How to Shop Organic on a Budget

June 14, 2017

By Jesse Tannehill, RD
ShopRite of Somers Point

It isn’t very often that the terms “budget” and “organic” come together when creating a grocery list. Nowadays, super markets are packed with specialty items, gluten-free products, fortified cereals, all-natural sauces, dairy-free “milks” and most recently, tons and tons of organic products. Often times, these specialty health food products carry a higher price tag than more conventional foods and contribute to the notion that eating healthy is expensive, and therefore not affordable for the average Joe or family.

When used to describe food, “organic” basically refers to a method of farming. In short, for products to carry the organic label, grocery items and produce must be grown according to strict federal guidelines that monitor pesticide use, food additives, soil quality, pest control, use of prohibited substances (synthetic fertilizers/pesticides), and cannot contain any genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organic meats and dairy products must come from animals who are raised with the opportunity to “mimic their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on a pasture)”, are fed a 100 percent organic diet and never received hormones or antibiotics.

Why Does Organic Typically Cost More?

  • Organic farms are usually a fraction of the size of a conventional farm. Smaller farms have less area to grow crops and raise cattle. Less area means less yield, and less yield means higher prices. On average (varies by specific crop), organic farms produce roughly 20-25 percent less product than conventional farms. 
  • Organic farms require more labor input per unit of output. More labor and less output equals higher prices.
  • By definition, organic products can only use approved pesticides and methods for controlling pests.  The stricter pesticide regulations contribute to higher losses than conventional farms.

ShopRite has the Answer

Although prices for organic products are still typically a little higher than their conventional counterparts, ShopRite is working to provide as many organic products at the lowest price possible. 

  • Our organic line of Wholesome Pantry products is ShopRite’s answer to providing you affordable USDA Organic produce, meat, dairy and grocery items. Wholesome Pantry Organic prices are often equal to or less than many non-organic leading brands, and are frequently featured on sale in our weekly circular.
  • ShopRite has partnered with Cal-Organic to provide you USDA Organic produce and herbs, everything from lettuce and leeks to kale and cilantro, all at conventional prices!

Other useful tips for purchasing organics: Prioritize, Plan, and Shop Smart!

  • When prioritizing whether to purchase organic foods, know that some foods are more likely to have higher concentrations of pesticide residues than others. This list is known as “the dirty dozen.” Keep in mind this list is constantly evolving, but for 2017, EWG.org lists the dirty dozen as: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, celery, grapes, pears, cherries, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and potatoes. If pesticide ingestion is a concern of yours, organic options from the list above should take priority over the opposite “clean fifteen” list. The clean fifteen a list of produce least likely to contain high amounts of pesticide residues. Again, this list is constantly changing and EWG.org names: sweet corn, avocados, pineapples, cabbage, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, honeydew melon, kiwis, cantaloupe, cauliflower and grapefruit least likely to have high pesticide residues. Purchasing conventional items from the “clean fifteen” list will leave room for other organic options.
  • Planning is the most essential part of eating healthy and the number one thing most people and families fail to do. Taking an hour or less to browse social media/websites for recipe ideas once a week is a simple way to get inspiration for delicious, healthy meals.  Check out http://www.shoprite.com/mealsmadewell/ for inspiring and healthy recipe ideas.  If you are short on time, stop by the “Helping Families Eat Better” meal of the week refrigerated case located in ShopRite stores.  You will find a healthy recipe, plus all the ingredients you need to make it, in one spot!
  • Be a smart shopper! Shopping sales, in season, and with coupons will give you the freshest produce and grocery items for the best price.  There are always hundreds of items on sale each week, including dozens of organic items. Check the circular and you might be pleasantly surprised with what you find.  ShopRite also has “digital coupons” offered both online at shoprite.com and on the ShopRite app.