The most cost-effective ways to bypass conventional foods
Compared to conventional foods, certain organic foods are so affordable that you shouldn’t ignore them while grocery shopping.
You’re typically exposed to at least 10 pesticides on a daily basis, according to the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program. And when it comes to eating clean, you probably slip more organic foods into your diet to avoid those icky residues (and to help that whole sustainability thing).
But let’s be honest; even though we know organic food is better for us and the environment, the sticker prices can be pretty high at times. This is not an argument about how you must always buy organic, nor is it a list of which foods you should buy organic no matter what; it’s about what’s so affordable that there’s really no excuse. Read on for the 17 healthy organic foods that give you the most bang for your buck.
Fiber-rich and wallet-friendly, organic beans are worth stocking up on for only a few cents more than conventional ones. A can of organic chickpeas, for instance, might set you back $1.39 instead of the $1.09 conventional would cost. If you look for organic beans in the bulk bins, you may find even better deals—and you won’t have to worry about contamination from cans. (Always look for BPA-free cans!)
Whether you rely on tea for its fat-burning reputation or enjoy it for its caffeine jolt, the organic varietals of tea are worth the extra pennies and are even cheaper if you buy loose varieties in bulk. “Sampling done by the FDA shows that imported tea contains illegal levels of pesticide residues 26.7 percent of the time,” says Kayleen St. John, registered dietitian at Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. “But organic tea is not produced with synthetic pesticides and poses less of a health risk.”
3. Corn tortillas
Mexican night? Don’t mind if we do. “While sweet corn on the cob is traditionally considered to be safe, corn [used] in food products, also known as ‘field corn,’ is largely GMO,” says Lisa Hayim, registered dietitian and founder of The WellNecessities. In fact, nearly 90 percent of corn in America is genetically modified. “Instead, opt for organic corn tortillas. I love Food for Life’s Ezekiel tortillas or Whole Foods 365 Organic Tortillas,” says Hayim.
4. Organic frozen fruit
Organic frozen fruit lasts from 6 to 12 months, so it’s convenient when a fruit is out of season and is more affordable than fresh organic fruit. “Organic store-brand frozen fruit can be a great option because they have to meet the same criteria as brand names to get the ‘organic’ label,” says Jeanette Pavini, savings expert for Coupons.com. “With frozen fruit, you can purchase these labels and save on your daily smoothies, plus you save even more when you don’t have to throw away fruit that’s gone bad.”
Wildly versatile and incredibly affordable—a few pounds shouldn’t cost more than $10—potatoes can also last a few weeks, so you don’t have to worry about cooking them right away. Plus, a study reported by the Environmental Working Group—the organization that puts out the ‘Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen’ lists—found that the average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other kind of produce, says Hayim.
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Many dried herbs and spices aren’t that expensive to begin with, and the organic ones are worth the extra little bit to avoid pesticides. An effortless way to make dishes more flavorful, the non-organic varieties are irradiated—definition: exposed to radiation.
“Not all produce is grown equally; some fruits and vegetables are more likely to have pesticide residues,” says St. John. “The Environmental Working Group has a ‘Dirty Dozen’ list to help consumers identify high-risk produce. Apples are at the top of the list but, the good news is, their organic counterparts are relatively easy to find and not terribly expensive,” she adds. Grab a two or five-pound bag to enhance your savings if you have a larger family.
8. Organic soups
“With organic soups, you get a lot of bang for your buck, especially if you know where to shop! For example, on a given week, Amy’s Organic Soups could be $2.42 at Walmart, compared to $3.69 at regular grocery stores,” says Pavini. “A bonus? You can use organic soup to cook other dishes, giving even slow-cooker recipes and casseroles a tasty kick.”
9. Animal products
“American agriculture has become incredibly dependent on administering antibiotics to livestock. This contributes to the formation of resistant bacteria that might infect humans. Organic meat and dairy, on the other hand, prohibit antibiotics use,” says St. John. To cut down on costs, slash the amount of meat you use in dishes and focus more on loading up your plate with vegetables. Pro-tip: you can also save by buying certain cuts of of organic beef, Pavini says. “For example, the flank or shoulder are usually less expensive cuts,” suggests Pavini.
10. Olive oil
Sure, it might cost you between $10-20, but it’s mere cents when you consider the number of servings or uses in a bottle. “By buying organic olive oils, which are mechanically-pressed, you avoid oils that use chemical solvents for extraction,” St. John says. “And given olive oil’s versatility, you might consume multiple servings per day, like in a baked good, salad dressing, or roasted anything.”
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11. Earthbound Farm spicy spinach
Greens like spinach and kale are notorious for heavy pesticides, so you really should opt for organic whenever you can. With a suggested retail price of just $3.99, this handy 4.5 oz clamshell is loaded with a blend of spinach, pak-soi, mizuna and other zesty greens. If half your battle for making a healthy lunch or dinner is grocery shopping for the ingredients, this mix of greens makes it a cinch. Just add a hearty protein like baked tofu or beans.
12. Carrington Farms chia seeds
At only $9.49 for a 14-ounce bag, these tiny-but-mighty organic seeds are well worth buying. (Store them in your fridge to enhance shelf-life.) Simply slip them into yogurt, oatmeal, protein shakes or any of these chia seed recipes for weight loss. Oh, and did we mention they’re high in antioxidants and pack more omega-3s than salmon? Further bragging rights: They’ve got more calcium-by-weight than milk and are loaded with fiber, potassium, and iron.
13. Aloha coconut water powder
Coconut water addicts, brace yourself for the most convenient (and brilliant) thing since sliced bread: By gently drying fresh coconut water from young organic Thai coconuts, this powder retains all of its naturally occurring minerals, including electrolytes, while being way easier to transport than a can or bottle. Aloha isn’t exactly known for low prices, but consider this: $13.40 gets you 30 sticks (that’s less than 45 cents per serving) while a can of coconut water is at least $2. All you do is simply mix the powder with water for a natural, potassium-filled drink. Or, add it to tea or coffee for a boost of sweetness.
14. Daily Greens juice
At only $5.99 a bottle, these green juices, which are cold-pressed to ensure the juices maintain their nutrients, are well below the $8 or $9 you’ll throw down for a competitor or at a juice bar—where in many cases, the ingredients aren’t even organic. Trying a juice cleanse? Go for the Costco box of 16 juices (which features the new Green Lemonade) for $59.99.
15. Rhythm Superfoods roasted kale chips
Clean ingredients? Check. Irresistible crunch? Check plus. Made with organic Lacinato kale (conventional kale is frequently contaminated with insecticides), these chips are an excellent source of vitamins A and K and just $2.49 a bag.
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16. Soy products
“When buying soy, or a soy product, opt for organic since 90 percent of soy production is genetically modified,” says Hayim. For the best deals, look for House-brand tofu, or check the frozen aisle for organic, frozen edamame, which stay good for a long time and are great in stir fries and for snacks. “Remember to look at soy milk, tofu, soy beans (edamame), miso paste, and tempeh [all of which fall into the soy family],” says Hayim.
A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that organically grown berries contained 50 percent more polyphenols, antioxidants and levels of vitamin C compared to the conventionally grown berries. “Remember not to wash them until you are going to use them; they’ll last longer that way!” Pavini says. Look for sales on discounted organic berries (stores sometimes offer 2-for-1 specials) or go for the frozen variety.