Looking to Save on Organic Food? Ten Tips: The DON’TS!

May 29th, 2008

As we all know, we learn the most from our mistakes. So before I regale you this Friday with more great bargains, let me fess up. I normally keep the weekly grocery bill for a family of four to between $140 to $170, and that’s for mostly organic, fresh local food. This week I gasped when the check-out clerk chirped, “That will be $247.06.”

Why the difference in cost this week? I violated some cardinal “don’ts.” We all know the famous don’t – don’t shop when you’re hungry. But here are some others you may not have thought much about.

1. Don’t Shop When You’re in a Celebratory Mood – Too Happy

If you like to “reward” yourself when things are going well, you may succumb to rewarding yourself with some expensive treats you normally pass by. That was the case with me today. I wish I had simply found a more appropriate way to celebrate my good fortune instead of shelling out extra bucks at the store!

2. Don’t Shop When You’re Feeling Anxious

DH is going out of town for a few nights, so in anticipation, I stocked up on some expensive convenience foods we don’t normally buy, but that I figured would make my job of preparing meals a bit easier. (Yes, DH cooks all the meals!) Did I really need to buy the expensive, refrigerated pasta for $8.48 when a less expensive box of pasta would do the job just fine? To make matters worse, I sprang for pesto as well, at $4.99.

3. Don’t Let Your Kids Influence What You Buy

Big Boy loves to shop with Mama, because he knows I’m “a softie.” Daddy has been saying no to certain organic cereals for months now, but today I finally caved, shelling out $4.69 for a box of “Organic Kid Marketing Clifford Crunch, when I know I can buy “no name brand” organic cereal in large bags or in bulk for a much lower cost.

4. Don’t Violate Rules That Work – ie, Don’t Buy More than One “Treat” per Trip

A few months back, when DH and I realized that our grocery bills were over the top, we decided to pare back on snacks and non-essential foods. Actually, DH decided this a long time ago. He was an advocate of “no processed foods” before anyone had heard of Michael Pollan! Of course, Big Boy likes to take a bag of snack foods to the soccer field to share with the other boys, and I prefer “organic junk food” to hydrogenated oil and GMO junk food, so I normally allow Big Boy to choose one or two items per week. Today we bought six bags and boxes – to the tune of $13.80 instead of the usual $5 or $6. That’s stuff we really don’t need. Plus, I sprang for some organic ice cream (Green & Black’s – yum!) for $4.29.

5. Don’t Buy an Expensive New Item That You Haven’t Researched Ahead of Time

I shelled out $18 on new Natures Gate sun creams that I hadn’t researched. I normally run everything through the Environmental Working Group’s excellent SkinDeep cosmetics safety database, but today, I didn’t. Unfortunately, in very few cases does a brand score consistently well in all product categories – and Natures Gate was no exception. One of the products is ranked as a “high hazard” with a score of 7, whereas the other sun cream is a low moderate hazard of 3. That means wasted time and money for me – I’ll be returning at least one bottle, and perhaps two.

6. Don’t Stock Up on Non-Sale Items

DH asked me to pick up some of that great Whole Catch frozen fish I’ve blogged about here. One or two packages would have been fine – we still have one in the freezer. Did I need to buy four packages? No? If I had purchased only two, I would have saved $15.08.

7. Don’t Buy Bulk Items You Can Order Online More Cheaply

Finding a well rated sunscreen that my kids will use – and even apply themselves – was a challenge. You guessed it- it’s one of the more expensive brands out there. The California Baby SPF30+ Sunblock Stick is a great product, but at $12.99 it’s pricey. Did I need to buy two? No, especially not when you can stock up online at sites like this one for just $10.14, with free shipping on orders over $75. So let’s subtract one tube plus the $2.85 price differential I would have saved if I had ordered online.

8. Don’t Continue “Treats” from One Week to the Next

Last week, as a special treat for the holiday weekend, I purchased bagels and cream cheese, then promptly left the cream cheese at home and let the bagels get moldy. Did I really need to buy more bagels at $3.69? No. We could have put cream cheese on our home made bread and it would have been just as delicious!

9. Don’t Buy More Perishables than Your Fridge or Counters Can Handle

All of those fresh fruit and veggies look so good. There’s a reason I call Whole Foods the Nordstrom of grocery stores! But did I really need watermelon and organic apples and bananas and organic pears and organic raspberries and organic grapes? Not to mention organic carrots, of which we had plenty at home. Perhaps the same assortment but in smaller quantities – I could have easily saved $10 and still brought home a fine assortment of fruit.

