Tips for Eating Organic Affordably

Originally published in the May issue of The Stew, a newsletter from the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association.

One of my favorite activities is having friends or family over for a night of cooking, drinking, and eating together. Making and sharing food together creates a community that brings people closer, plus it’s just so darn fun.

However, cooking for a large group of people can be expensive, especially if you want to buy organic. I believe eating good food and sharing good company over food should not be cost-prohibitive. From my time working at the Durham Co-op Market and shopping on a shoe string budget when I was younger, I have figured out some more affordable ways to purchase nutrient-dense, organic food without breaking the bank.

I refuse to sacrifice quality (or a night of fun) because I don’t have enough money. When purchasing quality food on a budget, make sure to go for the products with less packing. That means they are less processed and usually less expensive. If your local co-op or grocery store has a bulk section, you are in luck! The bulk section is AMAZING; since you can buy just what you need, you’ll save lots of money. Usually a spice jar of cumin costs around $5, but if you purchase a few tablespoons in our bulk section, it runs less than a dollar.

Plus, purchasing in bulk aligns with our Co-op Basics Program. It is a line of everyday low price items that include many staple products you may normally stock in your pantry. The Basics include dried beans, grains, pasta, peanut butter, toilet paper, and more. Check your local co-op’s brand or their savings circular for similar deals. Buying these staple items at the Co-op will keep your costs low, since we do our best to keep the prices low!

Finally, eating seasonally is a great way to get high quality ingredients that don’t cost too much. If I buy strawberries now (since it’s strawberry season), they are way cheaper than if I bought them in November.  In November, I should buy Clementines, since that’s their season! Currently, local NC strawberries are on sale at the Co-op, two 1-pound containers for $5. In November, they’d cost double that! We can keep the price that low since they are abundant this time of year, and the distributor saves on shipping costs, since they come from right down the road!

My favorite seasonal, organic, and budget-friendly dish to serve to people WHILE they are cooking is salsa. We all need a little something as we are preparing a big meal together, and salsa is a great crowd-pleaser to snack on. Plus, it’s full of fresh vegetables, so it won’t fill you up too much before dinner. I chop up all the vegetables before my dinner guests arrive. The salsa tastes best if you leave it sitting on the counter for an hour to let the flavors marry before you start snacking.  Also, if you purchase a jar of salsa at the store, it usually run about $5 and only serves around 4 people. My salsa costs $6.60 TOTAL and serves at least 10. You may even have left-overs.


4 ripe tomatoes (~1 lb)
2  limes
½  bunch of cilantro
½ onion diced finely (~1/2 lb)
1 jalapeño diced finely
2 cloves of garlic diced finely
Spices: salt, cumin, and chili powder

Total Price (these are based on the Durham Co-op Market’s current prices, subject to change with sales):  $6.60 for a GIANT bowl of salsa.

Organic tomatoes are $2.99/lb= $2.99
Organic Limes are $0.79 each= $1.58
Organic Cilantro bunches are $1.39= $0.69
Organic Onions are $1.39/lb= $0.69
Jalapenos are $3.99/lb= $0.20
Garlic and spices= $0.45

The fun thing about this recipe is that you can add whatever seasonal fruit and/or vegetable to the salsa that you wish! I suggest mango for some sweetness, or cut kernels straight off an ear of corn for some crunchy texture! Serve with Late July Tortilla Chips.

Laura Pyatt is the Marketing Manager at Durham Co-op Market and was the Events Manager at Fullsteam Brewery before DCM took over her life. She loves beer, and she also loves cheese. She particularly enjoys them together. Laura is a Durham native and previously was an art teacher and managed a cupcake bakery, making brief appearances on their very bad reality TV show. She is very excited to help create a great community environment at the Durham Co-op Market. Feel free to email Laura at or call her at (919)973-1707 ext. 107 with questions or visit her at the Durham Co-op Market at 1111 West Chapel Hill St. in Durham, NC.


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