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Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RP = Red Plum
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
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  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

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how to save on organic produce

Many doctors and scientists are now pushing for folks to choose organic produce to reduce risk of cancer and other illnesses.  Rather than continuing the argument as to whether that is right or unfounded I thought we would take a look at some ways to save money on organic produce if you have decided to make the switch.

First many of us can’t afford everything organic, if you are in that boat then you want to remember the “clean 15” list.  These veggies have lower levels of pesticides and are considered safer than others in the store to not be organic.

The Clean 15 (lowest in pesticides)

1. Onion
2. Avocado
3. Sweet Corn
4. Pineapple
5. Mango
6. Asparagus
7. Sweet Peas
8. Kiwi
9. Cabbage
10. Eggplant
11. Papaya
12. Watermelon
13. Broccoli
14. Tomato
15. Sweet Potato

When all else fails, the produce to avoid if at all possible are the “dirty dozen“.  These are known for having the highest levels or pesticides.

The Dirty Dozen

1. Celery
2. Apple
3. Bell Pepper
4. Peach
5. Nectarine
6. Strawberries
7. Cherries
8. Kale
9. Lettuce
10. Grapes
11. Carrot
12. Pear

For everything else you need here are some tips to reduce the cost of organic produce:

Check out local farms and co-ops.
A great resource is LocalHarvest.org, they have a full list by zip code of farms in your area.  Some will sell directly to you, and others have set up produce co-ops and CSA farms to help you get a discount on great items.

Buy in Bulk.
If you find a local farmer to work with, ask for the bushel or half bushel price.  You will usually get a price break to buy a larger amount.  Then bring it all home and put it up in the freezer to eat later in the year.

Don’t let anything go to Waste.
Stay focused on reasonable amounts for your family.  If you can’t eat it, freeze it or share it before it goes bad, then you’ve wasted money.  Careful menu planning and knowing how and what you can freeze will help cut down on buying too much.

Stay in Season.
This is a no-brainer for anyone trying to save on produce.  Obviously buying out of season produce costs more, so try to plan menus and snacks around produce that is available.

Look for Coupons.
Many organic stores will release coupons for particular items and products. If you are in the area, it might be worth it to you to run in and use that coupon or see if another store will accept it as a competitor coupon.  We also see coupons from the manufacturers for organic products as well, some in the past have been Olivia’s salads, Earthbound Farms and others.  Check the coupon database to see any current coupons.

Save on other Necessities.
While organic produce may be a priority in your family, there are certainly other items like toilet paper, toothpaste and razors that you can easily save money on.  Focusing on saving where you can frees up more of your budget for specialty items that are harder to find deals for.

What about produce washes?
I am with some of you and will gladly buy the $1.50 strawberries rather than paying the $4.50 for the organic version.  So how do we make the non-organic version healthier??  Many companies will try to push produce and vegetable washes on you. They aren’t worth the money.  Read up on a study done at University of Maine recently though and you’ll find that just sticking to a cold water rinse or bath is the exact same as buying an additional product.  If you feel safer using a something other than water, here’s a home recipe for a spray you can use to help kill some contaminants. If you wash your produce as soon as you get home it will kill bacteria and spores and your produce will last longer too!

Get a new spray bottle
Add:
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup water

Leave this on your produce for 1-2 minutes and then rinse well.

Do you have any tips for how you save on organic produce?  Please share!

    • mama2009

      does anybody kow if u can freeze grapes?  it is my kids fav and they can get expensive when they are not on sale

    • Thom

      Thanks for this Jenny. Basically, I try to save money on other items so I can splurge on my produce. I’ll buy a different brand of paper towels when on sale (and have a coupon) so I can go to Whole Foods to spend a little more on my fruit.
      I also keep up with the sale items at the stores who carry organic. My Whole Foods has organic navel oranges on sale for .99/lb this week.
      I plan to visit the farmer’s market this summer. I purchased peaches last year at a good price. Maybe this summer I’ll feel comfortable to break out into other product.

    • I have always heard you should wait to wash produce unitl right before you eat it to make it last longer. Now I am confused…

      • That is what I was always taught too… maybe you wash and dry it? 

        • Sally

          It depends on what you’re washing.  For anything porous (strawberries, mushrooms, etc), you should only wash them immediately before eating/cooking.  Fruits and veggies such as apples, asparagus or broccoli can be washed, dried, and stored.

      • Maguiremeg

        I had always heard wait to wash too. Which is it? Also, frozen bananas are great for smoothies and ice cream.

    • Tlwoodbury

      Thanks for the tips,  Jenny!  This is helpful info.

    • Frugalmom22boys

      One of the ways that I save is growing my own…..I have bell pepper and tomato plants in my window right now that I started from seed.  You can by a whole pack of seeds for the price of one tomato plant at the hardware store.  I recycle my used yogurt cups and egg trays to plant them.  

      • Julie

        I love the idea of using yogurt cups!  I eat yogurt everyday and this is a great use for the cups in addition to recycling them!

