4 Ways to get a Bounty of Organic Foods on a Budget

The following is a new weekly feature brought to us by my friend Charlotte Lee.  She has been a wealth of information both here on The Frugal Find and personally when it comes to eating healthful organic foods on a budget.  I’ve asked her to share tips and how-to’s that show us ways to replace the quick and processed foods we’d typically buy at the grocery store with organic and all natural options.  Our goal is show you that you CAN EAT WELL for LESS!  Take it away Charlotte…

I am so honored to be invited to TFF today so I can share the journey I’ve been on to feed my family on 100% organic foods without going broke! I am an at home mom of two boys and a little white fluff dog. We live on one income and have since I had my first son over 4 years ago.  Budgeting and getting creative with what you have is a must to make it work.  Finding great resources for organic, high quality foods at rock bottom prices became my big focus as we downsized our single income a couple years back and I had to feed each of us on $5 per day.

Note that I didn’t say “cutting back” but rather “getting creative”. If you see any part of this as deprivation, it won’t be as fun, it will be frustrating when the work comes and the feeling of being deprived will suck you dry of motivation to keep going!

Two years ago, as we moved to Oregon and out of California, I plunged even further into organic foods. At the time I had bought mostly (about 75%) organic foods but we ate out a ton, I still bought premade foods and the truth is that convenience was more important to me than quality or cost. Then it all changed. I started to realize that these quick, convenient boxed options were taxing our budget and that we could be having more nutritious, fresher, better quality foods if I would take the time to research, plan and put the work in. If you’ve shopped for organic foods you know that coupons are NOT abundant. I knew that there had to be cheaper ways to shop for what is without question the more expensive option. I had to keep our budget the same.

With some help from friends and co-ops and websites here’s what I found and what I’ve used:

Farmer’s Markets – farmers come together in a central location once per week to sell from their own stands. Avoiding the overhead costs of grocery stores they will often have fabulous prices there and they’ll be fresh and straight from the farm. Not all farmer’s market stands will be organic and some will be organically grown without being certified USDA organic. The latter are often very well priced because you can get organically grown foods for conventional prices. But ask good questions about pesticide use, fertilizer use and herbicide use! Find a farmer’s market in your area by visiting  Local Harvest.

Farms – Many local farms will offer you-pick options for their crops! Take advantage of the field trip opportunity and pick to your heart’s content. Berries which come in on sale for $4/lb. when buying organic are available at the farm for $1.75-$2.00! And this week alone I picked 15 lbs. of berries to freeze and jam for the winter months when they’re not available! Apples in the fall and stone fruit towards the end of summer are all great to stock up on from you-pick farms. A google search for local farms that offer you-pick is often more than what you’ll need to get started.

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) – This year I’ve taken advantage of a local CSA. As a member of a CSA I purchase a share of a farm and I get a share of the crops! Local farmers offer shares typically once per year at the beginning of the year before planting season. The benefit here is the low, low prices on amazingly fresh, organic and local produce! There are a variety of CSA’s ranging from veggies, fruits and veggies, just fruit, optional eggs, you-pick boxes, etc. The downside is that you often don’t get to specifically choose your variety so you have to use what you get – get creative. The upside is that the price can’t be beat but the money is due up front or in payment chunks. Mine averages out to $20 per week for organic veggies. For more information about CSAs, go here and find your local CSA by visiting one of the listed sites. I found mine through Local Harvest and I’ve used Eating Well Guide as well.

Co-op – This is my go to place for bulk goods and one I could not do without. A co-op is a group of people who create a wholesale account to be a distribution point for companies meaning that they get the rock bottom prices that the grocers do except there is no mark up!  I get all my monthly staples from here. Dry grains, dried fruit, essential oils, soaps, etc. anything that I can get from them I most likely will because the prices are 40-60% lower than the health food stores. All of these options should be free to join. There is no membership fee but some may ask for volunteer time since this is not their jobs. The drop point coordinators are volunteering their time and homes as well. Some will charge 10% of the order to have it sorted out for you.  Azure Standard, which is local to Oregon, is the wholesale provider for most of what I get on a monthly basis. You can visit them at Azure Standard and set up a free account to see their prices. The only downside is that orders must be over $50 individually and as a group must total a minimum amount for the drop to take place. This means that you typically get your order in once per month and planning ahead is a must!

