trisquits. They have three ingredients; whole wheat, oil, and salt. Goldfish crackers are actually pretty good, too, just stay away from the ones with food coloring (just in case…)
9. A chip is a chip and a cookie is a cookie. Whether or not it is organic, a chip is still a chip; a fried potato with seasoning. Don’t waste your money on any “high-fat” food such as these that come in an organic version. It’s just not worth it. These are foods that should be eaten sparingly, anyway, so a small amount won’t make a difference.
10. You don’t need to buy organic frozen meals. All frozen meals are high in salt and that is typically the big offender for frozen meals. Regardless of whether or not they are organic, they will still have a high salt content. Limit your frozen meals, they aren’t really healthy.
11. Many regular grocery stores are now offering a store-brand line of natural products. These are usually cheaper than if you bought a similar product at a place like Whole Foods and are essentially the same products.
12. Don’t buy more than you need. Plan out your meals for the week and make up a grocery list. I always keep a running list of what I need on a dry erase board in my kitchen. Separate each food group so you don’t miss anything. I bring a list with me that is broken down into dairy, frozen, canned, produce, meat, and non-food. It helps!
13. See what you can find at Costco’s/Sam’s Club/BJ’s. I go to Costco’s and they now sell whole grain pasta and other healthy food products. As long as the food isn’t perishable, there is no harm in buying ahead to save some money.
14. Don’t feel you need to shop at three different stores every week to save money. Try to go to your specialty stores (Costco, Trader Joe’s, etc…) once a month and stock up (that’s what freezers are for). The less often you shop…the less you spend.
15. If you can, join a local food coop. You will get fresh fruits and vegetables (sometimes meats), from local farmers at a great rate.