Cheap Organic Food: How to Eat Organic on a Budget

Regardless of where you stand on the organic versus non-organic food argument, there is a simple determining factor on whether or not you as a consumer will consistently eat organically:


woman buying organic vegetables

It can be rather pricey to buy organic food, which is why we felt obliged to come up with a how-to guide. Before you start thinking, “My budget can’t support 100% organic foods,” hear us out. It’s actually not only doable but more possible than you would think.

What does it mean for something to be certified organic?

Nearly 70% of the produce sold in the US comes with pesticide residues, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The EWG has also come up with a list of the “dirty dozen” which is a list of produce that tends to contain the highest levels of pesticide residue.

When it comes to buying organic produce, the items on that list should be a top priority.

If a product has the certified “organic” label on it, it means the product was raised as naturally as is possible, meaning various pesticides, herbicides, and genetic modifications were not used.

Why does this matter? Peruse the table below. The information available to the public is staggering.

How can I afford 100% organic foods?

The first step is simple: plan your meals — breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Sunday through Saturday.

The hiccup to this is that it’s tough to rely on prepackaged, frozen meals. There are organic options, but they’re pricey, and we don’t know what you can afford just yet.

Next, look up the price of each and every organic ingredient you need, add everything up, and compare it to your weekly food budget.

At this point, you’re probably like most people and realizing your budget falls considerably short of affording a 100% organic pantry and refrigerator.

Don’t worry — just keep reading.

Use Coupons for Organic Products

Every grocery store has coupons to encourage people to shop at their store. With the public’s demand to buy organic foods only slated to grow even more in the coming years, there are thousands of coupons out there. There’s no trick to finding them. You just have to look.

You know which stores are near you. Bookmark their coupon sections on your browser and make a habit of checking them out once a week to spot any low-cost organic food. Set yourself up for success by having a time set aside each week where you do your meal planning and budgeting.

Best Coupon Apps for Groceries

The links below are to websites or apps that can help you save money on organic foods by finding coupons a little more easily. Save money on hundreds of brands in-store or online with printable coupons and coupon codes. They also have a free mobile app.

My Grocery Deals: Browse coupons relative to your zip code.

Retail Me Not: App or website, Retail Me Not has been saving people money for a long time. The online platform is great, and the app can alert you to details as your shopping and walking around stores. Coupons are far-ranging, though, and go well beyond just groceries.

Smartsource: A website that helps you find sales and coupons to use at stores near you. Have a store savings card? You can link up what coupons you want to use the next time you go shopping. When you swipe your card the coupons will be automatically applied to your purchase.

SnipSnap: Have an iPhone? Take pictures of coupons you want to use and show it to the cashier when checking out. You can also search for coupons based by retailer and get reminders of when coupons are expiring. CEO Ted Mann claims users save an average of $40 a week using his app. $40 can get you a lot of food.

The Coupons App: Free app for smartphones that is quite versatile. Scan an item’s barcode to look for deals on it nearby; look for local deals in your area, and get updates in real-time.

Where to Shop

The stores listed below have some of the best prices on organic food and natural products.

  • Trader Joe’s – With over 400 locations across the US, Trader Joe’s is known for it’s low prices. All of their store brand products are guaranteed to be free of GMOs as well as other artificial ingredients.
  • CostcoCostco currently has over 700 locations. You may an annual membership fee to join and in return get access to some of the best prices on organic food.
  • Sprouts Farmers Markets – Sprouts have over 200 locations; mostly in the Southwest. They offer organic produce, organic meat, and bulk-bin items such as nuts and spices.
  • Aldi – A low-cost supermarket chain that originated in Germany. They now operate over 1,900 locations in the U.S. Aldi is able to keep costs low because they avoid brand names, rent smaller buildings, and don’t offer bags or hire employees to bag your groceries.
  • Farmers’ Markets – Prices can vary greatly at your local farmer’s market, but many of them have great deals on organic produce. Visit your local farm to see what they have to offer.

Shop Online for Organic Food

Thrive Market is an online health and wellness store and is possibly one of the best food options out there for three reasons.

  1. They sell organic, non-GMO food at wholesale prices — 25 to 50% lower than retail prices.
  2. They deliver right to your doorstep with free shipping on orders over $49.
  3. They give back to the community by giving a free subscription to a family in need for every person who subscribes.

To understand just how great Thrive is, you really need to open it up and browse the website to see what they offer — which is quite a lot. You can browse by diet (like vegan, organic, gluten-free, or paleo) or simply food category.

thrive market

See the breadth of what they have to offer and then cost compare to the place you last shopped at for organic foods. You’re going to see a big difference.

Subscription Fee

You’re probably scratching your head over the mention of the subscription fee. Yes, it’s $59 a year; however, if you’re dedicated to eating organic, safe food every day, it quickly pays for itself.

The minimum amount to reach free shipping might have you on edge, too, but even if you don’t reach $49, shipping is only going to be about $5. But think of it this way: who doesn’t spend at least that much when grocery shopping? Plus, isn’t $5 a pretty good price to get to stay at home and have food brought to you?

30-Day Free Trial

Still on the fence? They have a 30-day free trial, and you can get 20% off your first three orders.

We can’t emphasize enough how awesome we’ve found Thrive Market to be. They carry more organic foods than even Amazon, and they’re saving us money week after week.

Grow Your Own

Growing your own produce can save you lots of money. It takes more time to start your own garden, but the rewards are worth it for most. Not only financially. Caring for plants can do wonders for your own wellbeing.

