Is Healthy Food Really More Expensive?

Last month I spoke to a group about healthier eating and meal planning. I challenged myself: without even having a plan in place for heading to the grocery store, can I get the organic/real food options for about the same as “the other guys?” It was a challenge worth trying, so I headed to my grocery store.

Most people know how to make peanut butter and jelly, so I focused on getting some items that most people will buy. With the purposeful intention of getting a good deal on both sets of items, I picked up the following things.

The Organic/Whole Food Items:

  • Kroger All Natural Peanut Butter (peanuts and salt are the only ingredients)
  • Cascadian Farms Organic Strawberry Preserves
  • Arnold Whole Grain Bread
  • Cascadian Farms Organic Granola Bars
  • Whole Grain Pasta

The Other Guys: 

  • Brand Name Peanut Butter
  • Store Brand Strawberry Preserves
  • Regular Pasta
  • White Bread
  • Brand Name Granola Bars

Most people will automatically think that the healthier items were more expensive, but this is what happened.

The Organic/Whole Food Items:

  • Kroger All Natural Peanut Butter (peanuts and salt are the only ingredients) $2.50
  • Cascadian Farms Organic Strawberry Preserves $2.50
  • Arnold Whole Grain Bread $2.99
  • Cascadian Farms Organic Granola Bars $3.19
  • Whole Grain Pasta $1.50
  • =$12.68

The Other Guys: 

  • Brand Name Peanut Butter $2.99
  • Store Brand Strawberry Preserves $2.19
  • Regular Pasta $1.99
  • White Bread $2.59
  • Brand Name Granola Bars $3.89
  • =$13.65

Not only was I pleasantly surprised at how I spent less by getting the organic/natural items, but I was also happy with how easy it was to do. I looked for items on sale as best I could, and shopped by looking for food items with healthier ingredients. Instead of getting the peanut butter with lots of added sugars and preservatives, it was cheaper to go with the peanut butter that just contained peanuts and salt.

A few things to note:

1.This is all without a plan. Imagine how good you could do if you made a plan for your shopping each week?

2. The Cascadian Farms Strawberry Preserves jar was smaller than the store brand. I usually get the big jar of Organic Strawberry Preserves from Costco – it’s a better deal and you get more.

3. The Other Guy Brand Name Granola Bars box had one less bar in it than in the Cascadian Farms Organic Granola Box.

So what do you think?  Tonight I’m speaking more on this topic in Dallas, Georgia! I hope to see you there! You can find a class in your area to help you save money at the grocery store over on the Savings.com coupon classes page

How do you save the most money on organic and whole foods?

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13 Comments:
  1. I’m glad the prices aren’t too far off! I do think this is slightly misleading though… most people would just buy Kroger brand or regular Barilla, not SmartTaste. And most people buy Kroger bread… or Quaker Chewy bars. I suspect that those prices would have been a little less than the organic. But this proves that if you do your homework and search out deals, there’s NO reason your family can’t reasonably eat organic!

  2. I hear you and I agree that you can buy organic on a budget, but it is definitely not cheaper than buying basic white flour products. There is no reason to ever pay more than $1 for a loaf of cheap white bread or a box of cheap white pasta. There are always sales on at least one brand, so I think your example is a bit biased. :) (…and I understand your bias….) Anyway, I do agree that Costco is absolutely the way to go for cheaper organic products in bulk! The giant bags of spinach are a steal!

    • Thanks for the feedback Amy. I don’t normally buy white bread, but I did my best to buy the one that was the cheapest at the store. This was an experiment with just going into the store without a shopping plan and buying the items that were on sale – for both sides. Both sets of items could obviously be bought cheaper with shopping sales and coupons. This post is hopefully meant to help the every day shopper that doesn’t necessarily shop sales and coupons.

    • It’s been awhile since I’ve found pasta on sale for $1 or less. It happens, but much less frequently. In addition, shrink-ray has happened and many boxes are no longer 16 ounces, but 14 instead!

      As always, prices are regional!

  3. You can’t just look at the price per package. The price per ounce or pound makes a huge difference, too. Most store brand pasta is about $1 per pound. Most organic/natural pasta is only 12 ounces per package so the price per ounce goes way up. It’s the same with most food. Organic/natural food is usually in a smaller package so they can try to trick people into think it’s not as expensive as it is. If you look at the cost per ounce, organic/natural stuff is usually 20% to 50% more expensive if you don’t find it on sale and/or have a coupon.

  4. But I think her point is, this is what she could get with no planning. I mean, if you’re going to use coupons and spend time and effort hunting down every deal, that might make a difference. I think (and correct me if I’m wrong) that this post is more directed to (probably the majority) people who just go to the store and throw stuff in their cart.

    And if you’re going to do that, you might as well get the organic stuff!

  5. I can’t remember the last time I saw something 50% more because it was organic. Part of it is knowing where to shop. In addition to Costco, Trader Joe’s is a great option. Their brand of products are crazy cheap & they accept MQs on brands like Cascadian Farm, Barbara’s Bakery, Clif, Luna, etc.

    With minimal planning you can bring your prices down to that of conventional items. And honestly…if I’m going to spend more, it’s going to be on the items that nourish my family. I’ll save elsewhere because this is a priority for me (& frankly, it’s easy to save when you comparison shop).

  6. Great post Crystal!

    I find organic products for the same or less then conventional all the time, especially in the produce department. This week at my local store apples are $.99/lb for both organic and conventional, truly comparing apples to apples LOL.

    There are probably 100 different ways you can do this comparison, so I think you did great, I should do one on my blog and see how it comes out!

  7. I think you did a great job showing that it doesn’t have to be more expensive! I am on a very tight budget and find that my family is able to eat mainly organics (80% or more) by choosing priorities.

    While some people go into the store and will only buy bread at $1 that is not the norm for non-coupon, non-sale shoppers. I live in the south and it shocks me how many people don’t ever pay attention to sales. They go into a store and ust buy what they need without taking coupons and sales into consideration. I have many friends that do this and spend far more than I do to feed my family of four mainly organics.

    If organics are important to you then you search out ways to make it affordable, like co-ops, online, local farmers, Azure Standard and using sales and coupons. Can I purchase white flour much cheaper than organic flour right off the shelf? Sure thing, but I can also grind my own with organic wheat berry and it be over half price.

    I love your time you took to purchase both and sharing the comparisons.

  8. I LOVE this because Crystal is showing that “HEALTHY IS AFFORDABLE” even if you don’t want to use coupons. I think you ladies that are calling this biased are over thinking this. Crystal simply wanted to show that you CAN find healthier alternatives and you can still stick to your budget without spending hours couponing and seeking out the best deal.

  9. What a great experiment! I know that I’ve also “argued” the {affordable} price of organics with people over and over again. I never would have thought to shop and compare ingredients that busy families {individuals even} use on a regular basis. I think that you’ve done a great job NOT showing bias and making it clear that some of the products weren’t the exact same size. If nothing else it should show that organics are still affordable for those that choose to not coupon or create a strategic shopping plan.

  10. I produce my own organic food as much as possible. I do my own peanut butter and even grow vegetables on my small backyard. But since I live here in Asia where the weather is good I am lucky enough to buy vegetables with no fertilizers from the mountaineers who pass by my house before proceeding to the market to trade their vegetables.

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