I was recently having a conversation with a friend about organic versus non-organic food and, naturally, the question of cost came up. If you’ve bopped around my blog a bit you would probably see that I write about organic food often and eating “well” is something that I am passionate about. (Just to clarify: when I say “well” I am talking about healthier food options regarding hormones, pesticides, etc. I do love junk food and shame no one for enjoying potato chips, chocolate bars, or glasses of wine! If ever in our house, you would see a healthy amount of Oreos, Lay’s chips, and even light Progresso soups on my pantry shelves. If you’re interested in reading about what we try to buy organic and what we don’t, check out this blog post.)
I think that there is this big lie out there that eating organically or being picky about hormones in food is reserved for only some members of society who fall into certain classes. However, this is complete nonsense. Rather, everyone should have access to good and nutritious foods that promote healthy living. To think that only some members of society should reap the benefits of hormone-free or organic milk (for instance) is inherently classist and unethical. rBST is not good for anyone, no matter how much money they have, where they live, or their lifestyle choices.
I decided to write this post because I think many people do not know where to find (cheap!) organic or hormone-free foods. Believe it or not, Whole Foods is not the only place one can shop for these options. Do I love Whole Foods? Absolutely! I am a proud Prime Member and being a member allows me some sweet discounts on various items every week. However, I also shop elsewhere for other items and that’s what I am going to talk about today. This post is not about trash talking one store over another. Frankly, I shop everywhere. Different stores have options that I prefer. Like any responsible adult, I do believe in budgeting and not getting robbed. I also believe that everyone should be entitled to the best foods available for them and their families. This post is primarily about budgeting and money management. If you prefer one brand over another despite costs, that’s good and well! There are some brands that I will always reach for over others despite the price point.
There is one final point that is important to mention before I get started: we are living in unprecedented times and there have been moments over the past year during quarantine when eating organically was not a feasible option. My family and I live in a very populated area. Everyone rushed to the stores and bought up everything they could the moment the quarantine was announced. There were weeks when I couldn’t find organic milk or eggs or greens, etc., anywhere and we did just fine with the options available.
For the purposes of length, I am only going to talk about products that I buy every week that are staples for my family.
I usually buy organic eggs from Aldi, which are priced at about $2.75 per dozen. That is drastically cheaper than options at other stores where a dozen of organic eggs may be priced anywhere between $3.99-$7.99 a dozen. All of these brands have the stamp of approval by USDA Organic agencies, and that is good enough for me.
Milk is a huge topic of conversation today, even in non-parenting circles. There seems to be a growing trend to move away from animal milks and switch to non-dairy creamers, milks, etc. Even I look forward to trying different milks! I have recently been drinking oak milk lattes and have always enjoyed soy chai tea lattes. However, our family does enjoy cows milk (including myself). To me, nothing beats a good glass of cold milk to accompany warm chocolate chips cookies. With that all being said, we try to only drink organic and hormone-free milk. (Unless, of course, organic milk is not an option! There were a few times during quarantine when I happily purchased regular whole milk.)
I usually reach for organic milk at our neighborhood ShopRite, and their Wholesome Pantry brand is about $5.69 per gallon. That is a steep difference from other brands that are roughly $7.99 per gallon. Another great option is Walmart for milk. Walmart has pledged to only use dairy cows not treated with rBST or other artificial hormones and a gallon of their milk is about $3.37 per gallon. The only reason we do not typically shop at Walmart is because the nearest one to my house is roughly forty-five minutes away.
A few green staples in my house include bagged kale, arugula, and romaine. I love sautéed kale and actually prefer it to spinach. I just think the texture is more interesting. I usually buy my greens at Aldi or Lidl, and I do prefer organic greens. A bag of organic kale at Aldi is usually about $3.29, whereas at other stores the price may be as high as $4.99. The price difference is nearly the same for other green staples.
I don’t mean to sound like one of those people, but I freaking love kombucha. I only started drinking it about a year ago because I was super skeptical about the taste, whatever the hell a SCOBY is, and the idea of fermented tea. However, it was very trendy and I really wanted to give it a try. Now? I drink a few bottles a week and I genuinely feel like it helps my gut. I also love the taste of some flavors! Plus, the alcoholic ones are sometimes a nice alternative to a beer.
My favorite kombucha is GT’s. I find GT’s flavors delicious, and love that there are both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. At some stores, GT’s can be priced at about $3.50 per bottle. However, Aldi sells the same GT’s for only about $2.50 per bottle so I usually purchase it there. Another great option is to check out Costco where you can buy cases of kombucha for really low prices.
Honey is something that I am putting on the list because the prices of it are sometimes crazy! It boggles my mind that some honey can be like $45.99 a bottle, and some can be $1.99 a bottle. Either way, unless you’re looking for special Manuka honey, local honey, etc., usually anything organic is kind of the same for recipes, teas, or drinks. I usually get my organic wildflower honey at Aldi, where the price is below $3.00. That’s super cheap for organic honey.
This is a pretty general heading, but what I consider “pantry essentials” are things like stocks and broths, beans, spices, etc. Most of these items I purchase from either Aldi or Lidl and I find that they are the cheapest at these stores. Sometimes I see organic beans for as low as .50¢ per can. Regarding spices, while Aldi and Lidl does keep their prices very low, sometimes the variety is rather sparse and then I rely completely on Whole Foods. I have never not been able to find a special ingredient or spice at Whole Foods!
…speaking of Whole Foods, they have an awesome selection of organic wines and other alcohols and I find them to be much cheaper than regular liquor or wine shops! We try to stick to organic wines whenever possible only because my husband seems to have a reaction to the sulphates and other additives in regular wines. (Also, it’s not organic, but Whole Foods sells a wine brand called “Three Wishes” that is $3.00 per bottle and is pretty damn good! It’s great to cook with, and honestly it’s also good to drink!)
So, this is a pretty abridged version of my weekly grocery list. Something I didn’t write about is organic meat and that’s because I buy from somewhere different every week depending on sales and what we feel like having for dinner. There are also plenty of things on my weekly grocery list that are not at all organic, such as Goldfish (which I, my husband, and kid have an addiction to!). I think the important thing is balance. We pick and choose which foods we want to be organic. I don’t beat myself up because not everything in our pantry comes from a local free-range hippie commune that feeds its chickens and cows organic microgreens.
Overall, I think it’s important for consumers to know that options do exist that can meet their weekly budgets and that’s why I wrote this list out. If anyone has any suggestions, I am excited to hear!