Not easy, but it can be done

8 Ways to Eat Organic Produce and Save Money

by Kevin Rotzien

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If you think this is an easy "what to buy at the grocery store" article, then you should probably stop here. This won't necessarily be an easy way, but a unique way to save money when you are eating organic produce on a budget. Growing up, I wasn't told that life was easy. And, I wasn't told money grows on trees, but that you have to work for it. If you aren't sure whether some dirty work suits your sensitivities, then stick around for a little bit.

There are many ways to cut costs when it comes to eating and living healthier. These are some of the best methods that affect many aspects of your lifestyle. Since this has little to do with shopping and more about the fresh organic food you will be eating, I will only mention one item in regard to grocery stores and saving money.

1. Buy and eat produce when locally in season.

Eating locally not only is great for the economy, but while it is available during the peak season, you also get the best prices and the freshest fruit. Fresh grown produce from farmers' market is always a great choice for flavor and typically the best price around. This may shock some, but since there is less spent in storage and transportation, it lowers the overhead cost. Lower operating costs equate to lower prices.

Many of the following options will be limited if you are living in an apartment, but if you get creative and grow some vining plants or smaller bush plants depending on your apartment design, you can easily grow at least some of your own herbs and produce to supplement your organic grocery budget.

2. Regrow scraps

Have you ever considered all the scraps that you take for granted and just toss in the trash? Many people just simply toss them, what a crying shame! Do you know all the valuable opportunities that are missed when thrown away? For instance did you know that by purchasing a bunch of celery at approximately $2 at the grocery and re-growing from the bottom inch of root end you can have endless regrowth of celery? Almost four months ago I purchased celery and recently used just what I needed for baking a turkey. Now it is ready for further plucking when needed. I can continue to just snip and harvest as I need.

3. Save the seed

This may sound something like an ecofriendly campaign, but this is better. Don't waste your seeds from your locally bought organic produce. Stop! Think about all the seeds you waste daily from produce. Just open up the next melon, squash, cucumber, pepper or piece of fruit and count the seeds. Have you counted them all yet? Yeah! There's a ton of opportunity for free seeds. You already bought the produce, so maximize the cost. With only one pepper, you could easily have enough seeds for multiple years. You could even share some with a dear neighbor/friend or family member. It's true that many companies have seed labels that expire at the end of each year, but don't fall for it! Our ancestors didn't. Just look at The Principles of Vegetable-Gardening by LH Bailey from 1912. In one of the chapters, it discusses longevity of seeds. This book has been around for a while and it discusses how some seeds have longevities from 3-15 years. After one month of purchasing organic produce, you could potentially have seeds to last for five years and the seeds from those plants to last for another five years. Are you still planning to dump your seeds? Wait! Don't throw them. Save them for me. Just make sure you mark types and dates of seeds. You don't want to accidentally plant the wrong produce because you didn't mark them.

4. Regrow swaps

You've finally decided that you are tired of throwing away scraps. Can you get anyone else on board, or do they already have scraps that they have regrown? What about your family, friends, or neighbors? Why not see which scraps you can swap or find out if someone has extra scraps that they don't want? What about potatoes? Did your mom really need the entire five-pound bag? Why not ask for just a few to regrow? Why not save a few of your own scraps to save and swap with your neighbor for a few of their pea seeds that they saved recently? Spend some time to get to know your neighbors and friends and learn how to share.

5. Purchase planting

Plants come in many different shapes, sizes, and ages. Many people find seeds the cheapest, although they typically take the longest. If you are new to gardening and growing food, I would suggest buying an already potted plant from a nursery or from someone you know. Most stores like Home Depot, Fleet Farm, and Menards carry seeds and, in many cases, pre-germinated plants. Don't forget that once you get done with the first year, you can always harvest the seeds for future years. If you didn't use all your original seeds, make sure to save them properly. They will last!

6. Purchase and swap

Every seed packet has specific sizes and sometimes you have to buy more than you really need. This tends to leave me with extra seeds. This year, I bought just three pounds of seed potatoes. Do you know how far three pounds go in a small garden? After planting eight of the seed potatoes, I ran out of room. So, I shared them with my family and neighbors.

7. Swap crops

The season is over, the crops are harvested, and you have too much to store. Why not swap potatoes for carrots you didn't plant this year? Focus on one crop and swap extras for a crop that you couldn't or didn't plant. Share the cost of your crops. Sharing is satisfying, reduces cost, and tastes wonderful.

8. Sell your perennials

Do you like mint, asparagus, or strawberries? All perennials are awesome to plant. You pay once, and they continue to come back year after year. You can even make money if you can pot your perennial plants.

Wherever you live, these are great ideas on saving money and getting to know the community around you. In our culture, most of us thrive through social media and internet connection, but why not save money and reconnect with our neighbors and families in everyday living? If you're not sure what else you can do with your food scraps, you can always check out my article "Saving the Scraps" where I focus on just a few of the many ways you can make your money count with the produce that you buy.

Kevin Rotzien is a father of one little girl that will turn two at the end of this year, husband to a beautiful, loving wife, and a veteran. You can find more from Kevin in his blog

Take the Next Step:

  • Visit the TDS library for more on organic gardening.
  • Like the idea of container gardening but you have limited yard space or are confined indoors due to a disability? Then learn more about indoor container gardening.
  • As the price of groceries continues to go up, it continues to get more difficult for families to make ends meet. And, this is especially true for families with individuals that have specific food intolerances. But, you can save on groceries for food intolerances. Here's how.
  • Could spending 5 minutes reading a newsletter twice a week save you time and money every day? Dollar Stretcher Tips readers think so. Subscribe and find out how many ideas stretch your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE.

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