Eating Organic on a Budget at Whole Foods Market

When it comes to eating Organic, some are instantly scared off when they take a look at the prices compared to “conventional” foods. They think they can’t afford to fill their carts with exclusively Organic foods so they just don’t bother with buying any. But I’m here to tell you that it is possible to eat Organic on a budget, even if it just means adding some essentials into your cart. I was given a challenge from Whole Foods Market to see what I could buy with $100 at their store to make a week’s worth of meals. I took a different approach to this, than my normal way of shopping, as I tried to stick to items for anyone to start from near scratch and make the same meals. Normally, I’d buy mostly sale items and make meals from my stockpile but it was important for me to illustrate how to stretch your money. I’ll show you what I purchased but I wanted to share a little bit about Organic foods first.

When I first starting switching my family over to more Organic foods, I felt like I was starting over again as far as food knowledge and you may find yourself feeling the same way. You may need to learn which brands you can trust and the foods and tastes that you enjoy the most. You may also need to learn where to shop. Sadly, not all grocery stores offer much of a selection of Organics and when they do, they may not be of the best quality. But there are stores, such as Whole Foods Market, out there that focus on making sure they sell only products that meet higher standards. Whole Foods Market has a list of “unacceptable ingredients for food products” and those items are not sold in their stores. So while you may not see your normal conventional brands sold there, you can feel secure in knowing that the products they do carry do not contain those harmful items. They also have their products labeled with how they meet their Animal Welfare Standards so you’ll know more about those products, just by checking the labels.

Ideally, we should eat as many Organic foods as possible to avoid consuming pesticides, added hormones and antibiotics. But when money is tight, I highly recommend starting with foods from the “Dirty Dozen” and not spending as much money on the “Clean Fifteen.”

After understanding the importance of choosing Organic and finding a store, like Whole Foods Market, to shop at, the next step is to choose similar methods for saving money on products, just like you do now. I have highlighted several of these in my 31 Ways to Save on a Grocery Budget but I’m going to focus on a few of the best first steps to take:

1) Buy in Bulk – When starting out, you may want to try some new foods, such as whole wheat flour or quinoa or other products you don’t currently use. Whole Foods Market offers an amazing selection of items in their bulk foods area.  It’s a great way to try items without having to buy in a large quantity and finding out it’s just not for you. I was even able to find Organic Popcorn there for making a quick snack at home without all those extra additives! Buying in bulk can also mean choosing larger packages of Organic meat to save money overall. You can often save quite a bit if you buy a few pounds at once, rather than a pound at a time. So check out those GreatBuy deals:

2) Keep a Price Book – Yes, you’ll probably need to start over on this one if you’ve created one before. Check your stores for the best prices on your favorite items. You may find the best deals are with the store brands, such as Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Products. I’ve actually found quite a few that were close to conventional prices for the Organic versions!

3) Stock up on Sale Prices – Just like with conventional foods, there are several hot deals on Organic products all the time. Whole Foods Market has 3-Day sales each week and also some hot One- Day Sales. One of my favorite One-Day Sales they offered were on Organic Whole Chickens. You better believe I stocked up on that one! Whole Chickens can easily be cooked in a crockpot and then you can make your own broth from it! This is another great way to maximize your money.

4) Make Simple Recipes – A quick way to burn through your grocery budget is to continually make recipes that require a lot of ingredients. The great thing about switching to Organic foods is that they are usually so full of flavor; you won’t want to add too much to them. I have found a lot of wonderful recipes on the Whole Foods Market website that I’ll highlight in just a bit.

5) Choose In-Season Foods and Try Freezer Cooking– Each month, there is usually a new set of foods that are considered “in-season” and by choosing more of those foods, you can save money. These foods tend to be on sale and they are often the freshest foods you can buy. I love to buy up extras of those foods and freeze some for when the prices are higher. I especially do this with fruit as I love indulging in smoothies! Or take the time to plant your own garden, even if it’s just some herbs, to have fresh foods right at home. Don’t forget you can also check out the frozen Organic fruits/vegetables, too, as the prices on them might fit your budget.

6) Use Coupons (of course!) – The great thing about Whole Foods Market is that they offer several store coupons each month. You can find them online, or save money on ink by picking them up in-store. Most Whole Foods Markets will even let you “stack” coupons by letting you use a store and manufacturer’s coupon for the same product. (Check your store for their policy, as it can vary by location.) This is an amazing way to save money! I’ve even used this method for saving on Organic Dairy items.

These are just a few steps that will help you eat Organic on a budget. And here’s what I ended up buying to create a meal plan for one with with my $100 gift card to Whole Foods Market:

And here is the meal plan that I had set in place for these groceries:

Heart-Shaped Eggs in a Hole
Scrambled Eggs, Toast & Smoothies
Cereal & Fruit/Smoothie (2)
Yogurt & Fruit/Smoothie
Oatmeal & Fruit/Smoothie
Pancakes – Double your batch and freeze some for later!

Grilled Cheese & Tomato Sandwiches
“Garbage” Salad – Toss together whatever veggies etc. that you have on hand in your fridge!
PB Sandwiches & Fruit and Veggies (2)
Tortilla Pizzas

Mini Turkey Meatloaves & Green Beans
Grilled Salsa Drumsticks
Tuna Lettuce Wraps
Baked Chili Sweet Potatoes
Grilled Chicken Kabobs with Seven Grain Rice
Pasta and Veggies
Chicken Quesadillas with Salsa

*All meals were served with fresh fruits, vegetables and healthier smoothies as “side dishes.” I did combine the groceries with some items I had on hand.

As with all meal plans, I tried to stick to the original plan but I’m sure I deterred at points along the way. In a typical meal plan, you usually allow at least one meal elsewhere as that’s just what our busy lives dictate but I didn’t do that for this plan. My grand total for groceries was $87.45 after taxes. I left some “wiggle-room” for anything I may have needed later in the week. I was able to reach this total by selecting bulk foods, buying more sale items, choosing the 365 Everyday Value items, stacking a few coupons, buying in-season items and sticking to simple recipes.

I hope that if you’ve been planning on making the switch to more Organic foods, that using some of these methods will help you in working it into your budget. Don’t be frightened off if you can’t afford to do too much at once. Just like most things in life, you can take baby steps to gradually reach your goal.

In what ways have you found to help fit more Organic Foods into your weekly meal plans?  Are you interested in trying your own “Eat Organic on a Budget Challenge?” Keep watching Coupon Geek as you’ll see a giveaway for a $100 Whole Foods gift card real soon in another posting!

Disclaimer: While I was compensated for this posting, Whole Foods Market was incredibly generous in allowing me full control and direction of its content. All opinions are my own.