Since our journey to clean eating started back in 2011, I have tried to move our family to eating mostly or all organic. This has been a challenge – GMO free food is not always the most cost-effective, and some solutions work better than others. That said, I’ve done my best to figure out frugal organic food options for my family.
That said, I felt it was really important to share with you the choices that I’ve made to get the most back from our organic buck, as well as the worst choices that may not go as far. This is from my own experience, with what has worked – and what hasn’t. Here are the Top 10 Organic Food Winners & Losers!
Top 5 Non Frugal Organic Food Losers
1. Nuts / Nut & Seed Butters:
I love them but they should be purchased organic (see why here) and either way, STILL tend to be too expensive. They can also be a challenge when they don’t properly process in your high speed blender.
Seed and nut butters are not a great alternative either, thanks to price. They may also possibly full of phenols, if you are avoiding peanuts for due to a phenol sensitivity. I also don’t like the taste – perhaps I’m just too used to peanut butter! The kids refuse the more affordable brands, and SunButter is pricy even when it’s not organic!
2. Olive Oil
In case you haven’t heard, a study done in 2010 by the University of California, Davis found several “virgin” olive oils mixed with standard oils. In 2012, Consumer Reports did their own testing with similar results. This corruption was done by the organized crime in Italy, So called by “60 Minutes, the “Agromafia.” Learn more and watch the episode on CBS Access.
Read more detail in article for Mamavation, which lists several brands that are safe. We use Kirkman’s Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Costco so we don’t avoid altogether, but I just learned I’ve been cooking with it all wrong …as in, you’re not supposed to cook with it! Anyway, this can be a frugal organic food but it’s costly and you want to MAKE DARN SURE it’s 100% GMO free, for the money you spend.
The basic problem with rice is that it contains arsenic, because it is farmed in soil. That means, it doesn’t matter whether or not the farming is organic, you may still be exposed to this harmful toxin. I’ve heard that brown rice, which is supposed to be healthier, is actually NOT, because the brown comes from the rice husk, and thus more arsenic contamination. Rice can also be a uncommon food sensitivity, like it is for my daughter.
According to my friend, Dr. Karen Lee, who’s written a few articles on this topic, 80% of rice in the U.S. can be affected with inorganic arsenic. Jasmine and Basmati are better choices as well. Learn how to reduce arsenic levels in rice.
Our favorite brand is Lundberg, which was given low levels back by Consumer Reports in 2012. If you really want arsenic free rice, you can try Mighty Rice, but it’s also mighty pricy. We just keep rice to a minimum.
4. Organic Eggs
When it comes to eggs, you need to know a few definitions:
- Free Range means it can still be factory farmed, and the hens are at least let outside briefly.
- Cage Free only means the hen was not raised in a cage, not that they are outside or not in cramped factory farmed conditions.
- Organic primarily means a GMO free diet, and are raised without cages and free range.
- Pastured means they are raised on a pasture, to make sure you get the healthiest hens and eggs.
Optimally, you want to buy organic pastured eggs, but they are expensive: $5 a dozen roughly here in Pennsylvania. That means when it just says “organic eggs,” it’s not really a good buy!
Of course, if you know the farmer and they are using healthy practices that mimic the pricey certifications (GMO free feed, pastured), you can often save money on this frugal organic food even if it’s not actually certified, and be sure that you are eating safely.
I did not mention conventional eggs. Please avoid those altogether. These are the ones that are in most danger of salmonella which accumulates on the outside of the egg.
This is a problematic category if ever there was one. Let’s take them one by one:
- Peanuts: highly allergic, high in phenols
- Beans: often come in BPA or BPS cans (BPA alternatives are bad too), these chemicals are bad for you
- Lentils: Hard to find organic. I understand – but don’t quote – they’re not that clean
- Soy: highly allergic, AND mimics estrogen. Don’t eat soy. Seriously, learn the dangers.
Legumes also contain FODMAPS – carbs that are hard to digest for some, and what may be the problem for many with food issues. They also have lectins, phytates and are protease inhibitors – read more about the problems these can cause.
Additionally, if you are low in zinc, you can have copper toxicity issues from legumes. Learn more about the problems of eating legumes, although it seem that peas and green beans would be your best bet with legumes.
Top 5 Frugal Organic Food Winners
1. Organic Coconut Oil
This extremely versatile product that I use every day! You want organic, and you can get either virgin or refined, as long as its expeller pressed. Refined is a type of processing and necessary if you want to cook with coconut oil that doesn’t taste coconut or is butter flavored. Additionally, you need to buy a brand that has a higher smoke point to cook regularly but still get the benefits of this healthy oil. Check out Coconut Mama’s post on how to buy the best brand. Check out 50 uses for this product that will NEVER go to waste!
2. Organic Frozen Produce
It’s tough keeping up with all the produce my kids eat, and all of it organic. That’s why I stock frozen organic fruit and vegetables for myself! These are often frozen directly after picking and thus only lose a little of their nutritional value with the process. Pick USDA Organic produce that is flash frozen (a bit quicker). You can buy these in bulk at most supermarkets or Costco, for a great price, making this one of my top frugal organic food choices.
3. Grass Fed Beef
This actually is more expensive, but the health benefits of grass fed totally knock down grain fed. First of all, this is the way cows and steer were meant to be raised. Their stomach were not designed to process grains. If you’ve seen “Food Inc.,” you’ll understand why conventional beef gets sick and spreads diseases like salmonella, while grass fed is healtheer.
Grass fed beef, compared to grain fed, is also:
- Better balanced in Omega-3s
- Free of carcinogens, GMOs, hormones, or antibiotics
- Has less exposure to pesticides
- Contains more nutrients and antioxidants
- Contains more CLA, which is a fatty acid that is good for you, anti-carcinogic, anti-inflammatory, may lower body fat
Buy at your local grocer (we use Wegman’s) or a share in from a local butcher, CSA or co-op. It will be a bit more pricy, but you can cut back on too much red meat (we stick to chopped meat) and get more bang for your buck.
4. Organic Fermented Foods
These are foods that are set in liquid with fermenting agents for several days. Pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut are 3 common fermented foods, but there are lots of things you can ferment! The fermenting preserves the food but also gives lots of other great benefits too, such as:
- Prevents bacteria contamination of the food.
- Natural probiotic effects.
- May increase the nutritional value of the foods.
- May be easier to digest than raw foods.
- They last longer, stretching your budget dollar a long way!
My favorite brands for fermented foods are Bubbies (pickles and sauerkraut) and Wildbrine (sauerkraut and kimchi). Learn more at my Mamavation article.
5. Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
How can you not love this versatile food? There are 3 ways you can use this great products, a must in every kitchen:
- Cooking (amazing in coleslaw!)
- Health reasons
It can help you detox, help you with weight loss, help lower cholesterol, clear your sinuses and more. Visit Healthline for more detailed benefits of ACV! Even WebMD listed studies that show it may reduce obesity and lower blood sugar levels. Still not convinced? Read this article on 26 uses for apple cider vinegar.
We buy the big bottle from Bragg’s Organic.
Check out my Facebook Live on Frugal Organic Food, Winners & Losers: