Budget // Groceries // Conventional v. Organic

One of our family goals for the new year is to get ourselves on a solid budget. We have tried budgeting for years but half way through the month we seem to fall off our budget and then wonder where did all that money go? Now that we have second baby on the way and a pretty big (currently the location is a secret) trip coming up we are feeling a lot of pressure from ourselves to really stick to a budget. Over on Naturally Family we are discussing our budgeting process in more detail but I thought that I would share how we grocery budget here.

Throwback Photo: May 2013 Shopping at PSU Farmers Market

Throwback Photo: May 2013 Shopping at PSU Farmers Market

Grocery budgeting has really become a trial and error process for us. One of the big things for us is that we are still getting to know our new home and trying to find the best grocery stores. Up until now we have tended to only shop at Whole Foods, New Seasons (local store similar to Whole Foods), Trader Joe’s and a local co-op.  We shop at farmer’s markets in the spring, summer and fall as well.

The problem with shopping primarily at Whole Foods and New Seasons is that they can be expensive at times. Trader Joe’s while often less expensive is really hit or miss for me when it comes to produce and I know I’m not the only one who gets distracted by all the flashy items that they have for sale and end up walking out with more than I had planned. Our local co-op is nice however limited in the items they carry. That all being said we have yet to venture to the more conventional grocery stores or discount grocery stores, but over the next month or so that is going to change as we check out our other options and compare prices and quality of produce.ProduceRow

Currently 90% of what we buy is organic and while I prefer organic it’s not always the most budget friendly so we are choosing to make compromises when it comes to buying organic versus conventional produce. We are planning to avoid any produce that lands on the Dirty Dozen Plus list as these items contain the highest level of pesticides. We are comfortable with buying off the Clean Fifteen and as for anything else that kind of falls in the grey area/doesn’t make the list we will buy organic when possible.

Dirty Dozen Plus* 

(I say plus here because depending on what source you find the items can vary so anything that lands on a dirty dozen list is on our organics list)

1. Apples
2. Berries (Strawberries, raspberries, marion berries, blueberries)
3. Grapes
4. Celery
5. Peaches
6. Tomatoes
7. Cucumber
8. Nectarines
9. Bell Peppers and hot peppers
10. Greens (Kale, Collard, Chard, Spinach, Lettuce)
11. Summer Squash
12. Cherries
13. Potatoes
14. Fresh Sweet Peas

Clean Fifteen*

1. Asparagus
2. Avocado
3. Cabbage
4. Melon
5. Sweet Corn
6. Eggplant
7. Grapefruit
8. Kiwi
9. Mango
10. Mushrooms
11. Onions
12. Papaya
13. Pineapple
14. Frozen Sweet Peas
15. Sweet Potatoes


Luckily some of the items that are staples in our house (avocado, mushrooms, and onions) are on the Clean Fifteen list so we can start saving a bit by purchasing conventional. Now the next step in this process is a bit scary to me but we need to branch out and really evaluate our options. That next step is visiting some new grocery stores to really see what they have to offer. I decided to check reviews of stores online (taken with a grain of salt) to see which ones tend to get rated the best in hopes of setting us up for success. Then it’s time to see how prices and produce really stack up. Our first adventure will be this weekend and fingers crossed it will go well.

Where do you do most of your grocery shopping? Do you shop around or do you stick to the same store? Do you buy organic or conventional or both?

I realize now that the topic of Grocery Budgeting needs to be broken up into multiple parts because there is just so much to write about. Rather than write a lengthy post that you won’t read all of (and thank you to those of you who have read this far) I am going to continue our budgeting discussion another day.


  1. I really miss buying organic. Living in a remote town, we have one crappy grocery store that has little to no organic produce so we really miss having options. We try to get to a city at least once a month to get a good grocery haul of organic produce. We do what we can, but certainly miss having the option of purchasing organic in our town. I plan on growing as much of my own veggies as I can this summer!

    • When we lived in Montpelier, VT we had a co-op that was hit or miss when it came to quality organic produce and the prices were high and our other option was a really terrible small grocery store. We used to have to go to Burlington (40 minutes away) on the weekends and do all of grocery shopping in order to get good quality produce.

      I wish we could have a garden but not possible at our current place and a community plot would just be too much work with a baby on the way and having to travel back and forth to it. Some day we will have our own garden! I hope yours is a success!

  2. We buy mainly organic too, but if we don’t buy organic, then it’s because it’s on the clean 15. Although Tyler has been wanting to buy almost everything organic lately. It definitely is a bit pricier, but for taste alone, it’s worth it!!

    • I agree most of the time organic taste better and that’s a huge factor for sure. I can’t see us buying a lot of non-organic but we are more just being open to the idea of it. Also it depends on need and price; if organic is 20 cents more than non we’re buying organic obviously but if it is significantly more and it is an item need for a recipe then we will buy non-organic (clean 15).

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