5 Secrets to Shopping at the 99 Cents Only Store for Organic Food (from a Mom Who Actually Did It!)

5 Secrets to Shopping at the 99 Cents Only Store for Organic Food (from a Mom Who Actually Did It!)

One of the first excuses you hear from friends who haven’t yet switched to organic: “It’s too expensive!”

That’s what A.B. Welch thought too – until she discovered the secret source of cheap organic food: 99 Cents Only Stores.

After this mother of six lost her job, the California-based chain store seemed to be the answer to her prayers. She wrote her book, “How to Shop Mostly Organic at the 99 Cents Only Stores,” to share the secrets of inexpensive organic shopping with other moms convinced that healthier food was out of their reach.

“Because the 99 Cents Only Store is stocking the stuff that it is, no longer do people who are on a tight budget feel like it’s impossible for them to make better and healthier choices for their families,” she says.

Welch attributes her success not only to the stores themselves, but to a few tips and tricks. Here are just a few of the ways this mom learned to eat organic and still save.

1. Don’t Limit Yourself

Often, we go grocery shopping with a precise list, but one key to success, at least when it comes to 99 Cents Only Stores, is to allow yourself to be surprised.

“You’ll find that things come in waves,” Welch says. “You look for the quality of the products; you don’t always get to be brand-specific.”

If you stay open-minded though, the fact that you can’t rely on standbys may help you discover some new favorites.

2. Save at the 99 Cents Only Store to Shop Elsewhere

While the 99 Cents Only Store is a great resource, even Welch says that she can’t do all of her shopping there, for instance, when it comes to lean meats.

“You can get fish and ground turkey, but it’s individually wrapped packaging in the freezer section,” she says. Single servings of salmon for a family of eight? Not so great.

Instead, Welch does about 85 percent of her shopping at the 99 Cents Only Store, and she uses her savings to buy products like organic milk, organic lean meats, and some organic produce elsewhere.

3. Start Slow, If You Need To

There’s no need to do a complete 180 when making any change to your diet, and shopping at the 99 Cent Store is the same.

Welch explained that she was unable to switch entirely to organic meat at first, due to the expense. “We’ve kind of been going a little bit more as we move along, and inching our way to a totally organic,” she says.

But as she opted more and more for organic meat, she found herself eating less of it, discovering more plant-based meals and watching as her plates inched from 50 percent lean meat to about 30 percent.

“Part of the ambition of the book was to encourage families to make beginnings in eating organic,” she says. “Just slowly increasing the percentage of organic foods that you can eat.”

4. Learn to Love Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping may not be everyone’s favorite task, but when you turn it into something exciting, it’s even easier to find the best deals.

Welch says that while she could often get all of her shopping done in two to three trips a week, “I found that I actually enjoyed going more often, because there were just so many great things to find.”

“You almost get just addicted to the exhilaration — it sounds so silly but you do, you just – ‘What will be there today?’ and ‘What will I find?’”

When grocery shopping became less of a chore and more than a hobby, Welch was able to happily visit the store several times a week, allowing her to take advantage of even more deals.

5. Get Your Kids Involved

The uncertainty of shopping at a store that changes its offerings so often might sound like a nightmare to a parent with picky eaters, but Welch said that this wasn’t a problem for her. Her enthusiasm became contagious, and her kids fell in love with organic food as well.

“Because it’s become such an exciting experience, everybody wants to try whatever comes home,” she says. “They’ll help me take the groceries in and they’re pulling everything out of the bags, and they’re going, ‘Oh, wow, what’s this?’ and ‘Oh, wow, what’s that?’ and, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to try this!’”

In this way, organic shopping becomes something that the entire family can enjoy.

To discover even more ways that you can save money and eat organic at the 99 Cents Only Store, check out Welch’s book.

How about you? Do you have any top tips and tricks for eating organic and not going broke? Share them with us on Facebook or Twitter @organicauthorit.

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99 Cent Store image via Shutterstock

Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco