Hard To Afford Organic? Try This Instead

by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.
afford organic

Photo Credit: pixabay

Organic food is typically more expensive than its conventional counterpart. As a matter of fact, the cost can be a shocking 50% to 200% more.

Put simply, it can be hard to afford organic. But why is organic food sold at such a premium?

Several reasons are behind it, such as limited supplies, the intensive labour involved, and smaller volumes, which can drive up the price. For some people, that just isn’t going to cut it.

We’ve got five simple solutions for you if being health conscious and choosing organic is important, but you can’t always afford it:

1. Minimise pesticides in the produce you choose

Pesticide residues tend to decline as the pesticide breaks down over time, and diminish as the produce is washed and processed prior to sale.

Mind you, this is speaking about conventional foods. Assuming that this is the true breakdown of chemicals being used, residues may be below the legal limits by the time the food reaches your hand.

To minimise the pesticides, consider a homemade concoction of vinegar and water. Vinegar appears to be helpful in getting rid of harmful bacteria on fruits and vegetables.

Mix up a solution of 10% white vinegar to 90% water. Put your produce in the vinegar solution. Allow it to soak briefly, and then swish it around in the solution.

2. Buy local produce

Buying local means that your food hasn’t travelled long distances by planes, trains, trucks, and ships – all which add to its carbon footprint. Because it is locally grown, you get the benefit of fresher, more nutritious food.

If you’ve ever had a garden or know someone who has one, think about how fresh the crops taste compared to store-bought produce. Although local food is not necessarily grown organically, it can be a better choice.

By buying local produce, there can be times that you can chat directly with the farmer about their harvest. This is not only great community interaction but gives you good, direct information in making your choices.

Oh, and be mindful of fruits and vegetables most frequently shipped by air – even if they are organic. Air freight contributes most of the CO2 per food mile.

3. Buy frozen vegetables

Vegetables can retain much of their overall value when frozen. This is under the assumption that they were fresh at the time of freezing.

Frozen can be almost as good and is often better than items sold as ‘fresh’ according to researchers at Leatherhead Food Research and the University of Chester. Fruit and vegetables tend to be richer in compounds like vitamin C, polyphenols, anthocyanins, lutein, and beta-carotene when frozen just after harvesting.

4. Steam or microwave instead of boiling

Steaming is one of the best ways to preserve the nutrients in your vegetables.

study on broccoli showed that all cooking treatments, except steaming, caused great losses of chlorophyll and vitamin C. You don’t want to over do it though. The most ideal result for your steaming would be ‘al dente’, or firm to the bite. The tender nutritional value stays inside if you get it just right and almost crispy on the outside.

Another published study concluded the antioxidant content of broccoli was retained and/or enhanced more after microwaving than after boiling. Why? Because boiling requires a longer cooking time, which can rob food of its nutritional value.

Worried about microwave radiation? Your ‘burning’ questions answered HERE.

5. Choose these ‘cleaner’ fruits and vegetables

Here’s a list of 12 fruits and veggies likely to have the fewest pesticide residues. These may not be worth the added cost of buying organic:

  • Papaya
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Bananas
  • Kiwi
  • Peas (frozen)
  • Asparagus
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Sweetcorn (frozen)
  • Avocado
  • Onions


It’s obvious to see that buying organic is just not affordable for everyone. However, you do have alternatives to buying conventional foods that don’t suit your healthy lifestyle decisions.

Sure, sometimes choosing this route takes a bit longer and requires more of your time and energy, but it can be well worth it.

How about you? Have you ever used any of these substitutions? If so, how did it work out for you? Tell us in the comments below or share one of your own ideas! We can all learn from each other.

Related article: Are Organic Food Choices Really Healthier Than Conventional Ones?

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  • Anna Martin

    Reply Reply August 18, 2014

    We buy fresh frozen veggies and berries and steam the veggies. We also buy organic in bulk from our local grocery store. Just the other day we bought a whole box of organic bananas and apples for a bargin price :-) . So I recomend to e-mail the grocery store and ask if they sell in bulk it saves a lot of money.
    The other thing is to ask if you can buy some organic or conventional foods that are damaged or soon out of date for a lower price.

    Then you can make a lot of foods from foods like:
    Frozen banana: icecream
    Onions: oniopowder from dried onions
    Peas: Pesto
    Avocado: guacamole
    Tomatoes: tomatosauce
    Nuts and seeds: cheese and saladdressings, granola
    Zuccinni: veggie pasta
    Chili, pepper and tomatoes: keep the seeds and grow your own.

    :-)/ Anna

    • Alex

      Reply Reply August 18, 2014

      Anna, once again, love your tips — creative and resourceful! Thanks so much for sharing :-)

  • asma

    Reply Reply September 21, 2014

    I mostly buy organic at very high price and many times I have to compromise what ever I can find in season .
    The above information has helped me a lot. i will use vinegar and water to wash the conventional fresh produce and save high cost organic produce .
    I was always told that papaya retains most of the residue from the pesticides due to to its thinner skin . Cabbage also was one of them that was most effected by pesticides , please shed some light on this if possible .
    How about the fresh herbs and spinach ? How bad can they be if they are not organic ? I also get laughed at that there are not really organic produce , its all commercial labelling to attract customers towards high price in the name of organic !!! Food dot seem to have nice smell even if they are organic! like apples or pineapples ?
    I feel really sad at times after spending so much I still feel not satisfied !!

  • Val Ceolin

    Reply Reply July 2, 2015

    Hi, I was wondering to know if it’s true that baking soda can be used to wash my veggies. Looks like it’s better than use only vinegar. 1 baking soda spoon + 2 vinegar spoons + 1l water. What do you think about it?

    • Hi Val! I’d think it’s a personal choice. Baking soda contains sodium bicarbonate, which may affect the flavor of the produce, and also makes them softer, so it depends whether you prefer firmer vegetables or not. Sodium bicarbonate also reacts with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in the vegetables, and the bicarbonate fizzes emitting carbon dioxide

  • Neeta Sanders

    Reply Reply September 10, 2015

    My rule of thumb regarding eating non-organic produce is if I have to eat the skin, then I definitely always get organic but if the skin is thick and I generally eat the inside only, then I sometimes let the organic rule slide eg bananas, clementines, avocados, etc.

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