10. Don’t Buy Things You Really Don’t Need

It sounds so simple, and yet my receipt shows $8.99 for “The Naked Bird.” I have no idea what this is! I can’t even find it, and a Google search didn’t even turn up a likely match.

And as for that $250 bill? I asked the cashier if most families spent that much on groceries. She smiled knowingly and said, “Yes, that’s typical.” You’d never know it from some of the online discussions I’ve seen about organic food. I think people understate how much they actually spend!

My tally on the “don’ts” – I’m embarassed to fess up, but these ten mistakes added up to $94.05 in excess spending. Subtract that from the $247.06, and my bill should have been $153.01 — right in my normal range.

Happy Shopping!


Copyright OrganicMania 2008

8 Responses to “Looking to Save on Organic Food? Ten Tips: The DON’TS!”

  1. Sue on June 4, 2008 7:07 pm

    Don’t know if this will help any of your readers but here is what we’ve done since grad school. We make a careful menu for the week and buy groceries for that weeks menu plus one treat per person. Then we eat all the food in the house down. I admit, if you look in my fridge, it is bare on Fridays and I mean simply nearly empty. I hate throwing food away and refuse to do so. This has helped us keep our food cost down to about $100 to $120/week. Disclaimer: we are vegetarians so our cost is always lower since we don’t buy meat products.

    Now-I’ve found that sometimes we do binge-just like you did and for the same reasons. It’s human nature and self forgiveness is fine.

    Yes, my DH says that my favorite meals are the end-of-the-week-whats-in-the-fridge omelettes. Hey, that sounds like the title of a post! Great discipline on the grocery lists, Sue! — Lynn

  2. mama k on June 5, 2008 5:20 pm

    Good post. Gave ya some linky love here:

    Hey, Mama K, thanks for the linky love! Great video on the German birth rate, btw! I got to practice my Deutsch! :)

  3. Sue on June 5, 2008 9:23 pm

    I had to re-post, my favorite meal is the end of the week whats-in-the -fridge stir-fry closely followed by the whats-in-the-fridge omelet too!


    Funny, isn’t it! — Lynn

  4. Organic and Green Mom Blog | Organic and Green Savings: They’re Out There at Organic Mania on October 11, 2008 6:14 am

    […] A Primer: What NOT to do: The DON’Ts […]

  5. Organic and Green Mom Blog | Saving Money Through Green Means (My Top 20 Tips!) at Organic Mania on November 18, 2009 12:07 pm

    […] – and honestly, not just for “green means” either. Here are the things to AVOID doing – My Top 10 Don’ts.   Follow these rules and I swear you’ll save […]

  6. Condo Blues on November 18, 2009 4:03 pm

    Wow. I think your list of don’t are another reason why people nicknamed Whole Foods Whole Paycheck. They sell so many wonderful and tempting things it’s so easy to add a lot of extra treats in your shopping cart than you originally planned to buy.

    Which I fell for on my last shopping trip. Their double chocolate chunk bakery muffins looked so lovely and lonely in the case that I HAD to take some home…
    .-= Condo Blues´s last blog ..Green Moms Carnival: Saving Money through Green Means =-.

  7. Michelle (Healthy Snacks) Hompton on May 12, 2011 6:48 pm

    I’d like to agree with all the tips you just provided. Tip number 1 is very common. People tend to pick and buy whatever they find enticing, not minding the price.

  8. michele on July 15, 2012 2:07 am

    This is somewhat off topic, but…I have recently begun making homemade products for almost everything around the house (detergent, hair spray, cleaners, etc) and I have made lots of DIY baking mixes and seasonings, etc. I also coupon now and find the rock bottom prices for a few items and stock up on those. I now feel antsy about using my stock up to nearly nothing. It feels like OCD-ness….like I fear that we won’t be able to afford to restock like I have it now. I weigh that agains the fact that food gets old and unusuable over time (not everything, but much of it) and I wouldn’t want say, my DIY cake mixes or “bisquick” to spoil and have to toss it all. How can I find a balance between stocking up to feel sucre and prepared…and not being ridiculous? Thanks for any advice you have for me!

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