Organic food is generally more expensive than conventional, because of differences in production and handling, according to the Department of Agriculture. Still, it is possible to buy organic more cheaply.
1. Buy organic when it matters. Choosing organic reduces your exposure to potentially harmful pesticides, and protects farmers as well as the environment. Consumer Reports recommends opting for organic for fruits and veggies that have the highest pesticide residues. That includes carrots, cranberries, green beans, hot peppers, nectarines, peaches, tangerines, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, and sweet potatoes. An advantage to buying organic meat and poultry is that the animals were raised without antibiotics.
2. Compare prices. It’s possible to find organic products for the same price as conventional ones—and occasionally for less. For example, at Costco, 2-pound containers of conventional Sabra Hummus and organic Hannah Hommus are each $5.99. In the coffee aisle, you can get 2 pounds of Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason’s Blend—not organic—for $14.69. But 2½ pounds of Highland Reserve Organic Peru Coffee costs $10.99.
3. Seek out store brands. According to the market research firm Nielsen, a market basket of selected organic store-label products costs 18 percent less than the comparable brand-name versions. For example, at Whole Foods recently, Santa Cruz Organic Applesauce cost $5.39 for 23 ounces, and Whole Foods’ store brand, 365 Organic Applesauce, was $2.79 for 24 ounces, or 50 percent less.
4. Look in the freezer case. Frozen organic vegetables may actually be cheaper than fresh, and the nutritional quality is similar. For example, at a local store, a 10-ounce package of Nature’s Promise Organic fresh green beans is $3.99 and a 16-ounce package of the same brand’s organic frozen green beans is $1.99.
5. Check the weight. When organic produce is sold prepackaged at a set price rather than by the pound, it’s worth taking the time to weigh a few packages. We’ve found that the amount in the package may exceed the weight listed. (Note: Prices are based on items purchased at grocery stores near our Yonkers, N.Y., offices.)