The health benefits of growing your own food are astounding. Gardening burns calories, lowers stress levels, boosts your mood, and gives you a sense of accomplishment. Start small at first and expand as you get comfortable.

Know Which Brands are Organic

The organic market has grown so much that the list is too numerous to entertain listing. However, it can be confusing while looking for coupons and coming up with a weekly grocery list because you can’t always tell from the pictures or description if the product is organic or not.

Familiarize yourself with organic brands.

  • Click here for a full list of corporate-owned organic products. These products will generally be cheaper than the next list but don’t necessarily support the organic cause in full.
  • Click here for a full list of organic products whose parent company supports the organic cause. (Example: Nestle will sell you organic products, but the company as a whole does not support the movement. True change will always follow the money.)

Are some organic brands better for your health than others?

No. If the product has been labeled organic by the USDA, it’s safe to eat; therefore, if your bank account is stretched thin on an organic diet, always go with the cheaper option. Most grocery stores have affordable organic foods that are quite a bit cheaper than other products.

Just because they’re cheaper doesn’t mean they are any less healthy, so don’t feel obliged to go with the more hipster looking product. Simply Organic and Simple Truth are just as good as other products.

Use a Credit Card with Grocery Rewards

There are a few credit cards out there where you can get very decent rewards every time you swipe them for grocery store purchases. When used wisely, you can use those savings to help you fund an all-organic diet.

Here are our top five cash reward cards for grocery purchases (listed in no particular order):

#1: Bank of America Cash Rewards Card

This Bank of America card offers 2% cash back on purchases made at grocery and wholesale stores for the first $2,500 spent every quarter (petrol is 3%). After you exceed $2,500, you receive 1% cashback (where all purchases will get 1% back) until the next quarter starts and you can get 2% back again.

The introductory APR is 0% for the first 12 months. Afterward, it will range from 13.99-23.99%.

#2: Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

This particular American Express card offers 3% cash back on the first $6,000 you spend on groceries each year. Afterward, it goes down to 1%. The only catch is that you need to shop at ‘U.S. Supermarkets‘ — meaning specialty stores and superstores such as Walmart and Target don’t apply.

#3: Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card

This unique Capital One card offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, which includes groceries. There is no limit per year on how much you can get back, and there’s no annual fee. Cool bonus: Spend $500 the first three months and you get $150 cash back.

#4: Chase Freedom

With this card, Chase offers 5% back on the first $1,500 each quarter. Afterward, it goes down to 1%. Other cool features include 0% APR for the first 15 months, and $150 cash back bonus if you spend $500 within the first three months.

#5: Citi Double Cash Card

This Citi card might just be our favorite. You get an unlimited 1% cashback on all purchases, and when you pay the purchase off, you get another 1%. If you’re responsible with it, this means you can get an unlimited amount of 2% cash back. Another great thing about this card is that there is no annual fee.

More Tips for Eating Organic on a Budget

1. Purchase a Chest Freezer.

For starters, if you have the space, and a few extra bucks laying around, a chest freezer is a great idea. There’s no need to purchase it new. Craigslist in just about every city in America has hundreds of people trying to sell their freezer. Even with a lot of them only being sold for parts, you can get a 100% working freezer for just a few bucks. Just look around.

Why do you want another freezer? Won’t it just drive up your energy bill?

Yes, it will increase your electricity bill, but how much depends on how full it is. The less full it is, the more it will run because nothing will be helping it keep a static, cold temperature. Pack it in, and it won’t have to work as hard and its energy consumption will decrease.

Freezer Tip

If you don’t have a lot of food, fill up a bunch of Ziploc bags with water to cut down on your bill.

You want the freezer to store in-season fruits and vegetables while they’re fresh, and any deals you may find while shopping. Coupons expire, but frozen food doesn’t. Also, frozen organic fruits and veggies are often cheaper than fresh options. Have a freezer and you can stock up on them while they’re on sale.

An extra freezer also comes in handy when storing leftovers. The next time you host Thanksgiving, you won’t be as quick to send food home with people!

2. Always Prepare Food Yourself.

When you make the food yourself, you’re not only saving money, but you’re also able to personally vouch for where all the ingredients come from. Plus, everything just tastes better when you put your own time and effort into it.

3. Eat Less Dairy and Meat.

Yes, this is a sacrilegious thing to say to Westerners, but it needs to be said. Non-organic meat and dairy are the most poisonous foods on the market these days, plus the organic options are the most expensive foods in grocery stores.

Curb your consumption — if not for your wallet, then for your health. Organic or not, our diets have become flipped upside down. Meat should be the side dish, not the veggies.

4. Make your own coffee at home.

Starbucks has a nice atmosphere, but no cup of Joe is worth $5. Plus, though they may use organic milk, they don’t use organic coffee, so don’t scoff at the price tag of the organic coffee at the grocery store. It’s more than the non-organic options, but it’s a lot cheaper than getting that much at Starbucks!

5. Always Buy in Bulk.

Whether it’s buy one get one, or a packaged staple that’s on sale, buying in bulk is the way to go if you want to eat organic on a budget. Use that extra freezer when you can. Especially for nuts, lentils, and oats, you can save a lot of money using a bulk dispenser as opposed to the prepackaged options.

See also: 16 Ways to Save Money on Groceries This Week

Lauren Ward
Meet the author

Lauren is a Crediful writer whose aim is to give readers the financial tools they need to reach their own goals in life. She has written on personal finance issues for over six years and holds a Bachelor's degree in Japanese from Georgetown University.