Organic Food Savings: How That Bag of Grapes Became More Expensive

July 20th, 2008


It happened to me so many times, I almost thought I was losing my mind. I’d see a large bag of grapes priced reasonably, and decide to buy some. But when I went through the check-out, invariably I would notice that my “good deal” didn’t seem so good. Sometimes I’d ask to verify the price and hesitate when I heard the reply. Yet when the clerk asked if I wanted to keep them, I’d invariably feel a bit embarrassed and say yes.

Those were back in the days before the stock market meltdown, rise in energy costs, and deflating of the housing bubble. With food prices among our largest recurring purchases, it pays to look a little more closely at what gets put in the shopping cart.

And as my alter ego – OrganicMania – I feel newly emboldened to do so.

So when I saw a bag of organic grapes labeled $3.99 per pound, I almost nabbed them, but then I decided to look more closely to see how much the bag actually weighed. Well, surprise, surprise – no weight label on the bag of grapes. It wasn’t until I put them on the scale that I saw the grapes weighed more than 3 pounds, meaning the bag wasn’t $3.99 – it was more than $12!


Since grapes are on the “Dirty Dozen” list of foods with the highest pesticide residue, they should be eaten in their organic form whenever possible. But for many families, that’s just impractical due to the high cost. So what can you eat instead of organic grapes? Well, as we’ve discussed here, at $2.99 per pound, organic strawberries are a good deal – even if they’re no longer cheaper than conventional strawberries, as they were until recently.

Organic plums are another good value. The Tenleytown DC Whole Foods has organic black plums on sale for $1.99 per pound, a savings of $1.00 per pound. Just how many plums do you get for a pound? As I live-tweeted here, depending on size, you’re looking at four to five organic plums for $1.99. A much better deal than those organic grapes!

Other deals this week? I live blogged about them from my mobile phone via Twitter. Check out my tweets here, here and here. And sign up here to follow OrganicMania on Twitter!

What did you see in the stores this week? Did you find these tips helpful? Please leave a comment and share! You’ll make my day!

— Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Organic Food Savings: Buying in Bulk and Watch those Price Labels!

June 30th, 2008


The notion of bulk purchases often conjures up images of huge warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. While the savings there are great, the huge quantities you’re normally required to purchase and the far-flung suburban and exurban locations are turn-offs for many people.

Too often in our rush to pick up the weekly groceries we forget that bulk options exist in conventional grocery stores and organic markets alike. Back in April, OrganicMania posted 10 Tips for Saving Money on Organic Food from one of DC’s top organic grocers, Scott Nash. Despite my near-weekly trips to My Organic Market, until that interview with Scott, I never realized that MOM’s offers 10% case discounts on foods including 3 pound wheels of cheese, nuts, grains, granolas, beans, and more. Those discounts can really help you to save money on organic food.

Similarly, sometimes we forget the old rule of thumb to buy in bulk when our favorite foods are on sale. And frankly, the signage in some stores doesn’t help get the message across very clearly either. Take this sign for a sale on Horizon organic cheese. (Horizon cheese is not my personal favorite, but when it comes to kiddie lunches and snacks – particularly on those long car trips when it’s A Dilemma to be Organic & On the Road – those little individually wrapped cheese slices are a godsend.)
A quick first look at this sign had me thinking that it was a decent sale, 2 for $5.00, a savings of $1.49 off the regular price. After all, that’s what the sign says, as you can see. But that sign doesn’t clearly illustrate the savings. Think about it. The $1.49 savings is on each package of cheese, now on sale 2 for $5. So when you buy 2, you’re actually saving $2.98, not $1.49. A better way to think about it? Horizon organic cheese: 40% off. You don’t normally think of Whole Foods as a bulk purchase store, but we certainly stocked up on this incredible savings at DC’s Tenleytown Whole Foods. But hurry – this sale ends tomorrow, July 1.

Other great deals? There are some terrific non-organic savings from Whole Foods private label Whole Pantry collection, on sale at $3 per package, a savings of .99 per package. These easy-to-prepare couscous and veggies and other entrée frozen vegetable meals are great as compliments to simple salads. While they’re not organic, they’re imported from France, so they’re non-GMO, which is one key reason many people buy organic foods. And they’re delicious. Try the goat cheese and eggplant dish. Too big a carbon footprint? Well, some of the 365 Brand frozen organic vegetables are imported from China! That’s even further from this East Coast store. But ya gotta love Whole Foods – organic, conventional, local, domestic, imported, and any combination of those – there’s something for everyone.

And yes, it’s still a great time to buy organic strawberries. The incredible sale we discussed last week is still on – and so these delicious organic strawberries are still cheaper than conventional strawberries. And now the organic raspberries are finally on sale too, at $2.99 per pint, a reduction of $1.00 per package.

