Shopping sustainably is better for your health and for the planet, but there’s one place it can hurt: your wallet. It’s no secret that buying organic food is often more expensive than buying conventional, and sometimes, the difference can feel like too much to bear.
Luckily, shopping sustainably doesn’t have to be a pain in the paycheck – here are five techniques we use to keep our food budgets low (and the quality of the food we serve at home high!)
1. Shop in the Final Half-Hour of the Farmer’s Market
Shopping at the farmer’s market is already often less expensive than buying at the supermarket, and it can be even cheaper if you shop smart. Showing up in the last half-hour of your market may mean that the pickings are slim, but this can actually be a major advantage.
More often than not, farmers won’t want to cart everything that’s left at the end of the market back to the farm, and many will offer reduced prices on whatever items are left – especially to regular customers. And while you might not have as much choice as you would if you shopped at peak hours, you may just stumble across some new favorites.
2. Eat Meatless Whenever Possible
While organic produce is often more expensive than conventional, organic meat is an even bigger investment. So if you’re opting for ethical, humanely raised meat (and we hope you are!), consider cutting back on how often you eat it.
Just one or two meatless dinners a week will give you the budget you need to splurge for great meat, poultry, and fish when it counts. And if you need some inspiration, our list of 21 vegetarian recipes the whole family will love is a great place to start.
3. Choose Cheaper Cuts of Organic Meat
Choosing cheaper cuts of meat can also help you even out your bottom line. Generally speaking, the tougher a cut of meat is, the cheaper it will be: cuts like buttery tenderloin will cost far more than fibrous chuck.
From the Organic Authority Files
But just because these cuts are tougher doesn't mean they can't be transformed – it just takes a bit of TLC. Thinner cuts like flank steak are best marinated and then cooked quickly, on the grill or in a very hot pan, as with this balsamic marinated flank steak. Thicker cuts like brisket, meanwhile, are perfect when slow-cooked in the oven, like this oven-braised brisket with red wine sauce. Best of all? The added effort will pay off: these less expensive cuts have even more flavor than the pricier ones.
If you'd like to venture even further into the world of ethical meat, why not sample some offal? Liver pairs beautifully with onions, bacon, and figs, while braised beef tongue makes a delicious filling for tacos. Given lower demand, these cuts are often inexpensive to get your hands on, especially when buying straight from the producer.
4. Menu Plan to Cut Down on Food Waste
It happens to the best of us: we're grocery shopping hungry or getting distracted by excellent two-for-one deals, and when we finally unload our trunks at home, we realize we have far more than we could ever consume in a week. More often than not, shops like these result in some food ending up in the trash, and when you're shelling out for beautiful, organic food, that food waste is even tougher to swallow.
Planning out a weekly menu will not only keep your spending in check, it will also cut down on waste, as you'll have exactly what you need, no more, no less. We like to choose one day a week – Sunday is usually a good option – to plan the meals for the next seven days. Once at the store, buy only what's on the master list, and you'll be golden.
This style of shopping also allows you to take full advantage of buying in bulk. For example, if there’s a sale on whole organic salmon fillets at your local store, consider including two different salmon recipes in your menu (like a sweet honey-mustard baked salmon on Sunday night and a salmon burger atop a kale salad on Tuesday) to get more bang for your buck. If whole organic chickens are on offer, check out our guide to making four different meals with just one chicken.
5. Keep Track of What’s in the Pantry
How often have you bought a special ingredient for a recipe – organic molasses, tahini, or wasabi, for example – used it once, and then lost it within the recesses of your pantry? Often, this predicament ends in one of two ways: either, months later, you buy a new jar for another recipe, or you forget about it for such a long time that it goes off and needs to be binned.
Instead, opt for a new way of organizing your kitchen. Place magnetic dry-erase boards on your fridge, freezer, and pantry doors, and use them to keep a running list of what’s inside (using non-toxic dry erase markers, of course!) This will allow you to take stock of what you already have and use it accordingly.
Organic food is an investment, but it doesn't need to break the bank. Using these techniques, you'll be saving money and sticking to your principles while you're at it.
Related on Organic Authority
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Organic Food is Actually Cheaper than Conventional (Yes, Really!)
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