More people are choosing organic foods when hitting the grocery store. Sales of organic food grew nearly 16 percent in 2008 to $22.9 billion, according to the Organic Trade Association . Organic food sales now account for approximately 3.5 percent of all food sales in the country.
But with all these sales, you may still be surprised at the hit your wallet takes as you make your way through the checkout.
The Washington Post reports that buying organic foods can be up to 40 percent more expensive than regular foods. So how does a family go organic without going broke?
Here are some easy tips for buying organic food on the cheap:
Before heading to the supermarket, search the Web for local organic associations or organizations in your town or state. Buying local is often cheaper. These sites will have tips and information that will help you make your organic food choices. Bankrate.com lists some organic food Web sites that can help you get started, including Organic Consumers Association and Eat Well Guide .
2. Buy locally
Local growers will have items that are in season and will have them priced to sell. Also ask about discounts and bargains, or if there are "seconds" (misshaped foods that are fine otherwise) for sale.
The added benefit of buying locally is that you can usually speak with someone who works the farm. You can ask questions about the food and even get tips on preparing the food. Buying locally also helps sustain the local economy.
3. Buy items seasonally
Fruits and vegetables that are in season will be more abundant on store shelves and will usually cost less and, as an added bonus, taste great. Whether you buy in-season items from a local grower or your supermarket, the items are always cheaper than items not in-season (ie, items that have been shipped great distances to get to the market).
Be flexible with your shopping and purchase items that are on sale: if apples are on sale, buy them instead of other fruits.
4. Buy in bulk
When items are on sale, stock up. This is especially true of canned items, cereals, dried fruits and beans (canned, bagged, or bulk). Be careful to store the items at home; you don't want items to expire. And with fresh foods, some are good for a number of days, or try preserving fruits or canning vegetables. Freezing is also a good way to have fresh foods available any time.
Also if you are feeding a big family, you may consider joining a co-op or buying club. A co-op is a member-owned business that provides groceries and other products to its members at a discount. With a buying club, members purchase food and other organic products in bulk and then share with all the members.
And buy generic brands when available. Store generic organic brands are less expensive than brand-name organic foods.
5. Grow your own
A family garden is a great way to have fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables at a fraction of the cost of buying them at the supermarket. Check with your garden center about which plants to start early in the season, like strawberries; those that thrive in the summer heat, like tomatoes; and those that will last into the fall, like chard and kale. Also start slow and pick items that are easy to grow.
Though likely not for budgetary reasons, first lady Michelle Obama started a garden at the White House this year. California's first lady Maria Shriver followed her lead and planted a garden on Capitol grounds in Sacramento.
Finally getrichslowly.com offers several tips on starting your own garden.