Eating Organic on the Cheap

30 April 2012

A three year old normally has exposure to 13 different pesticides in one day (infoplease). These pesticides can cause many deleterious effects, including disruption of the natural hormonal system of our bodies, even affecting fertility. Many chemicals and pesticides found in food are known to be carcinogenic in the long term, with potential to cause cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, brain, breast and prostate cancer. The rates of cancer have been increasing to the point that it has surpassed heart disease and stroke, to be the number one killer in Canada ( In addition to cancer, pesticides are toxic to the brain’s nervous system as well.

With the amount of pesticides and chemicals and their effect on our bodies in the news these days, it’s no wonder that many people have a determination to eat organic for themselves and their young families. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but the facts are there - pesticides are on everything.

We all know that eating organic can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some ways to eat organic on the cheap.

Grow Your Own Organic

If you have a backyard, turn it into a vegetable garden. If you have a balcony, you can do container gardening. This is the best way to ensure that you have pesticide free food, and eating something that you have grown yourself is rewarding by itself on multiple levels.

Some vegetables that are easy to grow are:

  • green beans
  • chives or spring onions
  • tomatoes
  • zucchini
  • lettuce
  • broccoli
  • eggplant
  • peppers

I can attest to the simplicity of these plants because I grew them last year, and I certainly don’t have a green thumb. Buying small healthy looking seedlings took the hassle out of growing these plants from seeds.

I bought organic plant food to ensure that the plants had plenty of food whilst staying pesticide free.

Some fruits that are easy to grow are:

  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • blueberries


  • basil (easily grown in a container and stays alive for a long time)
  • mint (this plant never dies; great for mojitos!)
  • cilantro
  • garlic

Buy Organic Only When Necessary

Although it would be fantastic to eat organic 100% of the time, sometimes it’s just not possible because many individuals don’t have $400/month to spend on food and many families don’t have $1000/month to spend.

The Environmental Working Group provides a list of the top 12 fruits and vegetables that commonly have pesticides sprayed on them. They’re known as the Dirty Dozen (most amount) and the Clean 15 (for the least amount of pesticide content).

The top culprits are:

  • apples
  • celery
  • strawberries
  • peaches
  • spinach
  • nectarines
  • grapes

The key message is that thin skinned fruits and vegetables would need to be organic and thick skinned fruits and vegetables don’t necessarily need to be eaten organic.

An example of thin-skinned fruits are berries of any type (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries) and apples. Thicker skinned fruits like oranges and bananas don’t have pesticides penetrate the peel as easily, therefore if you can’t afford to buy them organic, you don’t have to worry as much about non-organic oranges and bananas.

If you can’t buy organic, stick to local and domestic fruits and vegetables rather than imported fruits and vegetables because these have a higher likelihood of being sprayed with less pesticide.

Get a Freezer to Store your Organic Foods

Many people I know who eat organic meats buy the meat in bulk (e.g. the entire carcass) at their local organic butcher and have it cut up in portions. They then freeze the meat in their deep freezer (you can easily find one on Craigslist usually and many are now apartment sized) and store it until they need to use it.

Also, freezing your berries is another easy way to preserve your fruits until winter or whenever you’d like some fresh organic berries with your dessert. This ensures that the abundant berries that you harvested during the summer are not wasted.

Organic Meat and Dairy Products on the Cheap

Organic milk doesn’t come cheap.

In Canada, the Food Inspection Agency ensures that there are no growth hormones found in milk. Growth hormones are only given to beef cattle. However, in Canada, antibiotics are often used to ensure that the cattle do not develop mastitis (inflammation of the mammary glands) but any dairy cattle that is given antibiotics are not used to obtain dairy milk until they stop receiving antibiotics.

Therefore, if you want to avoid antibiotics (you may want to because of the concern for antibiotic resistance and super bugs), then you may want to eat organic meats, fish, poultry etc.

If you want to avoid growth hormone, you could consider buying organic beef instead of conventional beef.

The Benefits of Eating Organic

There are numerous benefits to eating organic. Organic foods taste better, organic foods are better for us, and eating organic prompts us to be more thoughtful about how food is produced and what happens to it before it ends up on our dinner plates.

The main downside to eating organic is its cost in comparison to non-organic foods. However, with careful planning like growing your own fruits and vegetables in the summer, buying organic when it matters, freezing your organic meats and berries, and being conscious about food production in your country or province, eating organic doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive.

Eating organic on the cheap just involves a bit more planning and organization, but I’m sure that’s something you’re good at anyway. Eating organic doesn’t have to be a luxury, but if you think about it, in the long run, is your family’s health more important or saving a few dollars here and there more important? ;)

Bargainmoosers, how do you save on organic foods?

(Image credits: nz_willowherb,, megapixel13, muckster, Denim Dave)


  • angela
    Very good article. Organic food can be so expensive. In Vancouver, I find organic meat much cheaper at Choices than Whole Paycheque, I mean Foods. I usually check sales frequently. Also Stongs in Dunbar runs good specials (another expensive store). One time they had 2 for 1 organic ground lean ground beef. That was a $9 savings! One thing I find is that local farmer's market are not less expensive at all! I have a friend who joined a local organic vegetable and fruit co-op and she picks up her veggies at her local community centre. The cost can be split with a friend, so ultimately, that is the most cost effective way of buying organic produce without growing your own.
  • Clare
    LOL Whole Paycheque! I've only been in there once and am astounded at the cost of groceries there. I love local farmers markets and I really like how more and more are cropping up lately. Thanks for your comment :)
  • David L.
    Hello I am flattered you chose to use my photo on your website. Contact me if you would like any other images I have not yet made. Credit would be much appreciated. Thank you, DL

What do you think?

Your comment