How to Make Organic Groceries (Kind of) Affordable

There’s plenty of advice online about how to save money on organic food. Most of it’s a bunch of garbage.

“Buy in bulk so you’re not paying for packaging” is my favorite. Have you seen how much organic cereal costs in bulk per pound at your local co-op? The big grocery chain here has their own private label organic cereals that beat the pants off that price. My guess is they’re not alone. I can’t tell if our local farmer’s markets are any better than the grocery store, since I don’t do comparison math well in my head while I’m out and about, but I can’t believe it’s a significant discount over stores. Why would the farmers cut their own profits? It’s not like they’re rolling in cash.

So I thought I would lay out some basic principles on how you can end up buying organic without freaking out about the cost, adapted from how we switched from traditional to organic groceries. Please note that this is not a “pick and choose” system. The steps must be followed in order to achieve the desired effect.

Step One: Make a truckload of money. Making a truckload of money is an underrated solution for making organic groceries affordable. I find it strange that articles about buying organic rarely suggest this. I suggest getting a job that’s way less beneficial to society than something like teaching or growing food, because less important jobs often pay far better. If you don’t make a truckload of money, one alternative is to not spend very much on anything besides food. Avoid buying furniture, continue driving your old used car, and get a confused look when someone mentions that you can buy children’s clothing that no child has ever worn before. (Don’t start buying a lot of comic books yet, or it will ruin everything.)

Step Two: Have a kid. Some say that when you have a child, you become more concerned about health, the future of the planet, etc. In this system, though, the arrival of a child is just a way to create exhaustion and disorganization. You may substitute “enter grad school” or “start your own business,” or feel free to improvise. Anything that sucks out most of your brain and energy for at least a year should work fine.

Step Three: Turn over grocery shopping responsibilities to your child and his/her doting grandparent. It seems so cute at first… and they have such a good time… and you’re so tired…

Step Four: Fail to monitor grocery expenditures for months. This is why Step One was so important. If you don’t do that step, this system will not result in organic groceries. In fact, you may end up without any groceries at all. You need an income sufficient that cost overruns in this category will not threaten other required basic spending. (Although, without any plan, who’s to say what a “cost overrun” is? That’s the spirit!)

Step Five: Buy Quicken. Or something else, because Quicken really isn’t very good. Basically, you need a “come to Jesus” step here. Put all your expenditures in categories, and then let the dread machine total up the categories for you. You really need to be sitting down.

Step Six: Have a HEART ATTACK when you discover how much your household spends on groceries! You mean every time someone goes to the store for eggs, those someones spend at least $25? And it’s all on snack bars and kiwis? Who bought $14 worth of almond butter to make cookies? How are we spending this much and we still have to COOK?!

Step Seven: Take back grocery shopping responsibilities. Party is officially over for a certain young boy and his accomplice.

The grocery bill may not qualify as affordable now, but our system is almost guaranteed to save you 30-40% off the amount in Step Five. Even though $5 boxes of organic bunny-shaped graham crackers keep mysteriously appearing in the cabinet.

7 thoughts on “How to Make Organic Groceries (Kind of) Affordable

  1. TokenOmnivore

    You forgot Step 7: Grow your own food.

    Wait, we’re in a drought and even the peppers are burning up. Never mind. What was that about a heart attack? This time from looking at your water bill – even after only watering the veggies and leaving the grass to die…

  2. Mrs. Bachelor Girl

    THANK GOD we’re not the only ones. I am, no kidding, ASHAMED to tell anyone how much The Guy and I spend on groceries. AND WE ARE ONLY TWO PEOPLE. We’re making a real effort to cut back, but still. It’s pitiful.

  3. Skye

    @ Token Omnivore, I hear ya. Boy Detective and his grandma planted some peppers, and they are “watering” them. I have no idea why, since it would take a bathtub full of water to get them to do anything. :(

  4. Heather @ That Uncomfortable Itch

    Our grocery bill is so out of control it wakes me at night sometimes from its sheer massiveness. It’s the spawn and their need for organic food those damn bunny crackers that make it such a challenge. Plus, after shopping with said small people a trip to the wine store is often in order….

  5. Angela (Cottage Magpie)

    Can we add the step where you explain (mostly) patiently, 427 times to said accomplice (who may or may not be a husband in this case) that when you buy 4-5 other “treats” or “snacks” or “unbelievably expensive bunny-shaped crackers” (you bet your sweet bippy I know which ones they are) every time you are supposed to buy, say, something we can actually eat for dinner…. ahem… that said stuff ADDS EFFING UP.

    (“But it’s only a couple of dollars….”)

    (***strangling noises of me trying not to lose it (again) in front of the children***)

    No, this subject doesn’t make me hostile. Not even a little bit.


    P.S. I was just at a group playdate thing where the Mom’s all started sharing how astronomical their food bills was… and mine was double the highest one. I suddenly had to go change a diaper at that point. Conveniently.

  6. Skye

    @ Mrs. Bachelor Girl, you’ll notice I didn’t include any figures in this post, too humiliating.

    @ Heather and Angela, the damn bunny crackers really do get to me! Costco sells these GIANT boxes of organic animal crackers for not even twice what the box of bunny crackers cost. AND WE ALWAYS HAVE ONE OF THE COSTCO BOXES IN THE HOUSE. It’s not like Boy Detective is going to miss his RDA for animal-shaped baked goods.

  7. Angelina

    When we did our debt counseling work when we went bankrupt the counselor was amazed that we spend more money on food than on transportation expenses. Apparently that is not common.

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