Going Organic on a Budget in Chicago

| October 14, 2009 | 1 Comment

organic

As we all have know, “going organic” is the new catch phrase – and with good reason too!

In Chicago, doing just this is easy to do. Probably just like you, where I live there is a large, national, organic grocery chain store right around the corner. Convenient, easy drive from home and a great selection. However, going organic on a budget is not so easy …

Here are a couple of tips that I’d like to share that has helped me save some cash while indulging my tummy with this ‘organic food phenomenon’…

BEFORE you head out to the store:

Step 1: Do I already have it? Check out your pantry and fridge!

What meat or vegetables do you have already that you can use? What condiments, seasonings do you have? By taking a quick inventory of the stuff you have at home can avoid purchasing duplicates or worse triplicates of the same thing.

Step 2: Chowing down – write out what you want to eat for the week.

By planning ahead you can minimize your cost and coordinate your meals saving you time and money

If planning for the week is somewhat daunting, try planning out your meals for the next 2 days as a start.

Step 3: Don’t just wing it – make that grocery list!

Try to stick to it (let me emphasize the word ‘try’). There is no reason to buy things you will not need. In order for step three to be a success, it’s imperative that you follow step four

Step 4: Snack time.

Make sure to eat something before going to the grocery store. Going grocery shopping on an empty stomach is just dangerous ! You’ll end up grabbing food you more than likely shouldn’t eat (although that double chocolate mousse dessert may taste like heaven) and/or you will completely blow your budget.

Where to go:

Option 1: Specialty stores: (Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s)

I go to Whole Foods for meat – mainly because it’s fresh and most importantly hormone free! I plan my meals that include meat very carefully – this keeps my grocery cost low and actually healthy too since I end up using a lot more veggies in my dishes. I have also found that Trader Joe’s has a decent selection of organic items. Trader Joe’s is also a lot less expensive than Whole Foods, which is a plus.

Option 2: Warehouse Clubs (Sam’s, Costco)

They sell Perdue (which is hormone free) and organic ground beef. And even pesto sauce that is organic for just 7.99 (this is a staple in my house). There is a medley of other organic foods that they carry. Don’t forget to ask your family or friends if one of them already has a membership to one of these stores. Go with them as a free guest the next time they go. If you don’t have to buy a membership then simply – DON’T. This will save you the yearly membership fee. If you cannot find a friend that is a member, ask the customer service desk for a guest pass or go to their website to see if there is one to print..

Option 3: The chain grocery stores (Jewel-Osco, Dominick’s)

Believe it or not, the national chains are now starting to carry more and more organic food. Since “going organic” has been the next big thing, these stores do not want you going to Whole Foods or the like to buy your food. They finally caught on, which is good. This gives you more options and the specialty stores get more competition, which drives higher prices down. One thing that I get regularly buy is Dean’s milk. The pledge that their milk is artificial growth hormone free. Although this may not be completely organic, it is a healthier way to go (and HALF the cost of USDA organic labeled milk).

Now that we have those major box chains out of the way, here is a list of my favorite local grocery stores that carry not only organic fruits and vegetables but a wide range of ethnic food

(1) Stanley’s (1558 N. Elston Ave, Chicago, 773.276.8050)

Stanley’s is very reasonably priced and carries fresh produce. Some of the foods they carry are organic at much lower prices than the specialty stores.

(2) Tony’s Finer Foods (www.tonysfinerfood.com)

They carry some organic produce but I love to go there for their fresh salsa and homemade sofrito (yes, I added this to my ‘grocery list’ beforehand).

(3) Green Grocer (www.greengrocerchicago.com)

A locally owned business that not only promotes local products from the Midwest but also gives back to its community.

(4) Co-op grocers – this is one I’ve been dying to check out. I love the idea of buying organic food for less but most importantly supporting locally owned businesses and farmers. To find one, do a Google search and you will see some local options.

If you would really like to keep on top of the organic food industry and find out everything you need to know, check out www.theorganicpages.com. This is the official website for the Organic Trade Association (OTA). The site allows you to find certified organic products, ingredients and services offered by their members.

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About the Author ()

Head Chicagonista, Co-host of the Chicagonista LIVE! show, Lead blogger for TheChicagoMoms.com, and Co-Founder of Women Driving Excellence. MJ is also the annual host of SocialRevUp - Brands & Bloggers Summit (#bbsummit) attended by about 200 professional high-profile bloggers nationwide. Follow MJ on Twitter: @mjtam

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  1. Rebecca says:

    You can also join a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture). There are quite a few to choose from in Chicago, like Angelic Organics. The cost works out quite favorably to buying organic vegetables every week at a conventional store.

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