How to Go Organic Without Going Broke

Photo (cc) by USDAgov

There’s no question that in a perfect world, shoppers would choose the apple with less pesticide residue over the one with more.

Still, many shoppers pass by the organic fruit in favor of the conventionally grown option because of the price difference. However, recent research by Consumer Reports and Kiplinger shows that shoppers who know where to look can find organic foods for the same price as conventional foods — or possibly for a lower price.

In some cases, it’s worth paying more for organic foods because some conventional foods have much higher levels of pesticide residue than others. (See “These 10 Organic Foods Are Worth The Extra Cost.”)

But in other situations, choosing the right store allows you to buy certain organic foods for less than they would cost at other stores.

For example, Consumer Reports found that at some stores, organic lettuce, carrots, maple syrup, olive oil and cream cheese were at least as cheap as conventional counterparts.

Kiplinger found that even Whole Foods Market, sarcastically referred to as “Whole Paycheck,” has surprisingly low prices on certain organic foods, including milk, chicken broth and peanut butter.

Kiplinger suggests shopping these sources of organic foods:

Aldi

While the chain’s scaled-down stores offer relatively small selections of organic foods, they tend to be cheaper than similar items sold at supermarkets and Whole Foods.

For example, a 25-ounce jar of organic marinara sauce is anywhere from 50 cents to more than $2 cheaper than similar sauces at other grocery stores.

Farmers markets

While farmers markets may offer few items that are certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they tend to offer a lot of naturally grown or raised food. So Kiplinger suggests doing some comparison shopping at your local farmers markets.

To find farmers markets near you and to learn how to save money at them, start with “10 Ways To Get More Out Of The Farmers Market.”

Trader Joe’s

This chain’s top organic deals include produce, beef, yogurt and coffee, among others. For example, a 6-ounce package of organic spinach was $2 less than at several supermarkets.

Wal-Mart

The mega-chain stocks 1,600 organic groceries, including a line of packaged goods from Wild Oats. Spokeswoman Molly Blakeman tells Kiplinger that prices are on par with those of similar conventional items and average at least 25 percent less than those of national organic brands.

Watch out for organic produce from Wal-Mart’s Marketside brand, though. Kiplinger reports that Aldi and Trader Joe’s often have better prices on organic produce.

Warehouse clubs

Kiplinger found that the membership cost at chains like BJ’s, Costco and Sam’s Club, which can be more than $45 per year, can be recouped by buying in bulk, especially with organic offerings.

For example, BJ’s carries 150 organic items. Compared to other stores, organic chicken breasts are about $1 to $3 less per pound, and organic maple syrup is about half as much per ounce.

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