FROM READERS: The cost of buying organic

Thursday, September 20, 2012 | 10:00 a.m. CDT
While at Hy-Vee, Annette Triplett took photos of some of the organic fruits and vegetables to compare prices to non-organic fruits and vegetables.

Annette Triplett is the state coordinator for the Food from the Farm and Early Sprouts program. She also owns the blog CoMo Homestead where she shares her advice and experience. This article was first published on the blog on Feb. 28, 2011. 

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 cognizant 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 lbs 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 lbs of organic produce for a few extra dollars is a pretty good deal.

If you can't see the slideshow embedded above, view it on Flickr here.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising Editor Joy Mayer.

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