Organic fruits and vegetablesOrganic fruits and vegetables
  • Organic fruits and vegetables

I’ve never been much of an organic groupie. Up until the last few months, I’d never really purposely bought organic produce. I figured it was too expensive, and wanting to keep our grocery costs down I didn’t want to add another big expense.

Then I started paying attention to prices. I noticed that for a lot of the fruits and vegetables I bought regularly, the cost difference between organic and conventional was a few cents.

I started buying organic produce if the difference was less than a dollar. After a couple months of doing that and not having a noticeable increase in our grocery bill, as well as doing some more thinking on the topic, I now purchase the organic version of produce whenever it’s available.

We do still have some homegrown stuff left (butternut squash, a sweet potato that I’ll use to grow slips for this year’s crop, frozen corn, salsa, jam, , etc.), but our production levels are not quite high enough to get us through the winter. That’s the ideal I’m working towards, but we’re not quite there yet. And so I buy, like everyone else.

I am still trying to be very congnizant of our food costs (we are putting gazelle intensity into paying off our house), so I decided to calculate how much extra I’m spending by buying organic.

Now, keep in mind that I buy the majority of my produce during the winter from Hy-Vee. Hy-Vee is no Whole Foods or any other big organic/natural grocery store. It has a decent selection, but there are many foods for which buying organic is just not an option.

I bought the foods on my grocery list as normal, took photos of the cost of organic vs. conventional for each fruit or vegetable for which there was an option (if you were in Hy-Vee on Saturday night, I was the crazy lady taking photos of prices with my phone) and calculated the difference.

Here’s what I found:

Organic $0.68/lb
Conventional $0.54/lb
2.7 lb
Difference: $0.38

Apples (Braeburn)
Organic $1.18/lb
Conventional $0.99/lb
2.39 lb
Difference: $0.45

Baby Carrots, 2 lb
Organic $3.99
Conventional $2.99
Difference: $1.00

Carrots, 2 lb
Organic $2.28
Conventional $1.49
Difference: $0.79

Red Leaf Lettuce
Organic $2.18
Conventional $1.99

Green Onions
Organic $0.99
Conventional $0.50
Difference: $0.49

Red Potatoes, 5 lb
Organic $7.99
Conventional $3.59
Difference: $4.40

Total Difference $7.70

So for over 15 lb of organic fruits and vegetables, I paid $7.70 extra. And the vast majority of that difference was from the 5 lb bag of potatoes. I think this is a steal.

I realize that for low-income folks with no disposable income this is not going to be an option. But for those who can spend $7-10 on going out for lunch without batting an eyelash, I think getting 15 lb of organic produce for a few extra dollars is a pretty good deal.

What do you think? Do you buy organic? Why do you choose to buy organic or not buy organic?

13 Responses to “The cost of buying organic”

  1. Vivian
    28 February 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    Hi there! So glad to have found your blog. We are currently living in Arkansas but we began doing the “urban homesteading” thing in Portland before that. We are taking a job and moving up to Columbia in the coming month so I am interested in seeing other people homesteading there, especially right in the city. Anyway, about organic vs. non. For me the cost of organically grown foods is the difference between an unadulterated nutrition vs potential carcinogens. Organic food may cost a little more but then again so does the health problems associated with GMO and pesticides/fertilizers/etc. What we save in other aspects of our lives (one car, no cable, small rental, etc etc) we reallocate for the things that are in line with our values of health. However, in a pinch I’ll get non-organic on items with a non-edible skin or grown locally (less spray).

    That said (phew! sorry for the novel!) I am glad to see the Hyvee there offering such great prices. I figured we would be limited to only shopping at Clovers and a monthly trip into St. Louis for TJ and whole foods. Does hyvee also carry local produce in the summer? I know the farmers market will be available as well – do you use that often?

    Also, there may be an Azure Standard delivery drop coming closer to Columbia soon. They have very affordable organic and natural produce, as well as bulk bags of grains and so on that are not as easy to grow in a backyard :) (

  2. Desiree
    28 February 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    I actually was noticing a couple of months ago that on many of the standard produce items I purchase, the organic version really is not much more. I also noticed that when the organic version is on sale, it is often cheaper than the standard produce. If only that slight price difference would carry over to meat and dairy…

    Funny you mention Azure Standard, Vivian. I don’t live anywhere near Missouri, but I have been looking at their website/products this week. Their prices really are reasonable (I’m mainly looking at grains, dried beans, and sweeteners). Your comment reminded me that I need to call to see if they have a drop in my area.

  3. CoMo Homestead
    28 February 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    Vivian, this is fabulous! What area of town are you going to be living in? We do have a Meetup for food growers that you’re welcome to join when you get here if you’re interested!

    HyVee is AWESOME for local foods in the summer. They work with Missouri Food 4 Missouri People (a farmer collaborative) and have a stand with local produce all summer long. There is also a pretty strong presence of local foods in the Health Market section (meats, eggs, milk) all year round.

    We do visit the farmer’s market often in the summer. I think you’ll find Columbia to be very very very supportive of local foods, and especially the farmer’s markets. There are two markets in town: Columbia Farmer’s Market and Boone County Farmer’s Market.

    Here’s a post on where to find local foods in Columbia:

    Thank you for the heads up on Azure Standard! I hadn’t heard of them before, but I have been looking for something like this for months! In fact, I was just planning a trip to an Amish store I’ve heard about in search for bulk dry goods. This would be fabulous!

    Do you know who is coordinating the Azure Standard effort? I know other folks in CoMo who might be interested in participating. Let me know!

  4. CoMo Homestead
    28 February 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    Okay, I feel like I just hit the jackpot! Vivian, thanks again for letting me know about Azure Standard! Their prices are amazing. Sign me up!

