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How To Do Organic Food on a Budget

produce farm stand

Organic or Conventional?

If you’re on a tight budget, prioritize buying organic versions of produce that’s most contaminated or genetically engineered.

Safe to Buy Non-Organic
(least contaminated by pesticides after washing)

Always Buy Organic
(most contaminated and/or genetically modified)

  1. Avocados
  2. Pineapples
  3. Cabbage
  4. Sweet Peas (frozen)
  5. Onions
  6. Asparagus
  7. Kiwi
  8. Eggplant
  9. Grapefruit
  10. Cantaloupe
  11. Cauliflower
  12. Sweet Potatoes
  1. Apples
  2. Peaches
  3. Nectarines
  4. Strawberries
  5. Grapes
  6. Celery
  7. Spinach
  8. Sweet Bell Peppers
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry Tomatoes
  11. Snap Peas (imported)
  12. Potatoes
  13. Hot Peppers
  14. Kale/Collard Greens
  15. Papaya*
  16. Sweet Corn*
  * A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from GE seedstock. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid GE produce.

Sources: GMOInside.org and Environmental Working Group’sDirty Dozen Plus’ and ‘Clean Fifteen

If You Have More Time Than Money…

Reduce Your Processed Food And Restaurant Purchases

Processed food is often more expensive and less healthy than whole foods. Use the money you save by avoiding processed food and expensive restaurant food to buy more organic items.

Grow Your Own Food

It’s not only fun, but it can save money, cut pesticides, and reduce carbon emissions compared to store-bought vegetables. Can some of your produce for the winter months; our article, “Think Globally, Can Locally” can help.

Volunteer At A Local Food Co-op

Many allow members to volunteer a few times a month in exchange for a discount.

Arrange A CSA Workshare

If you belong to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) arrangement with a local farmer, ask the farmer if you can exchange some work hours for a discount on your weekly share of produce.

If You Have More Money Than Time…

Join A CSA

You can save up to 40 percent on in-season and organic (or close-to-it) produce over buying it from the grocery store by joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) arrangement, according to DailyFinance.com. (find a sustainable CSA at localharvest.org and eatwellguide.org)

Consider An Organic Delivery Service

You’ll save time and gas money, and since the service delivers groceries to many households in one trip, you’ll save on climate emissions, too.

If You’re Broke And Busy…

Buy Organic Wisely

Use our “Organic or Conventional?” list above to focus your organic grocery purchases on the types of produce most likely to be contaminated by pesticides or genetically modified.

Eat less meat

Better yet, go vegetarian or vegan! Author John Robbins notes that eating a plant-based diet typically costs 25 percent less than a meat-eater’s diet.

Avoid fast food

While it might seem inexpensive, the impact of fast food on your health—and future health-care costs—can be catastrophic due to its high content of salt, sugar, and fat.

Forego bottled water

Say goodbye to wasteful, single-use bottled water and save $1,400 a year.

Buy in bulk and on sale

Green American Mark Landers buys organic food by the case, which gets him a ten percent discount at his local store. And member Victoria A buys organic produce like blueberries whenever it's on sale and freezes it in single-serving portions for quick thawing later.


updated 2016, originally published 2013.

(m) Designates a certified member of Green America’s Green Business Network®

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