Wash It Yourself & Other Ways to Save Money on Organic Fruits, Veggies

By Frugal Duchess on 21 June 2009 10 comments
Photo: Camra Art

My children appreciate the added flavor in organic fruits, vegetables and dairy products. Unfortunately, organic products, which are grown and packaged without pesticides, artificial coloring or preservatives, are expensive. The following strategies have helped us to purchase organic products while staying on a tight budget.

Follow the loss leaders

Grocery stores and specialty chains typically offer several heavily discounted items each week. These promotional items are called loss leaders because stores are willing to take a financial hit on them in order to bring consumers into the store. Stock up on sale items in the organic section and build menus around them.

Stay local

In-season and locally produced fruits and vegetables are usually cheaper than out-of-season items that have been imported.

Wash it yourself

We pay a premium for veggies that are already washed, peeled or cut. When time allows, I save money with do-it-yourself washing, peeling and chopping of fruits and veggies. The savings are significant.

Hit the freezer

I love organic blueberries, but when the out-of-season price spikes to $6.99 for six ounces, I go to the freezer aisle. That's where I pick up a 10-ounce package of organic berries for about $4. The freezer section offers a variety of frozen organic fruits at reasonable prices. Frozen fruits are great for snacking or baking.

Join an organic co-op

Before we let our membership lag, we were part of an organic food co-op in our neighborhood for over a year. We have since joined another group and are pleased with the savings. Our produce bill has dropped by 30 percent due to the co-op, which purchases fruits and vegetables in bulk from local, organic farmers.

Editor's note: Sharon Harvey Rosenberg (The Frugal Duchess) will be joining Wise Bread as a full time blogger in August. In the mean time, she'll be dropping by with a few guest posts a week.  You can find more great tips from Sharon in her book Frugal Duchess: How to Live Well and Save Money or in Wise Bread's new book 10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget.

Can't wait until August? Here are other great posts by Sharon on her blog The Frugal Duchess. Enjoy!

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Guest's picture

As a former healthcare worker who worked with children I am extremely concerned about the level of pesticides in many of our fruits and vegetables.

Small children have developing immune and neurological systems that make them susceptible to toxins.

We don't know whether pesticides have any effect on children because unfortunately no long term studies have effectively examined the effect that pesticides may have on young children.

These are wonderful suggestions that you have posted. In addition sometimes you can get coupons for organic products. Many produce farmers will allow you to come to their farms and harvest fruit. You pay by how much you pick. My family used to do this with peaches and apples. It was a fun family activity during the summer.

Guest's picture

To grow organic fruits and vegetables is really difficult, especially when pests come and eat all of the young flowers that have come out. One way or another, so far, farmers have to use pesticide but the side effect of the chemical goes into the fruits and vegetables. What else should a farmer do to kill of these pests if not with pesticide?

Guest's picture

there is no added flavour to organic produce, none at all. Blind taste tests have proven this many times over. Nor is there added nutritional benefit. Organic is a scam from those points of view.

However, from the soil's point of view, it's much much better. Modern commercial agriculture destroys the soil, which is (or was) a living thing. Organic agriculture, when it's done properly, unlike with most of the organic produce you can buy in store, which is almost always a scam, will replenish and nourish the soil, keeping it healthy. And in the long run that means we are ultimately better off, but in the short term, there is no direct gain from organic methods, only for th soil. Which is why we should do it, doing the right things fro the right reasons.

Guest's picture

It's often much less expensive to grow your own organic vegetables. We grow tomatoes, peppers, snap peas and lettuce in our small garden each year - focusing on produce with the highest pesticide levels. It's NOT harder to grow organic on a small scale. :) Water, sun and weeding are all we ever give our plants - and they do just fine. Even apartment dwellers with a small, sunny balcony could grow a few plants in pots.

Guest's picture

I'm not really clear on how you save money by washing produce. Is this about packaged versus unpackaged produce? LIke premade salad bags for $4 versus a head of lettuce at $1? Otherwise when in the grocery stores I've not seen options to buy washed or unwashed fruits & veggies.

Guest's picture

I'm a member of an online green social network at www.greenwala.com and we discuss this topic constantly. One of the most common recommendations is to make your own produce rinse out of affordable but effective ingredients and tah-dahhh - you end up saving more than just money. Apparently, as long as you soak fruits and veggies for a good 5 minutes, the residue should be zapped. One of the members there swears by mixing 1 part water and 1 part white vinegar with two tablespoons each of baking soda and lemon juice.

Plus, this member tells everyone how to get free organic produce (and it's not what you think) -- http://www.greenwala.com/my_groups/all/99-Strategies-To-Green-Your-Food-...

Guest's picture

I'm thinking she's means "farmer's market" type produce. Usually, that type of produce is picked, rinsed off and sold to the public. They don't spend the time (or money) to clean it up and make it look pretty for the store.

Guest's picture

I'm sure it's the difference between the packaged, washed salad mix/cut up cabbage/baby carrots and the plain stuff at the grocery store (though at our big chain stores there aren't often more than one organic options).

The cost differential at our coop between the loose, unbagged (but washed) carrots that I wash & cut up and the shaved-down baby carrots is about 25% right now. That little bit of work makes a big difference. Later in the year when I can get uncertified organic-method carrots with dirt on them straight from the farmer the cost difference will be huge.

Guest's picture

I plant a few vegetables of my own. Also whenever the farmers market season comes around in my area, I buy a lot of the fruits like blueberries, strawberries and freeze them as you do. So that when it comes to out of season especially in the winter I have some in store. I do that too with the vegetables that I grow at home.

Guest's picture

Great tips! Thanks for the suggestions.