How to Make Organic Food Affordable

As energy and food prices continue to rise, people are asking how to affordably put healthy food on their table. With a little bit of outside-the-box thinking, and some planning ahead, there are several ways to cut costs and increase your value for money.

One of the quickest ways to reduce your organic grocery costs by as much as 15–20 per cent is to buy in bulk. Buying from bulk bins at your local health food shop or co-op is only one way. But this is only part of the picture, as typically the bulk foods available are limited (ie, cereals, beans, nuts). You can also ask your local grocer or natural food shop to special-order bulk items for you. Usually they are more than happy to do this as for them it means they can sell many of the same item in one order, rather than just one. For example, instead of buying just one package of Fair Trade organic coffee, you can special-order the same item in bulk, buying a 12-pack box for a reduced price.

Think about it: most of the time that you grocery shop, you are buying the same thing over and over. So this week, make a list of all things your family purchases on a regular basis. Then take that list to your grocer and/or health food shop and see what you can work out.

Or, form a buying club. If a bunch of people pool their grocery lists, they can often special-order directly with the store, which can lead to much lower costs.

And remember, not every single thing in your pantry needs to be organic. ‘Pick your battles,’ says Sarah Bratnober, communications director at the Organic Valley Family of Farms. She advises following the 80/20 rule—80 per cent of the benefits come from 20 per cent of the purchases. Think about what your family eats the most of, then go from there. If for example your family drinks four litres of milk each week, better to go for buying the organic milk, than the organic peanut butter. Also, if you have to choose for only certain organic items, then choose the fresh fruits and vegetables, and of course, reduce your meat intake.

Buy fruits and vegetables in season and focus on what’s easily available, says Barbara Houmann, spokeswoman for the Organic Trade Association. That way, she said, you may find that the prices are just about comparable with nonorganic fruits and veggies.

And finally, global experts predict that micro-farming will boom over the next few years. New trends in urban farming, like vertical gardening (making use of the space created by vertical areas in gardens, using vines, trellises, etc), and backyard chickens, can help feed households in an economical and earth friendly way. There’s always enough space to grow a little something of your own.


Olson, Ruth. ‘How to Shop for Organic Foods Without Breaking Your Budget’, Newsweek, June 14, 2007 

‘Micro Generation and Micro Farming: Combating High Energy Prices, High Food Prices, and Tyranny’, George Washington’s Blog, July 16, 2008

Published in Kindred, Issue 27, Sept 08

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