I am grateful for their existence but, organic foods can be insanely expensive. If you, like me, want to support this branch of business without going into debt, read on for tips on how to shop frugally at organic & health food stores.
In my years as health-food-store-wanderer, I have discovered how to shop and how not to shop at any health food store. By making wise choices and leaving a bunch of groceries behind (to be bought at regular stores), buying organic can be easy and cheap!
I’ve gone from a 40 euro bill each time I even just entered a health food store (for groceries for 2 people x 2 days), to 10 euros spent there per visit, on groceries that will go a long way.
Curious how do I do this? Here are my master tips for frugal shopping at any organic and health food store.
TIP #1 Don’t buy cookies
A health food store is not a place to buy cookies. There are different arguments to support this claim but the biggest one is – read their ingredient label.
First, health food store cookies contain the same ingredients (flour, sugars and eggs) as regular shop cookies but they rock a higher price tag (ranging from 3 to 5 times higher than in regular stores) for the same quantity.
Not to mention that cookie portions at health food stores are ridiculously tiny – which cookie lover wants to “buy a pack of cookies” only to find out there are 3 cookies in there total? Argh.
Second, and this one might come as a surprise to many healthy food store dwellers but – health food store cookies are not actually healthy! How can that be? Because even if they don’t contain white crystalline sugar, they probably contain cane sugar, which is probably organic, but it is still sugar and it will still mess up your blood glycemic response.
Even if sugar is not one of the ingredients (which it almost always is), all sorts of artificial syrups are involved. Rice syrup, glucose syrup (even if organic) and corn syrup are all – you guessed it – not healthy. What’s worse, most health food store cookies contain just as much sugar as regular cookies (usually about 40%) which means you are paying more but getting equal amounts of the bad stuff in your body.
Okay, I’ll round off about the cookies. Conclusion: don’t buy these at a health food store. If you need cookies (and who doesn’t?), best is to bake them yourself with natural ingredients (flour, sugar, eggs – no high glucose/fructose syrups and weird ingredients), add some nuts or fruits in them to improve the nutrition value. Or, buy cookies at a local bakery or a regular store – choose ones with added nuts for extra fibre (and therefore better glyemic index).
TIP #2 Chuck the chocolate
In my experience, only 1 out of 10 chocolates in a health food store actually makes sense buying. 9 out of 10 chocolates are loaded with sugar, contain weird glucose/fructose syrups, have dried fruits (loaded with sugars) etc.
If you want a fancy chocolate, you can go to any store and buy dairy-free 70% or 80% cocoa dark chocolate. Then, go home, melt the chocolate bar au-bain-marie, chop some almonds/walnuts/dates/blueberries, chuck them in the melted happiness, then pour the mix into a mold and refrigerate until solid. Voila, healthy, amazing & unique chocolate just for you
TIP #3 Prioritise buying some fruits and veggies
Usually, I love to buy vegetables and fruits that are rich in water-organic. Oranges, tomatoes, cucumbers are all examples of water-rich ingredients. Since pesticides are water-soluble, there is a chance you are getting in a lot of pesticides with your water-rich non-organic produce.
For that reason, I buy most water-rich and most ‘dirty dozen’ ingredients organic. Bananas, however, or coconuts with their thick outer shells, or other groceries form the ‘clean dozen’ list, you might as well buy from a regular store if that saves you money.
TIP #4 Yes citrus fruits
Citrus fruits can be weirdly expensive in regular food stores, so you might as well buy them organically for the same price. Oranges, mandarines, mineolas (GMO alert btw?), lemons, limes – yummy!
TIP #5 No supplements
Supplements and their (lack of) benefits are subject enough for a whole other blog post. I will not get into all the pros and cons of supplements but I will tell you that, if you want a supplement, you could buy a Vitamin C, D or multivitamin supplement at a pharmacy or organic health food store all the same.
Truthfully, organic/health food stores will usually have vitamin supplements that contain less sugar and weird ingredients than regular store supplements (which often have added sugars).
However, all those bottles of pills and potions promising you weight loss, strong nails, sudden disappearance of cellulite, or increased breast size are not things you should spend your precious money on at an organic/health food store (where these supplements are 10 times more expensive though equally as useless as in regular stores).
TIP #6 Who really needs organic pasta?
Buy pasta in a regular supermarket like a normal mortal and save a lot of money. The same goes for rice waffles.
TIP #7 Some products are worth buying organic
Unlike pasta, tomato sauce is a great thing to buy at organic health food stores. It’s usually inexpensive, often on offer, comes in larger packaging and – tastes amazing! Also, oats, polenta and other inexpensive grains you might as well buy organic – more nature friendly for the same price!
Also, chili peppers are a great thing to buy at health food stores (or exotic supermarkets) because they are usually not pre-packaged (so you don’t have to buy a pack of 5 if you only need one) – and usually cost only 10 cents per piece!
TIP #8 Buy exotic ingredients at exotic supermarkets
Health food stores are a great place to shop for exotic ingredients such as seaweed, wild salmon, pure virgin olive oil etc – mostly because these ingredients can be hard to find at regular supermarkets.
Luckily, these days many better supermarkets offer organic olive oils. However, you still might be searching for exotic ingredients. For these, the best thing to do is ask around/find an exotic supermarket/farmers market stand.
Usually Chinese and other Asian supermarkets will contain all the exotic ingredients you could possibly need and want (lotus root, pak choi, edamame, seaweed, black rice noodles etc.), but at a much lower price than organic supermarkets
TIP #9 Bread from the bakery, but organic dairy
Unfortunately, I’ve still to find a truly delicious bread bought from a health food store. It’s usually either way too tough, way too tasteless, or way too expensive. I usually buy bread (mostly whole grain) from a proper bakery (although I don’t actually eat bread often).
As for dairy at health food stores, now that’s a completely different story. Milk, yoghurts, oats and all sorts of tasty puddings come at an affordable price and are so much more health- and animal-friendly than non-organic dairy products.
TIP #10 Limit organic meat
It’s hard to find a cooking ingredient more expensive than organic meat. The best way to save money on organic meat is to buy small portions of it, infrequently (maybe once a week). On the upside, it just so happens this is also a good idea for your health! It’s like the stars have aligned to protect your health and wallet.
Those were my main tips! Stay tuned on Instagram or follow the blog to receive notifications of new posts. Either way, hope you enjoyed this post and wishing you a marvellous day!