Organic on a Budget

Making the choice to buy safer products squeezes a monthly budget. Most organics are about 20-30% more expensive than their conventional counterpart. Here’s a great example, it’s so tempting to just grab the cheaper one at the more than 50% less. What’s the deal with this!?
I’ve always been a savvy shopper. When we moved to Charlotte 8 years ago, we were living on one income with a baby and new house. Keeping the grocery and house bill to a minimum was challenging. I picked up tricks along the way. Once I went back to work, I slacked on my diligent saving, only because I was exhausted and was now forced to shop with the masses on the weekends and evenings. (The evenings were soon eliminated after a horrifying meltdown at the entrance of Target by my son who was 3 at the time and tired from a long day of daycare. I spent 20 minutes trying to get him to stop screaming and rolling all over the floor. It was mortifying. I vowed NEVER AGAIN after a long day of daycare.)It wasn’t easy managing the house, a toddler, a new job and find the time to clip coupons! But now with the new baby, the new expenses, and the new awareness of the bad stuff in everything we buy, I’ve had to challenge myself once again… turn on those SAVVY wheels and start saving! Saving will only bring me back down to the normal NOT saving, but hey I wouldn’t be able to afford organic healthy living without it. This lifestyle change comes with the added legwork for saving money, only because most people don’t or can’t stretch their budgets, without having to sacrifice something else… and who isn’t maxed out these days.

A few of my money saving tips…
Harris Teeter accepts competitor coupons, so collect store coupons wherever you can find them. Buy a few CitiPass (GoPlaySave) coupon books. In there, you’ll find Earth Fare and Healthy Home Market coupons. The clipper magazine sometimes have them. You will usually get $5-$10 off your bill.

Sign up on Each week you recycle, you get points in your account. 100 points will get you a $10 coupon for Harris Teeter. This is a totally free program. You will be compelled to recycle more in the meantime, win win.

Shop your farmers markets for produce, veggies, local honey and jellies, and just about anything else they’ll sell you. I LOVE my market, located at a gas station of all places. Providence Produce has some great stuff and I don’t think I’ve ever spend more than $15 a week for my week’s worth of produce. A must to save money.
When most of the markets are closed during the winter, it hurts the wallet, so more reason to stock up on those coupons. Harris Teeter has been offering a lot more organics these days, but you have to use the store coupon to offset the increase in price. I don’t clip coupons for GMO food anymore, but still do for the household and baby products. Be choosy about what products you clip coupons for.

Check your weekly flyers for specials, you can get some awesome deals. You have to look at your receipt too. They’re long for a reason… on the bottom, they list all these great sneaky sales that are not in the flyers. You have to use your loyalty card for them to work. For weeks, my local Harris Teeter had $3 off smart chicken.

There are also CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) . A CSA is a great way to easily get your weekly, in-season produce. You sign up to become a member and each week, the farm will drop off your box of goodies. I’ve been looking into the Poplar Farms CSA because they also sell eggs, dairy products, breads, chicken, and coffee.
Remember the produce is in-season, so you may not know what to do with it. Edible Charlotte has a seasonal magazine that has helpful recipes for those types of produce. But this is where I like the control of buying my own. There are some indoor markets, like the 7th Street Market and the Hillbilly Produce Market , but they aren’t on my way home from work, so it’s not as convenient as Providence Produce. But if you have the time and are in the area, it’s a great alternative to the grocery store.

For all things non-GMO like snacks, meats, and other goodies, like wine and beer, I shop at Trader Joes. Everything is comparable in price if not cheaper than many stores. And shopping at Trader Joes is really fun. I love discovering new products. I love asking the cashiers what they like to buy and I also find it funny how they comment on what I buy! Great store… I go in and let my older son run around desperately trying to find those weird stuffed animals they put on the shelves, while my little one eats all the samples they have out. You do have to watch out for some of what you buy there, sugar content seems to be a problem in our house.

A quick note about the e-VICs… these are great for those of us who have husbands that blow our shopping budget on one trip to the store to pick up milk. They come home with crazy stuff, like $8 bag of cashews or $20 garbage bags or $6 ice cream (that’s not on sale, argh!!!) The eVICs are nice because you might get lucky and save the same product they go and buy when not instructed. The coupon comes right off the bill… so long as they use their VIC card! e-VICs = protection from husbands at the grocery store!

I used to shop regularly at Costco and Target. But I find those places black holes for buying unnecessary items. I’ll go in there to save a total of $5 on toiletries, only to walk out with a new book or toy for my son. Abstinence from both those stores is best for me and my wallet! Just walking through the red doors at Target is a budget killer! For little things, I’ll go to my CVS, at least there I’ll occasionally get CVS “bucks” for my next purchase. I’m still in Target way too much because hey, when you have kids, you have an additional birthday party budget along with the food budget. But that’s a totally different budget that I unfortunately DO NOT have any good tips or tricks for, so sad… it’s costly!

A few rules of thumb, buy organic when you can, stay away from processed food unless you know it’s not genetically modified, and also try to use less. When you get home, split your meats into two meals, freeze one. You don’t have to cook everything then throw away leftovers. Be mindful of how much you actually need for each meal. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or set unrealistic goals. We still need the government agencies that regulate our food to step up and start protecting our food supply. We can’t know everything that is in everything we bring home. And who has time for that? And there will be those days when you forget your coupons or can’t get to trader joes and need snacks for your kids’ lunches. Don’t let that “green guilt” creep in. Set reasonable goals and know that each day you make even a small change, it’s better than no change at all!

Quick update: My awesome friend Angie at SimplyYogini just sent me links to these great sites to find coupons and deals on organic products. I just used one to buy body wash, $6 off! Thank you Angie!!!
Organic Deals
Organic Coupons

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