    • Julie

      Thanks Jenny! Another chunk of helpful info!  And I love the fact that you site references as well in your information.

    • These are GREAT tips. I’ve also learned that it isn’t really necessary to buy organic juices because the washing process for fruits prior to juices if very thorough. As for washing your own produce, yes wash it prior to eating only, especially with berries and softer produce. 

    • katkoupon

      I also read you can make a produce wash with a 50/50 mixture of 3% hydrogen peroxide and water.

       I think the 2011 Clean 15 list also included mushrooms. I always keep this list and the Dirty Dozen list with me, I love having a quick reference while shopping.

    • Sabmotto

      you can also wash fruits and veggies with %50 water and %50 peroxide mxture safely

    • Lianne

      Dr. Bronner’s is a truly frugal soap with an endless amounts of uses, one of them including a wash for produce! I just got myself a body and haven’t used it for produce yet, but one little drop really goes a long way. They key is to dilute it. 

    • Sally

      Thanks, Jenny!  I spend a great deal of money on organic and/or grass-fed meat and dairy, so I don’t usually shell out the extra money for organic produce (unless my local coop has a good deal on it).  I just wondering to myself what the homemade wash recipe was. :)

    • Kristisdeals

      I have been doing some research on “sprouting”…you can have a fresh crop every 5 days or so.  Grow in Mason jars and have a variety…broccoli, onions, sunflowers, alfalfa.  If you can’t afford to buy fresh produce or if you don’t have space for a garden or the weather is too cold for a garden…just have your own little mega store.  http://www.sproutpeople.org has lots of cool info and product to order.  I just googled and came up with lots of tips.

    • Maria

      Grow your own!  Some things, like carrots grow like weeds.  You just can’t mess them up.  Lettuce too.  We just harvested some broccoli that we planted and harvested last year.  We left the plants and this spring they produced a bunch of shoots.  Yum! 

      My boys (2 and 3) love to work in the garden.  When its time to replant, I never have to do much to turn the dirt over, just give the boys the shovels and some toy dumptrucks, wait an hour, and you’re good to go! :)

    • Maria

      Another thing to remember, especially with local farmers and markets: its not easy for farmers to get that organic label.  They may nmot use pesticides but because of the placement of some item on their farm, or other random thing, they are not able to get (or able to afford) the organic stamp.  Talk to the farmers.  Many will offer tours and you can see firsthand their practices.  Many are very consciensus, so don’t turn away just because its not “organic.”  (In the grocery store, its a different matter, since you don’t know where the produce came from.)

    • Mikenlydia

      I know it is hard on all of our wallets to purchase organic but remember, the long term effect that the pesticides have not only on us as the consumers but also on the farmers, the land and eventually our water.  When I think if it in that perspective, it makes buying organic a little easier to do especially when my dad, uncles and grandfather are/were all farmers.  

    • Anita

      Keep an eye for small stands and stores in your area. In Sumter there’s The Farm Store, which I believe to be a small family business. Their prices are great, most times cheaper than conventional at the grocery store, especially if bought in bulk. I like farmer’s markets too, but here in SC most of what they sell is not organic and/or local. Sometimes in the produce stands at flea markets, especially the big ones, they have some organic produce too, at their regular prices. And now that spring is almost here, the downtown markets in bigger places have plenty of organic or at least pesticide-free produce, though it can be pricier, but the flavor is outstanding (and I believe the nutrient content too).
      We’ve been trying to plant our own produce, but we’ve only had success with lettuce…so far, and we’ve even tried those “weedy” carrots too!

    • Barnes_kentucky

      Thanks for this post Jenny! Buying organic is a priority in our house. I use our local CSA to get a ton of produce for about $15 a week. It is not all organic but it is grown locally and is not genetically engineered like so much is from the mega farms (another issue that is very important to me). I think like so many things if it is important to you then you find a way to do it!

    • grisy

      Well I am running  from the GMO products so I would not consider any regular corn safe to eat I would go for organic since the organic should not have any GMO  on it… but this is another can of worms. Since there has not been real studies about their influence on humans and the companies are using the market as a real time lab for that. I hope you can see some of this articles

      http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/01/09/GM-Corn-Poses-Health-Hazard.aspx

      http://www.anh-usa.org/usda-decides-the-rush-to-rubber-stamp-gmo-foods-is-too-slow/

    • Bigfamsjunk

      I make a homemade fruit/veggie cleaner by filling a pot or bowl with water, add about 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Add produce and swish around a bit. Add about 1/2 cup of baking soda. The reaction will cause a great deal of bubbling so do this in the sink. Aggitate the produce as the reacton occurs so it gets into all of the crevices of the food. When the reaction dies down remove the produce (the water should be fairly dirty). Dump water and refill with clean water. Rince produce in the clean water. Dry and enjoy. I do this in a salad spinner without the top so you can just lift the produce out of the water bowl. You will be amazed at how clean your grapes will be and all of your other food.