Breakdown of Organic Food Prices in Charlotte

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With the start of the New Year, many families are revisiting budgets and spending habits.  My family is no different.  As we gathered to discuss 2016 finances, we noted that a HUGE portion of the 2015 budget went towards food.  We eat clean, healthy, non processed, and organic.  Can this be the reason for the monstrous size of the pie slice on the budget wheel?  Is it really true that eating healthy is so expensive that only few can obtain it? Nutrition is the foundation of health and the basis for disease.  Based on the Latest Medical Evidence on Organic vs Non-Organic Food , I wasn't about to throw my hands in the air and call it a day.  Over several weeks I investigated prices all around the town we live in, Charlotte, NC.  My mission was to find out how organic food compares to non-organic food in 2016.  Furthermore, I wanted to uncover ways to improvise my shopping and decrease my spending. 

Below you will find the price break down.

A bit of information on stores chosen and visited:

  • I did not price out Whole Foods.  Though a beautiful store, it has prices that are above the ones listed below.
  • EarthFare is a local grocery store, similar to Whole Foods, with a lower price point.
  • Publix has just opened its doors in Charlotte, but its prices were higher then Harris Teeter, our local standard Grocery Store.
  • Walmart has a poor selection of organic fresh foods in our area.  However, it has a large selection of organic pantry items on-line with free shipping over $50.  Based on internet pricing, I found that Walmart carries a much higher selection of fresh organic foods in other cities.
  • Target has an improved and impressive selection of organic foods, but it does vary by location within Charlotte.  They also have an extensive online organic pantry selection that can be shipped for free with purchases over $25.
  • Costco is a whole sale store in this area that has made impressive changes in their organic selections.  Many shy away from Costco due to the membership fee.  FYI, if you get the business membership, and you shop there regularly, you get money back at the end of the year, and the cash return pays for the subsequent yearly membership plus groceries.
  • I reviewed Amazon prices as well, but you need to have Prime and there is a fee for shipping Pantry Items.
  • ThriveMarket is an online grocery store.  It has various organic pantry items that are cheaper then Amazon, Earth Fare, and Whole Foods, but not as inexpensive as Costco.  Moreover, they have a membership annual fee.  This is a great place if you specifically like an organic name brand product not found at Costco.

Learning Points:

  • Most people shop for the same groceries every week, generally.  It becomes an ingrained habit for busy families.
  • Most of us go to the same stores within our circle of errands, and we rarely deviate from the regular route.
  • Few people think outside the box when it comes to food shopping.  For instance, online grocery shopping from Target, Walmart, Costco is rarely considered.
  • Though many plan their meals ahead of time, most folks come up with dinner last minute, which leads to running into a nearby store for quick purchases, which can end up being quite pricey.
  • In 2016, the gap between Organic Foods and Non-Organic foods has shrunk significantly.  It is no longer true that Organic is More Expensive then Non-Organic or that Unhealthy Eating is Cheaper.
  • Remember the every time you buy an Organic Item, you are Voting for Organic.   Due to increased demand, companies are listening, prices are changing, and product diversity is expanding.

Graph Disclaimer:

  • The prices are for the Cheapest Organic Product in its category.  It was very difficult to find the same Name Brand item at all stores.  Also, I am not sure how much it matters in most cases.  I am leaving that to individual preference.
  • Most stores have their own organic labels.  If I am obsessed with one specific Name Brand, I listed it as the title.
  • Green Highlighted items are the best price per oz.
  • Dairy is Full Fat since I don't recommend fat free or low fat items.
  • The prices are for whole foods and not for snack items.  Snack items that are organic can be as unhealthy as non-organic snack items.  Label reading is a must, even if the package Claims Organic.  Turn the box around and read the ingredients.
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 As you may have noticed, there are some differences between non-organic and organic foods.  However, for many items, the price is the same.  In other instances organic is cheaper, and for the rest, the gap is much smaller then in previous years. 

One Last Note:

I always hear that the reason people eat at McDonalds is because it's the cheapest way to feed the family.

Lets take a look:

McDonalds:

Quarter Pounder with Cheese $3.94

Home Made:

  • Costco Grass Fed Beef, quarter lb - $1.37,
  • Horizon Organic Cheese Slice (H.T.) -$0.75,
  • Organic Whole Wheat Bun $0.41
  • Total - $2.53

Dropping the mike!!!!!!!!!!! I hope this helps change your mind about healthy eating and food shopping.  Many things have changed in the past several years as more people are becoming aware of the  importance of food for health.  You do not need to break the bank to eat healthy, you just have to shop with some planning and forethought.

In Good Health, Ana-Maria Temple, MD