cannot be overstated

So you’ve decided to go organic with your fruits and veggies–maybe even your proteins and grains too–and that’s great! Congratulations! Eating organic foods can make a huge difference in your health. Large farming companies today use toxic pesticides on their fields that not only alter the tastes of your produce, but dose your foods with chemicals and hormones that have been known to cause cancer.

The downfall of buying organic is, of course, the price tag, because organic foods are known to cost much more than their non-organic counterparts. A few organic apples could cost you more than $5, for example! A normal serving of organic, free range chicken could cost you in the double digits. Is it worth it? You bet. You’ve simply got to be smart when you buy, organize, and cook with your organic products. With the following tips and tricks, you’ll be buying and eating organic in no time.

First, check for coupons. Get an idea of the foods you and your family enjoy. Now, skim your newspaper, or head online and scour for coupons. Locate a list of popular organic brands to help you, and search by brand. Most companies have coupons online or through mail order. Also think about adding these companies to your favorite social media sites where coupons may be easier to access. Finally, join mailing lists. Sometimes you’ll get a coupon just for joining and they will update you regularly with more coupons and discounts (and recipe ideas too)!

Now that you have your coupons, plan your meals ahead of time. No more heading to the grocery store without a list or a pre-planned idea of what you’ll be eating for the week. A key part of buying organic on a budget is buying “in season,” so you’re going to want to plan meals and snacks that incorporate in season fruits and veggies. Foods that are in season are much cheaper than foods that are not. For example, a pint of organic blueberries might be $3 in August (when they are in season) and $6 or $7 in June (out of season).

You can easily find a printable chart of literally every fruit and veggie available and its corresponding season (when it grows naturally throughout the year). Get one of these charts and stick it on your fridge or anywhere you can easily access it.

With your chart in front of you, sit down and make your shopping list. If you are lost on ideas for the fruits and veggies that are in season at the time, check online. There are more than enough sites and resources available for you to create scrumptious and healthful meals out of in season foods. Again, check social media for recipes, ask your mom or grandma, or check out magazines too. Because magazines are released weekly or monthly, they should be very attune to the seasonal produce when they offer recipes.

As a side note, if you find that nothing you like seems to be in season, first of all, just wait. Chances are something you like will go on sale and be “seasonal” soon. Second, you can always buy organic fruits and veggies that are not on sale. This article is geared toward saving money by buying organic foods. Generally speaking, this means saving money on the actual products you’re buying–saving a couple bucks on organic strawberries if you can, for example. But we can also think about saving money in the long run. Regular, non-organic foods have known carcinogens sprayed all over them and soaked into their fibers. These carcinogens and toxins enter and flow through your body when you eat them. Over time, this can cause serious health problems. Not only do you definitely not want these health problems, but you don’t want the bills that come with them, either. So, on another level, consider the long term expenses associated with eating a lot of non-organic foods over time, and shell out once in a while for that $7 honeydew melon if you want it.

Ok, now that you have your coupons and organic foods shopping list, go shopping! You’ll want to get everything on your list–and then some. Why? Because you’ll want to stock up when foods are in season. There are a ton of things you can do with stored organic fruits and vegetables.

How do you store them, you ask? You have many options. You can try canning them, or, the most obvious storage option is freezing yourself at home. You should also consider buying already packaged, organic frozen foods, because they are often fairly cheap and quite comparable to non-organic frozen foods. If you want to do it yourself, though, just invest in some jars, silicon pre-portioned freezing containers, or plastic gallon bags. All you need to do is toss in your items and freeze.

If you want to freeze entire meals, consider portioning a bag with assorted fruits for quick smoothies, for example. Or mix up a sauce with olive oil, spices and herbs mixed with chopped carrots and green beans and stick it in a glass jar. When you’re craving a saucy stir fry, knock the frozen melange out of the jar and into a pan and cook it up!

There’s one last thing you can consider, if you’re having a hard time buying organic on a budget: there are some fruits and vegetables that are simply “musts” when it comes to buying organic–and some that are not. Those that are not most often include those foods that have a thick skin or shell that you won’t be consuming–like bananas, oranges or melons. Other foods with thin skins like berries, peaches, or broccoli, should always be purchased organic.

All in all, it is completely possible to buy organic on a budget, and with all of these tips, you’ll be sure to be eating healthier and happier in no time.