Two of everyone's favorite words they can't help but smile at are "food" and "cheap". However, much of the time these terms don't go hand-in-hand, especially when you want to incorporate organic food into your lifestyle. Organic food is generally more expensive due to higher production costs,  higher animal welfare standards, environmental enhancement and protection necessities, as well as post-harvest handling of crops. When you're a broke college student whose primary spending motives are at the bars, these higher prices can be a major issue. It's easy for someone to substitute purchasing more natural, sustainable foods for higher processed items when merely just comparing costs at the store. However, there are several ways to shop organic on a budget. Here are 5 tips and tricks to utilize when taking your nearly empty wallet to the grocery store. 

1. Decide what products are worth buying organic vs. what might not be.

Especially for those starting out shopping and eating in the organic food world, one thing to keep in mind is that your whole entire kitchen does not need to be stocked solely with organic food. The Environmental Worker's Group's 2018 Dirty 12 and Clean 15 lists can help assist you to shop organic on a budget by naming what specific produce items tend to be more processed and contain a significant amount of pesticides when compared to sustainably sourced fruits and vegetables.

The Dirty 12 food list includes strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, sweet bell peppers, and hot peppers. These foods are ones you may want to look for in the organic section and place in your shopping cart, due to their known high processing and pesticide use. The Clean 15 list contains avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbages, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplants, honeydew melons, kiwis, cantaloupes, cauliflower, and broccoli. When comparing organic vs. regular brands on these items, although organic may be slightly better, saving some money and buying the conventional versions won't hurt because these foods are relatively grown clean anyway.  

2. Purchase organic foods in season and buy in bulk.

Caty Schnack

Another money saver to shop organic on a budget is to buy foods that are in season, and if your grocery store has a bulk food section you're in luck. Buying fruits and vegetables at their harvesting time is beneficial to your bank account for two reasons. The first being that costs to transport the produce aren't usually necessary because they can be grown locally, and the second being that there will be an abundance of those products available. Also, on a side note, produce bought in season almost always tastes better due to increased freshness and ripeness. Buying food in bulk is also known to cost less, rather than purchasing food products individually or in smaller quantities. Some stores, such as Kroger, even have bulk food sections where you can dispense the exact amount of product you want, weigh it, and pay for it.

3. Compare prices at supermarkets, local markets, and online. 

chili, vegetable, pepper, onions, carrots, radishes, farmer's market
Sam Jesner

As most of us already know, not every store offers the same prices for identical or similar items. The same goes for purchasing organic food. Supermarkets, such as Walmart, may have a variety of organic brands to choose from, however, supermarkets view organic food as premium items and tend to overcharge for them as compared to local places, such as your town's farmers market or through online shopping.

The best tip to get the most out of your buck is to do your research by investigating and comparing shopping centers with organic food you readily have access to. Most of the time stores have their prices listed online, so you are able to determine right from home where the best place to buy organic food from is. One perk to purchasing online is that much of the time, you are able to buy food in bulk, so if you eat a specific food often, this may be the best source for you. Amazon's bulk food store, Azure Standard, and Thrive Market are examples of online sources to shop organic on a budget. However, do note that freshness is a factor to consider when buying online. 

4. Compare prices of organic brands. 

Not only should you be paying attention to where you buy your organic products from, but you should also become familiar with what organic brands tend to be pricier compared to others. For example, Consumer Reports gave an example that at Whole Foods Market it is nearly $3.00 cheaper to purchase the Whole Foods store brand organic applesauce than it is to buy Santa Cruz organic applesauce at the same store. It is also important to mention that when buying organic produce, brands that offer frozen products may be cheaper than fresh. The nutritional quality between fresh and frozen is similar and frozen food also lasts longer. 

5. Hunt for coupons and investigate for sales.

Caty Schnack

Finally, the last tip and trick to shop organic on a budget is to utilize coupons and sales, which will become your best food shopping friends. Supermarkets will sometimes have sales and deals for organic products that can be directly seen on signs when you go grocery shopping. However, a little digging may also be necessary to find the real deals to take advantage of at the store, such as skimming through newspaper ads and rummaging through online sites for coupons to present at the cash register. Also, according to Consumer Reports, many organic brands also have their own deal system with coupons you can directly obtain from their websites, or when you sign up for their newsletters. Such brands include Stonyfield Farm Organic, Ancient Harvest, and Simply Organic

As you can see, shopping organic doesn't have to be as much of a financial nightmare as people often see it. All it takes is just a little knowledge, research and investigation to have the ability to comfortably shop organic on a budget. With these tips and tricks you'll be stocking your kitchen with organic, sustainable food and perhaps a little extra cash left in your pocket.