And finally, given that it’s summer time, what a great excuse to try some organic iced tea, now on sale. Can’t wait to try the new Rishi Organic Artisan Iced Tea I picked up on sale. Remember, as Seth Goldman of Honest Tea told us in this OrganicMania interview, those nasty pesticides aren’t washed off conventional tea leaves until they hit your hot water!

Did you find any good deals this week? Leave a comment and share! And if you want to hear about these deals – and more – live, sign up here to follow me on Twitter. It’s micro-blogging about organics, green living, kids and more. It’s fun!

Happy Shopping!


Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Looking for Organic Food Savings Friday?

June 29th, 2008

Sorry I’m late with this…this Friday turned into “Welcome Back, DH” Friday instead of Organic Savings Friday. Lots of great finds and observations to share, but they’ll be coming tonight or tomorrow….In the meantime, you can get organic food savings updates by following me on Twitter.

OrganicMania tweets Live! What the heck does that mean? I’m taking my mobile phone with me on my shopping rounds and blasting out “microblogging” updates on all my finds – like this one on Horizon organic cheese 40% off or this morning’s warning about incorrect signage or this great find on organic strawberries – cheaper than conventional. You can register here to follow-me on Twitter and get all these updates as they happen. I’m normally in the stores twice weekly. Plus, I send out updates about all kinds of other “green” things – everything from Bethesda Green updates to Montgomery County’s new carbon reduction plan to discovering a new organic café! Check it out and come join me! Plus, Twitter is two-way, so you can message me and I can easily get back to you!

And in the meantime, I promise to get this week’s post up soon – thanks for bearing with me. Single parenthood was rough this week – I have no idea how people do it on a regular basis (and I say that as someone who was raised by a single Mom!)


Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Organic Food Savings Friday: Look Up, Look Down & Strawberries All Around!

June 20th, 2008


Funny headline? Well, think about this: finding the signs that display pricing in an organic market can require as much flexibility as a yoga routine. You have to look up high above the veggies bins, then you have to squat to look at knee-height to read prices, then you have to bend over a veggie counter to read tiny price stickers. Yikes. But you know what? It can really be worth the extra effort.

Take just one example: organic romaine lettuce. This is a staple item for many. Most often, people just push the cart up, reach in and grab whatever it is they’ve been grabbing for years. I had been doing that too, picking up my 9 oz. box of EarthBound Farms pre-washed romaine lettuce, while trying to ignore the $4.99 price tag. But this week, I happened to overhear a woman asking the Whole Foods produce manager where to find the local organic romaine lettuce on sale for $1.49. That sounded good to me, so I followed her over to the other side of the produce aisle and craned my neck up to see the sign announcing the sale – $1.00 off the regular price. Then I put the romaine on the scale and saw that each bag contained 21 ounces, so this romaine was just 7 cents per ounce, as compared to 55 cents per ounce for the EarthBound Farms box!

And even more exciting this week was the most fantastic deal on organic strawberries! Less than conventional! Can you believe it? DC’s Tenleytown Whole Foods has 2 pound packages of Driscoll’s organic strawberries on sale for $5.99 each, as compared to conventional 1 pound boxes of Driscoll’s for $3.49 each. That means that each 2 pounds of organic strawberries are $1.50 cheaper than the conventional equivalent. Amazing! And really, really delicious. Baby Boo was digging his fingers into the air holes in the container to try to get into the strawberries. I had to run upstairs and wash a few off before we left the store!

Last week, we discussed the great deals available at Target on organic milk. Well, as if $3.44 per gallon wasn’t good enough, Target slashed the price even further and through Saturday, you can buy Archer Farms organic milk at $3 per half gallon (actually, 2 1/2s for $6).

And still more good deals on organic milk at Target! Those handy little Horizon organic milk packages, perfect for summer camp lunch? On sale at $5.48 from $5.98 for two packages of three 8 ounce containers. This sale is on through July 21st.

Did you see any great deals this week? Leave a comment and share! Happy shopping!

— Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

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

The $5 Loaf of Bread: Will You Keep Buying Organic Foods?

May 13th, 2008

With food prices on the rise, it seems nearly everyone is reconsidering their organic purchases. And of course it’s all over the media – in  Newsweek and even in local newspapers like this one. That’s one reason why OrganicMania is tracking some of the few remaining “good deals” on organic foods every Friday, and why we’re even gathering tips like these from organic grocers themselves.

I’m not the only one who has resorted to buying the ingredients to bake bread, instead of shelling out $5 a loaf. Fact is, I’ve heard from several people who have started baking their own bread. And these are busy parents who have better things to do than to bake bread! If that’s not a sign that people are changing their buying patterns, what is?

