Posted by: suzan | September 15, 2010

Buy this, not that – How to save money on buying organic

I learned how to cook mostly from my mom who is an excellent cook. She won many cooking awards in the past and has taught me some of those winning recipes. But it was both my parents who taught me how to shop for certain grocery items for a certain recipe. I learned from them the different kinds of root vegetables and what seasons the harvest will most likely produce. I learned that not all apples taste the same nor do they yield the same results when cooked. And I learned among many other things, that buying the right produce at the peak of the season is the secret to a successful and delicious recipe.

Many years ago, before the USDA regulated the use of the term “organic” for any product, most of the food found in grocery stores were either from locally-grown farms or were mass manufactured products that were genetically-modified for faster production.  Local farmers who didn’t spray their crop with chemical pesticides were lucky enough to have their products sold at supermarkets without having to compete with the bigger companies. Only problem was, produce that came from locally-grown farms were extremely expensive and hard to find. And most of the time, you’d have to get them right when they’re being delivered or they were sold out or couldn’t stay fresh because there were no chemical preservations used.

But farmers markets have been around for a long time, and I remembered going to the local farmers markets with my mom and helping her pick out the freshest produce available. It was there that I also learned about what real and fresh produce were all about and I could instantly taste the difference between produce that were ripened in the store and produce ripened on the tree.

My parents also grow their own vegetables and fruits and they don’t use any kind of toxic chemicals on the produce or in the ground. It was quite convenient for us to go to the backyard and snip off some green beans or pluck some apples and pears for that night’s dinner. For me, homegrown fruits and vegetables seemed like the perfect answer to eating healthier. But as years went by, and people became more aware of the importance of eating better, organic and pesticide-free products started showing up more readily in supermarkets.

However, organic and locally-grown produce can still be moderately expensive, depending on where you shop. And where you buy your produce and dry goods is crucial in how much you’ll end up spending on organic food. If you want to start buying more organic food or just starting out, your best choices in organic produce are the natural food stores or farmers markets. However, if you don’t have any of those nearby, then here are some tips in buying organic at supermarkets.

Supermarkets back in the day rarely carried organic and all-natural food and products and if they did, it was very limited and very expensive. Nowadays, whenever I visit my local supermarket, I can see most of them dedicating a certain section called “natural” and “organic” where only natural and organic products are sold. Cheers for them for thinking more abou their health conscious customers. So how do you choose where to shop for the best value and the best selection of organic and natural products? Well, you can start by looking at the ads produced by the store you regularly shop at. Most every market will have their own store circular either mailed to you, online, or available in their stores. If you want the best prices and selections in organic produce, then take a look at their ads. Decide which organic produce you need for that day or week and compare between the different markets. You’ll probably find them competitively priced nowadays but that’s good news for us since we want to save a ton of money when we’re buying all or mostly organic products. After you’ve made your list of what organic produce you want to buy, then list the other organic or all-natural products such as dry goods, snacks, drinks, etc. Once again, look at your stores circular and find out if the product you want is listed or on sale. If they aren’t listed, go online and you’ll most likely find a “secret” ad that is available only online. Very tricky of these markets, but they’re also hoping you’d buy their groceries online as well.

The next step in saving even more money on organic and natural products is using coupons. Where do you find coupons for organic and natural products, you say? Well, most likely you’ll find them from the companies direct websites. Many of them offer coupons for their products if you sign up for their newsletter or simply just visiting their website.  Otherwise, you can always give them a call or send them an email requesting some coupons. Organic and natural product companies love hearing from people who want to buy their products so most of them are more than willing to send you coupons. If you use their coupons, then you’ll most likely end up buying more, right?

There are also several stores(smaller natural grocery stores and mass supermarkets) that offer store coupons instead of manufacture coupons and most of them will allow you to “stack” coupons – which means even more money saved! These stores include Whole Foods Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, Henry’s Farmers Market, Mother’s Market, and even certain supermarkets that carry a wide selection of organic and natural products. The bottom line is that these markets, whether small or big, want to try to appeal to a wide array of customers and since organic and natural products are becoming more popular, they want to lure their customers into their stores with money-saving opportunities. With the economy the way it is right now, it’s a win-win situation for the farmers and manufacturers, the markets, and the consumers.

Buying organic and natural products and food takes some practice because you can always go to the most convenient store nearby, but you may not be getting  the best price. Of course, if you have to drive 20 miles just to get organic grapes for 10 cents cheaper, then it’s probably not worth the gas money unless you’re planning on buying other things. Get to know your local supermarkets as well as the natural food stores and soon enough you’ll know where to get the freshest produce at the best price.

The key is to know what you’re buying, why you’re buying it, and then have fun shopping for them! When you buy organic and natural products, your body will thank you and your planet will reap the benefits as well. By eating organic produce as much as possible, you’re ensuring that your body doesn’t contain toxic chemicals that can store  inside your system for a long time and those with fragile immune systems (for whatever reasons) or young children especially need to eat more organic foods. Organic products also help the environment in that the farms and manufacturers uses sustainable methods to help improve the conditions of  the environment and in long-term health, the less toxic chemicals in your body, the better.

If you want more information on organic and natural food and products, take a look at my blog titled, “Living Organically and Naturally” and you’ll find a good list of organic and natural companies to choose from.

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