The other provider for our co-op is Frontier, which you can visit at Frontier Co-op. Organic spices, toys, household items, anything I could get at a major health food chain can be found here and found for 50% off most items.

Visiting either of their sites and calling them you should be able to find out if there is an existing co-op near you.

Through any of these venues you can find nearly anything organic, pasture raised, free range and the highest quality for the cheapest prices. All you have to do is ask, ask, ask!!! Just by asking around I found a reputable dairy for our milk, organic, free range, pastured eggs and a fantastic, 100% grass-fed, pastured beef butcher to buy an 1/8th of a cow from and even got free kefir grains! Asking around at the farmer’s markets and even nudging some of your “green” friends who are usually thrilled to share will be a great way to learn of new sources.


  1. Danae H says

    Great ideas! This last year I have made it a goal to get all our veggies and fruits organic and am hoping to keep finding new options to keep expanding that list to include more and more foods. This is a great starting point reference.

  2. Rachel Mullins says

    Great info, Charlotte! Pound for pound, fresh, whole food is often cheaper than pre-packaged or highly processed (but convenient) food. I’ve been trying to make the switch, but it’s hard some weeks. The one think I would add is to also be sure the produce is grown with non-GMO seed. I recently learned that even some “USDA organic” products are actually grown from GMO seed…seed that has the pesticide Bt toxin and other harmful junk added to their DNA. Very maddening. Even when you’re careful you get duped.

  3. Samantha says

    Thanks for the tips… Without trying to sound like I’m complaining,I am interested in how other regions are. Here in the northern bay area of ca the farmers market is a trendy thing to do. I often find that the price is at least 2x more expensive for conventional produce than organic at Safeway or luckys. My area is big on local and sustainable so we have at least 6 csa programs with the average cost being 40+ per box. I live in an area where many farms grow produce and I can buy it cheaper once it’s packaged shipped to god knows where then send back to a supermarket and sold there…. Just seems backwards to me

    • Susan says

      The farmer’s markets here are often more expensive than going to the grocery store as well. I’m not sure why, unless it’s because a number of local farms also supply many restaurants. Our markets are really an “experience,” not just a market, so that might add to the cost as well since each farm has to pay for its spot. And then again, our farmers may just be charging store level organic prices at the market since people are willing to pay that much at that store.

    • Teresa says

      I agree! I live in Sonoma County, in Northern California and organic produce tends to be much cheaper at Safeway and sometimes even Whole Foods than at the farmers market.

  4. Charlotte Lee says

    Thanks for the feedback friends!

    We moved from the East Bay in CA so I know what you mean about the Farmer’s Market’s prices! For budget purposes, a sale at Safeway, Whole Foods or other grocers can often be the better option and I check those sale fliers each week to see if a trip to the Farmer’s Market is even necessary. But if you know a specific, well priced farm that is at the market you can file away their prices per pound and build from there. And don’t forget Trader Joe’s :). Pre-bagged fruits and veggies may not be the prettiest, but they can often be the cheapest prices and I’ve found that some can also be quite tasty! Just be sure to double check the price per pound.

    Rachel, foods with the 100% USDA organic seal cannot contain any GMO’s. The problems lies in foods that can be labeled “organic” because of the minimum 90% organic ingredients but those lingering 10% can in fact have GMO products. Look for the 100% USDA organic seal and avoid high GMO products like corn, soy and canola along with double checking products at http://www.nongmoproduct.org!

  5. Valerie Biggs-Hernandez via Facebook says

    All great ideas and if you can just grow some at home! So many are simple even if you normally kill grass haha window gardens are a family favorite in our home.

  6. says

    Stopped by my local Whole Foods and got my free NATE”s meatless meatballs,(coupon) and some lentils and they had a WHOLE table with free samples (some full sized) and coupons for frrebies after purchase. Scored some food bars to try and some Cliff kids fruit twists fun fun fun!


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