Organic Panic: 3 Ways to Buy Organic on a Budget

**This is my first post in a sometimes-series talking about organic food. While my husband likes to lecture anyone within a ten mile radius of the importance of eating organic and GMO-free, I prefer to speak when spoken to. Everyone from the baby’s first babysitter, to fellow Navy wives over lunch, have asked why we eat organic, where we buy it and how we afford it. This post doesn’t answer all the questions, but I hope it serves as a starting point for anyone who is looking for ways to save on healthier food choices.**

On a plane from Charleston to Los Angeles, with one set of headphones split between the two of us, John and I were silent, completely captivated by the documentary Fed Up.

It was no surprise that the mass consumption of sugar is destroying America. That big corporations have their interests in mind over our health, and politicians, on both sides, can be bought by promises and campaign contributions. The majority of people are uneducated about what they’re putting in their bodies and what even constitutes real food.

John and I knew this, for the most part, but, like many mid-to-late 20’s couples on a budget, our focus on health was directed more towards exercise than diet. Our mostly balanced diet was often overshadowed by trips to Taco Bell, Sonic milkshake happy hour and anything we had a coupon for at the commissary (the military grocery store).

The only small difference, that day on the plane, was we had recently found out we were pregnant with our first child. And the threat of the issues plaguing the children in the movie, obesity, disease, isolation, became a very possible reality if we didn’t change. Fed Up was our trigger, a wake up call and realization that we had the wrong approach to our long term health and the health of our future family.

Back in Charleston, we started reading food labels at the commissary, consciously choosing things without added sugar, buying less and less processed foods and researching ingredients we couldn’t pronounce. As the list of foods we wanted to purchase dwindled, our interest in food increased, and in addition to sugar, we wanted to eliminate as many pesticides and genetically modified ingredients as possible.

The first few weeks of cutting out added sugar were filled with constant temptations, especially being pregnant. Candy jars at work, team lunches from Chick-fil-a, late night cravings for milkshakes and old habits that told me I was in shape, I workout, so why not indulge? We stuck to our newfound understanding of food, and continued to make the healthy instead of the convenient or habitual choice. Slowly, the temptations stopped. And the cravings stopped. At the beginning of my second trimester, I had never felt healthier.

But, while not physical, it was taking a toll. Going organic and unprocessed can be isolating, time consuming and expensive. The social implications are the hardest, not wanting to eat certain foods or turning down homemade dishes at parties or at work. While John may be comfortable hooking people into conversations about our diet, I’m not, and I often felt bad saying no. And it was increasingly obvious that organic and locally grown food was way beyond our comfortable weekly budget. Until our society point where organic is the rule, not the exception, consumers are paying a hefty price for their health. We had to find ways to make our new lifestyle work within our paychecks.

These easy resources, two wholesale websites and one new app, have truly helped us save. We may still be spending more overall, but we’re more conscious about how much we’re buying, where to find better deals and that, when your food spend has doubled, any savings are worth the effort. Combined with cash back apps (which deserve a whole separate post) and discounted gift cards (oh yes, we use these weekly at Whole Foods!), it is possible to incorporate healthier food into your kitchen and still have a little leftover for fun stuff, like the electricity bill.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset


I get way too excited when I see a Vitacost box sitting on our doorstep. I love food almost as much as I love clothes, and our boxes are always filled with three of my favorite things: coconut oil, Annie’s Goddess Dressing and coffee. John found Vitacost last year and we’ve been buying most of our canned goods, coffee, oils and condiments online since. We recently added baby food–pouches of vegetable and fruit blends that we give the baby as snacks or meals when she refuses to eat my cooking. Vitacost has over 45,000 products, everything from organic and non-gmo food and household products to trendy flours (has anyone else heard of the cookbook Chickpea Flour Can Do it All?) and face wash. All their products are sold at wholesale price. While most things are visibly cheaper than a trip to Whole Foods, with some over 50% less, the main savings come from their deals. There are often big sign up bonuses (we used a $10 off $30 originally) and a large variety of ongoing deals. Today, you can use the code Healthy12 to get 12% off your order, PASTRY to get 20% off any baking supply order of $20 or more and a flat 15% off of all coffee and tea plus many more. If you’re stocking up on beans, tomatoes, pastas and…chickpea flour–and have time to wait for domestic shipping–there’s no reason to have to get dressed and go to the grocery store.

Membership cost: Free

Shipping: Free on orders over $49 (for some brands any order over $25)/ $4.99 on orders under $49

Best Used For: Pantry Staples, Bathroom Staples, Best Savings

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Green Polka Dot Box
GPDB was our first taste of online food shopping almost two years ago. This mom-and-pop shop was founded as a way to provide less expensive quality, organic food to a larger number of people. They’re not just a wholesaler, they’re an educational venture, saying on their website, “We want you to join with our effort to abolish contaminated foods. You can count on us to do the homework to make sure that the foods in our shop are of the highest quality, safe, clean, non-GMO and, whenever possible, organic. We share a big vision: we want to make organic foods affordable to everyone, not just the wealthy. If you join us, you will help make that vision a reality. With enough of us together, we’ll be able to accomplish some wonderful things…” While their selection is smaller than Vitacost, they often have great sales on organic and GMO-free staples and they sell a surprisingly large variety of fresh and frozen meat and dairy products, one less reason to head to the soon-to-be thing of the past, the grocery store.

Membership Cost: Free

Shipping: Free on orders over $150

Best Used For: Pantry staples, snacks, frozen food

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Whole Foods App
If one of these things is not like the other, we’ve got the Whole Foods App. But this is one thing worth taking advantage of, at least while grocery stores are still around.  A trip to Whole Foods, yes, I know, “Whole Paycheck,” may literally cost more than your rent, but they are making strides to bring the savings back to the customer. Technical issues with the app aside (the first few weeks were rough on those WF employees…you try typing in a 15 digit code stoned when the scanners won’t work!), the new app has some serious savings. John and I have used it for every weekly trip since it came out. Our two most notable deals were a free 360 brand peanut butter with any $10 purchase and $5 off any $20 produce purchase. I’ve also used the coupons and sales list to meal plan for the week, saving on sausage, oranges, vanilla and snacks for our lunches.

App Cost: Free

Best Used For: Weekly shopping trips, meal planning, savings on produce.


Have a great way to save? Please share!


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply