{Green Living} Organic and Sustainable Grocery Shopping on a Budget

Grocery shopping is a constant balance between budget and substance: We want to buy the best food that will be good for our families and our budget. Most people I speak with about eating organic argue that conventional produce is cheaper and there’s no difference in nutrition over organic.

Eating organic and sustainable versus commercially is not a comparison of nutritional value: an organic apple and a conventionally grown apple will have roughly the same amount of calories and sugar. Instead the difference between the two–and consequently the difference in price you pay–is to pay for the proper way things are grown. Organic and sustainable food is harvested by hand, not treated with pesticides or other toxic sprays, and is coming from a small local farm.

I try to buy organic as often as I can, even though my family and I are on a VERY tight budget each week for food. Today I’d like to show you that buying sustainable and organic can be easy and cost effective so you can save your money.

I keep all this information in my purse (TEST ME! I DARE YOU!) at all times. It is so helpful for those runs to the grocery store. This information will allow you to find the best food for your family without having to seek out a Whole Foods or farmers market to buy your food. (But you should totally try it sometime!)

There are some produce that you want to buy organic. These have the highest levels of pesticides and are therefore dubbed the DIRTY DOZEN:Apples, celery, bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, potatoes, green beans, kale/greens

If you’re buying produce and want to stretch your budget, the CLEAN FIFTEEN are fruits and veggies with the lowest levels of pesticides so you don’t have to worry about buying these organic. (Think fruits and veggies where you don’t eat the skin or have to peel.)

Onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, cabbage, sweet peas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, kiwi fruit, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, mushrooms.

If you’re searching through aisles for bulk or boxed or canned goods, always look for the GREEN USDA Certified Organic seal.

Want to see the prices on your organic produce drop down even more? EAT IN SEASON. In-season foods are higher quality, and will have a lower carbon footprint arriving to your grocery store. Always ask where food came from, buy as local as possible. (Here’s where farmers markets, roadside stands, etc are all great resources!)

SPRING:Asparagus, avocados, baby spinach, beets, bok choy, broccoli, carrots, celery, grapefruit, lettuces, onions, oranges, peas, radishes, rhubarb, strawberries

SUMMER:Apricots, berries, cherries, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, mustard greens, peaches, peppers, snap was, Swiss chard, tomatoes, watermelon, zucchini

AUTUMN:Apples, cabbage, cauliflower, grapes, pears, squash

WINTER:Brussels sprouts, leeks, sweet potatoes, turnips

Sometimes you’re hoping to run to the grocery store and get in and out with the car running outside. I’ve had days like that, and on those days the last thing you want to do is worry about what’s organic or not, especially when all like produce seems to be sharing one giant bin (organic or not). 

If you only have a second, while you examine your fruit for ripeness glance at the number on the PRODUCE STICKER:

If it starts with a 3 or 4 and has 4 digits = conventionally grown (OKAY)If it starts with a 9 and has 5 digits = organically grown (BEST)If it starts with an 8 and has 5 digits = genetically modified (AVOID)

So what about the main dish? As with produce, make sure your seafood travels as little as possible to get to you. Seafood from Asia will have much higher mercury content and will have traveled half the world to get to you. Ask where your fish came from or look for this:

– Crab: Dungeness or stone– Crawfish: US (Whole Foods Markets will not sell US crawfish because they believe the way in which it is farmed is inhumane. Most general grocery stores will carry them)– Oysters: farmed– Salmon: Alaska (wild), canned (sockeye, pink)– Scallops: farmed– Shrimp: pink (Oregon), spot prawns (Canada)– Tilapia: US– Tuna: albacore (Canada, US)

Protein is so important to a daily diet so make sure your protein is doing something for you and not packed full of antibiotics and other yucky stuff. 


Organic beef (lean, grass fed, or extra lean) 
Organic lamb (lean, grass fed)
Organic chicken (organic, or certified humane raised)
Eggs (organic, certified humane raised, cage-free)
Lentils, peas, beans (fresh or non-gmo beans)
Organic tofu
Dairy (organic)
Seafood (see above!)

You should never be afraid of grains, you should embrace them! Many great grains can be bought in bulk–allowing your money to stretch several meals. Bulgur, whole grain pasta, whole grain bread, brown rice, wild rice, barley, oats, farro, and quinoa are all great simple grains that taste great.

When buying food in plastic containers or using plastic Tupperware for reheating food, remember the safe plastics manta (good for any plastics). Look at the bottom where the recycle symbol has a number in it and remember:” 5, 4, 1, and 2… All the rest are bad for you!”

Lots of information there, right? If you’re looking for some more great Green Living tips, check out this page here for more posts

Thanks for looking!