But what about those items that you can’t simply replace with home made? Will you keep buying organic?

Most people who go organic do it out of health concerns for their children. Increasingly, women go organic during pregnancy. That’s not going to change. OrganicMania’s prediction is that USDA certified organic foods targeted at pregnant women and children will continue to sell well.

And of course, the main reasons – Organics’ Four Factors – haven’t changed. Buying organic is still the best bet for people concerned about avoiding chemical pesticides, protecting the environment and farm workers, animal rights and taste.

But with home values shrinking and gas and food prices up, for most folks, something has to give. And that something will include some organic foods. But as any parent knows, we’ll sacrifice something for ourselves before we deprive our kids. OrganicMania is betting that cut-backs in organic spending will not affect foods purchased for pregnant women and children. If anything, there’s more and more focus among women on going green and organic – which will offset any cutbacks on organic food spending for pregnant women and young children.

What do you think? Have your buying habits changed recently? Leave a comment and share!

— Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Green and Organic Savings Friday: Organic Milk, Bread & Tea

May 2nd, 2008

Rising food prices are all over the news these days. I was actually afraid to set foot in the store this week, nervous about just how high prices were going. Yes, I keep thinking about how blessed I am to even have the choice of organic food vs. conventional, but it still doesn’t help when you hit the check-out line.

So let’s go back to basics, and focus on some savings opportunities with organic milk, organic bread, and organic tea.

While I’ve always loved the taste of Honest Tea iced tea, I must confess I was not buying organic tea leaves for hot tea. Until the OrganicMania interview with Seth Goldman, CEO of Honest Tea, I considered organic tea “nice to do” but not a necessary organic expenditure. But when I asked Seth how he became so interested in organics, he explained that it was his interest in tea that led him to discover organics. It turns out that tea is one of the most pesticide-laden products out there, and in some countries, really nasty pesticides like atrazine are used on tea plantations. Did it ever occur to you that tea leaves are not rinsed off until they hit the hot water of your tea kettle? (You can read the OrganicMania interview with Honest Tea’s Seth Goldman here).

With some great savings opportunities this week, now’s a good time to make the switch to organic tea. Allegro organic tea is on sale at Whole Foods, 2 packs for $7.00, a significant savings off the regular price of $4.99 a pack. And the Mambo Sprouts coupon book, available at the customer service desk or the check-out registers, includes a coupon for 55 cents off Good Earth organic tea. With the coupon, Good Earth tea is $3.44 at Whole Foods. Good Earth looks like a really sustainable green company – in addition to being organic, the tea bags are unbleached, and the packaging is 100% recyclable with soy based inks. Plus the tea bags are not wrapped in plastic overwrap, as so many tea bags are.

Now that you can relax with a good cuppa tea, what about the kids’ lunch bags? Lots of school kids pack organic milk in their lunch bags. My son drinks regular white milk – not chocolate, not vanilla, not strawberry – but I could never find the money-saving bulk containers of Horizon white milk. Finally, at the Tenleytown, DC, Whole Foods, I found a carton of 18 Horizon organic milk boxes for $13.79 – or 76 cents per package. This is quite a savings over the 3-pack packages which sell for close to $4. More savings on organic milk? Check out this link where you can register for Stonyfield Farm coupons, including fifty cents off a half gallon of organic milk.

As for bread, who can resist home baked bread? I was indulging that weakness with the delicious breads at the Spring Mill Bread Company located in my local MOM’s. Yet with the price of a loaf of fresh baked organic oatmeal bread hitting nearly $5 a loaf, and many loaves well past the $5 mark, I decided it was time to call it quits on this little luxury. Instead, I picked up some basics – organic whole wheat flour, yeast, salt, and white organic flour. For about $1 a loaf, we now have freshly baked organic bread that is even better than the bakery’s bread. And it’s not at all hard to bake. More on that in another post!

Happy shopping! Do you have any great organic or green savings to share? Please leave a comment!

Carnival/Mr. Linky Update – Still working those darn MIS issues to get Mr. Linky working properly. Hopefully we’ll have everything ready to go next Friday to start our own mini-carnival on Green and Organic Savings!

In the meantime, OrganicMania is participating in the Festival of Frugality for the first time.

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

FYI re Food Chat Today – Coping with Rising Prices

May 1st, 2008

OrganicMania spoke yesterday with Jane Black, food reporter for The Washington Post, about how to cope with rising food prices. Jane will be online today at noon Eastern to take reader questions about this issue. Go here to participate. You can submit questions and comments before or during the chat.  I’ll be offsite (darn it!) for the discussion, but I’ll check the archives! Continue reading »