Save on organics: Get more for your money
An exclusive excerpt from Consumer Reports’ ShopSmart
1. Prioritize your purchases. If your main concern is eating healthfully, you can save by purchasing organic produce if the conventionally grown version tends to be more contaminated with pesticides. This list includes peaches, apples, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, and sweet bell peppers, celery, lettuce, spinach, and potatoes, according to an analysis of USDA and FDA test results by the Environmental Working Group. (For more info and to download the organization’s “Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce,” visit Food News).
It also pays to buy organic baby food because the conventional versions tend to be made of condensed fruits and vegetables, potentially concentrating pesticide residues, and to buy organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy because you reduce your risk of exposure to the agent believed to cause mad cow disease and potential toxins in nonorganic feed.
3. Shop at discount stores and comparison shop for specific items. Many large discount chain stores like Sam’s Club, Costco, Wal-Mart, and Target now carry organics and claim that their prices are lower than those of most other retailers. But be sure to check prices on frequently purchased items at different stores to see which retailer sells them for the lowest price.
4. Look for store-brand organics and bulk packaging. Examples include Whole Foods Market’s 365 Organic Everyday Value, Safeway’s O Organics, Stop & Shop’s/Giant’s Nature’s Promise, Kroger’s Private Selection Organic, Trader Joe’s, and others that often cost less than national name brands. Costco, for example, says its private label Kirkland Signature organics offer at least 20 percent savings compared with the leading national brand.
5. Buy from bulk bins. You can now find organic rice, flour, beans, granola, nuts, pasta, and peanut butter for less in bulk bins at many grocery stores.
6. Join a food co-op. They are independent grocery stores that usually offer local and organic foods. Some have a membership fee and may require members to volunteer at the co-op for a few hours each month. Members get a discount when they shop. To find a local co-op, visit the Coop Directory Service orLocal Harvest.
7. Buy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in season. That’s when prices are lowest. To see what produce is in season near you, click on your state on the Sustainable Table Web site. If possible, freeze or preserve produce for later. You may be able to get a discount from local farmers by buying a membership in a community supported agriculture program and sharing it with friends.
TWO WAYS TO SPOT ORGANIC RIP-OFFS
Watch out for…
• ORGANIC PRODUCE PLACED NEAR REGULAR PRODUCE: Grocers are legally required to stack organic fruits and vegetables where they won’t be exposed to water runoff from the misting of conventional produce, which could contaminate organic items with pesticide residue. So if you see organic produce stored below conventional produce, you might want to find somewhere else to shop, or complain to the store manager.
• NONORGANIC FOODS IN ORGANIC SECTIONS: Nonorganic foods are sometimes placed under “organic” signs or in the organics section of the store; for example, “all natural yogurt” in an organic dairy case. You may find organic and “natural” foods jumbled together in the aisle, but those labels don’t mean the same things. Make sure you read all the labels and look for the organic seal. Don’t assume that everything in the organic section is actually organic.