How to Buy Organic Without Going Broke

So excited! Today I bought a share in a community-supported agriculture program (CSA). It works like this: I pay a portion of the farm's costs (in this case it's $300, which I'm splitting with a friend because it's enough for 3-4 people) and every week through mid-July I'll receive a box of fresh fruits and veggies--no choosing, I get whatever is in season. When I calculate what I spend on relatively crappy produce at the local supermarket, $150 is a total superfood steal.

Apparently I'm not alone in my endeavor to eat more locally-grown and organic produce: According to a survey by the Organic Trade Organization, organic produce now represents 11 percent of all fruit and veggie sales in the U.S., and sales of organic food and beverages soared 5 percent overall in 2009 (during a time when total U.S. food sales only grew 1.6 percent).

An unscientific survey of my friends found that those who rarely or never buy organic are holding back because it is pricier than non-org eats. So here are five ways to buy fresh chemical- and pesticide-free food without breaking the bank:

1. Head to the Local Harvest website and find a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program near you. Not only will it save you money, it'll expose you to new kinds of fruits, vegetables and, in some cases, flowers, meat, and cheese. Obviously, not all farms are totally organic, so pick accordingly if that's what you're going for.

2. Buy in bulk. For non-perishables like beans, grains, lentils, nuts, etc. it often pays to buy the biggie size. Bring your iPhone and go a quickie calculation if you're not convinced.

3. When choosing produce, go for items that are in their peak season. This is when prices are usually rock bottom. And stock up when you find a good deal: Most fruits and vegetables will last up to six months in the freezer.

4. Clip coupons. The Sunday papers usually have a "Red Plum" and/or "Smart Source" insert with tons of coupons. Look for organic brands such as Cascadian Farm and Amy's (love their burritos!).

5. Don't buy organic everything. Start with organic apples, strawberries, peaches, and spinach--their conventionally-grown counterparts have the most pesticides. Check out the Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides for the full list.

Photo Credit: Condé Nast Digital Studio

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