    Desirée, have you tried connecting with a local meat producer? The local meats we’ve purchased have been amazingly cheap compared to store-bought equivalents.

  5. What Pigs Don't Know
    28 February 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    First off, Long Live Dave Ramsey! LOVE the guy!

    As for organics, I never bought a single organic in my life until about 2 months ago when I joined an organic food co-op. I think this was completely based on my (false) assumptions that organic costs way more than conventional. I think for a few things that is true, but since I’ve joined the co-op I’ve been paying alot more attention to organic prices in the grocery store. I’m paying about $1.42/pound for organic veggies & fruits, much of which are local, through the co-op. The local Tom Thumb sells conventional apples for $1.99/lb. There are countless other examples of this. I’m making out like a bandit – and getting healthier food in the process. -Carrie

  6. Vivian
    1 March 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    Hi again!
    I am going to be working with the regional coordinator to get a drop going in Columbia. I used Azure for years in Portland and when I moved to Fayetteville there was no drop yet. Now we have a monthly drop I coordinate and roughly 30 people order each month. It’s a great, great company! I told the regional coordinator about my move and she asked me to head up the Columbia drop WHEN they can adjust the route, so I think the more people who email Azure about a drop in Columbia, the more pressure they will have to expand the route by a few hours (currently he goes from Tulsa to Neosha, MO, down to Fayetteville).
    I will be living just a few doors up from the farmer’s market (the ARC), in a little 2 bedroom off Clinksdale! We are supposed to move in in just a few weeks. We’re bringing our backyard chickens and hoping to start at least container gardening for this year. Do you guys sell any of your starts, by any chance? My next step for homesteading will be, hopefully, honey bees and angora rabbits, but only as time and money allow :) I also really need to do better about preserving this year…
    I am SO happy to hear that about Hyvee and will definitely check it out when we arrive. I have a feeling we’ll really like Columbia and find lots of interesting and motivated people to share community with!

  7. CoMo Homestead
    1 March 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    Columbia is an amazing place to live! I have lived in many different places, and Columbia is definitely my favourite.

    We’ll be just down the road from you a few blocks east, off of Broadway. We’re also planning on starting a bee hive soon. I’m taking a beekeeping class right now.

    Is emailing Azure the best way to convince them to expand their route? I think I should be able to get a few people to commit.

    We haven’t really thought about selling our starts so far, but that could possibly be arranged. What would you be interested in?

  8. Desiree
    1 March 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    We are planning to place either a side or whole beef order soon; I just have to make the final decision between two or three contenders. It’ll be $3.50/lb, plus a small slaughter fee, which, when considering the range in cuts (premium to ground meat), is not a bad deal.

    I’ve focused on finding a beef source, but am now looking into poultry. Aaron and I are actually considering buying live chickens and slaughtering them ourselves. He is experienced with the slaughtering process, but I’m not at all, so I’m a little squeamish about it. I know he won’t let me get away with not helping, though :).

    Beyond beef and poultry, I have also located several local sources for lamb, which would be really great for NTBMO, especially. This area is really quite rich with locally raised meat, I just haven’t had as much time as I would like this past year to get some of these thing done. Now that Bronson is a little more self-sufficient, I’m able to get to more of my goals list, so we should have a nice food stock over this year.

  9. CoMo Homestead
    1 March 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    Wow. Is the beef you’re looking at considered organic? We bought a side of 100% grass fed beef (not organic) with a few other people, and it was $2.35/lb.

    Chickens would be awesome. I’m not sure if I could handle the slaughtering process. I might need some practice with someone else’s birds first.

  10. Vivian
    1 March 2011 at 8:02 pm #

    I would love to go in on some shares of local meat – that would be amazing! When I saw the prices of local meat at Clovers and Root Cellar I about choked. And I love my meat so… yeah, let’s keep that conversation going because I want IN!

    Also, I have some good news! I had my last Azure drop here today and talked to the driver – he said they are adding 19 drops to Missouri NEXT MONTH, including Columbia, so it looks like we will be able to get the azure drop going as early as 4-5 weeks from now! I wrote the regional coordinator to put me down as the contact and now we just need to find a great place just off his route to have the drop – usually a big empty parking lot works well. Anything that is near the interstate and the business gives us permission (even better if its public property). If any one has any ideas, let me know. Once we have a drop location requested, they can put it on the route!

    As far as starts, I would take just about anything that needs to be seeded like yesterday, because I won’t have time to do it. I will bring my strawberries and a few potted herbs, but beyond that I’ll need to get going from scratch and don’t want to transport seedlings. I’m going to try to get really creative with container gardening in recycled pots, because this will be the 3rd house I worked and composted the soil of the yard only to move a year later.

    Where are you taking the bee class? Very cool!

  11. CoMo Homestead
    2 March 2011 at 10:06 am #

    This would be great timing to sign up for another side of beef. I have about two pounds left from the batch we bought just over a year ago, so I’m ready to buy again, and know several people who also want in.

    This is awesome news about Azure! How so very very exciting! Do you know what route the drive will be taking? I-70 or 63? There should be a few spots close to either location. There is a big high school right at the I-70 and Providence exit, which might work depending on the time of the drop-off.

    I’m pretty sure I have more starts going than I’m going to need this year. I’ll take a closer look this weekend and let you know.

    The beekeeping class is through Walk-About Acres, the local beekeepers in Columbia, in partnership with the Columbia Area Career Center. I wrote about it here:

    If you want to talk more, you can reach me at CoMoHomestead at gmail.

  12. the inadvertent farmer
    23 March 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    I agree…is seems a small price to pay for better health for both us and the planet! Great post, Kim

  13. CoMo Homestead
    24 March 2011 at 4:49 pm #

    Thanks, Kim!