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8.22.2007 12:00 AM

Shop Smart, Shop Organics, Save Money

5 ways to do good by yourself and the planet. Then learn more about affordable organic food.

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By Karen Berner

Searching for inexpensive or even moderately priced organic food products takes some effort, especially in mainstream markets. But with a little common sense and know-how, finding organics that won't break the green piggy bank is easier than you think. Here's a quick list of suggestions that will help you find foods that nourish the body and the earth and won't cost you an arm and a leg.

1. Coupons, coupons, coupons. According to Consumer Reports, the average American spends nearly $5,000 a year on groceries. With the organic sector showing the largest amount of growth in the food industry presently, coupons for organic foods are also becoming more common. Online coupons from your favorite organic food makers are another viable route to save some green.

2. Do buy store-brand items. If you're still drawn to the more popular big natural and organic stores because they offer items that are not as readily found in the typical supermarket (such as exotic-tasting soups and funny-sounding figs), look for private-label items — they're cheaper and taste just as good if not better than those products that have been marketed and packaged up the wazoo.

3. Do buy whole, unprocessed foods. The more processed or refined food is, the less nutritional value and fiber a food item will have. If you just have to have that cinnamon honey whole-wheat graham cracker that's been doubly wrapped, look for packaging that's biodegradable or recyclable packages such as glass, aluminum and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) whenever you can. Also, check out foods in the bulk aisle and buy enough so that you can enjoy them for the next couple of weeks.

4. Don't grocery-shop alone. Shopping with a friend promotes the possibility of sharing of costs on bigger items, not to mention the sharing of gas it might have taken to get to and from the grocery store. If you have a membership at a no-frills warehouse store, split large packages of food with your buddy. You don't really need a whole 12-pack of 10 lb. canned organic tomatoes now, do you?

5. Do buy produce on the "dirty dozen" list — just make them organic. The dirty dozen are the foods most highly contaminated with pesticides and chemicals — even after washing and peeling. This list includes peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes. If you feel as though their organic alternatives are cost-prohibitive, switch out another item in your shopping list that might be of lesser priority and can be bought when the organic fruit or vegetable is out of season.


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