Motherhood is full of surprises. Some big (how much I love that kid) and some a little less earth shattering (how much food she can eat). My daughter recently turned one and weighs just under 17 pounds, but the girl can put food away. Gone are the days of having leftovers from a pound of ground meat.
I thought it would be years before I noticed a change in my food spending, but I can already see the difference. I do my best to buy high quality, organic food. But is it worth spending the extra money to purchase organic food for kids?
Organic foods often have substantially higher percentages of important nutrients like antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as reduced amounts of pesticides than conventional foods.  Studies have found that growing and developing children are uniquely susceptible to the toxins in pesticides.  These findings, combined with other concerns of conventional farming, like sustainability and antibiotics use, lead me to prioritize organic foods as much as possible.
Want to buy more organic food, but unsure of how to stretch your budget? Here are my top five ways to save on organic foods for my family. While they are kid focused, they really apply to humans of every age.
And, one more thing: Not being able to buy all organic, or even some organic, is not something to stress over. I recommend to my clients that they buy the highest quality food they can afford, then move on. Concerned about pesticides? Wash your produce using a scrub brush and water and then peel the skin. Don’t let perfection get in the way of your child (or you!) enjoying the nutrients available in a good mix of fruits and vegetables.
Save on Organic Food for Kids #1: Plan Meals Everyone Can Enjoy
When my daughter first started on solid food, I was very focused on making HER food. While it is important to introduce age appropriate food to little ones (this book is fantastic for introducing foods), their plates don’t need to look completely different from ours.
You can save money and time by planning meals around what the youngest member of the family is eating. Roasted root veggies, steamed broccoli with ghee, and avocado slices work for everyone. If you prefer purees for little ones, take a small portion of the vegetables you are serving and blend. Ground meat and braised or stewed roasts are easy for those limited in teeth to chew, and they just happen to be the least expensive cuts of meat.
Add leftover veggies to bone broth, simmer, and puree with a stick blender for future meals. Leftovers as-is are perfectly fine, but I found this a good way to get bone broth in my daughter’s diet (read about why bone broth is so beneficial here). Plus, I have never enjoyed reheated veggies, so this amounts to less waste.
Save on Organic Food for Kids #2: Buy Frozen Fruit
If your child is anything like mine, he or she can take down a $6 pint of organic blueberries in thirty seconds flat. Organic fruit is expensive, especially when it’s not in season. While walking through the grocery store one day, I noticed the many bags of frozen organic fruit. As an experiment, I bought a bag of blueberries – a full pound of organic berries for less than $5! She loved them, so now we do a mix of frozen and fresh.
To serve, simply defrost in the fridge overnight. Since that requires planning ahead, you can also run under warm water before handing them over to the fruit maniac. Frozen organic blueberries, mixed berries, and mango are all typically less expensive than fresh.
Save on Organic Food for Kids #3: Choose the ‘Forgotten’ Meats
Incredibly nutritious meats like liver used to be a dinner staple. Organ meats have fallen out of favor, which is unfortunate as many of us, kids and adults alike, could benefit from the vitamins and minerals available in liver. But, to look on the bright side, the lack of interest keeps the costs low.
While liver may not sound great to you, your kiddo will most likely have no problem eating it. I started feeding my daughter liver around eight or nine months and it’s now one of her favorite foods.
Organic chicken liver is one of the least expensive meats, available for around $3 per pound at Whole Foods and local coop/health food stores. Liver can be served many ways, our favorite being a simple pate. To save time, make the pate with one pound of liver, portion into a silicon mold, and freeze. Once frozen, remove from the mold and store in a freezer bag. Pull out one piece per week to defrost in the fridge and eat with meals (my daughter typically eats a few bites with eggs). Limit kids to one ounce every other day, due to the high Vitamin A concentration.
Sardines are another great option for an affordable nutrient dense protein. They are available at any grocery store, but I find it most cost effective to buy online in bulk, from either Amazon or Thrive Market (best price, but requires a membership). Feed them to kiddos straight out of the tin. Keep in mind that they are whole fish, and have tiny bones.
Save on Organic Food for Kids #4: Limit Prepared Foods
There is a huge market for prepared baby and toddler food, with many organic options. I’m thankful for the variety that is available, but using prepared foods daily really adds up. A 4 oz pouch of sweet potatoes runs about $2; at around $1 per pound for organic sweet potatoes, you can make eight times as much food. We use prepared foods for convenience, but stay away from using at home. And I almost always buy online rather than in the store for substantial savings.
We (try to) limit pouches to when we travel and for emergency food in the diaper bag. For travel, we either bring a pack of pouches with us, or send them ahead to our destination, if possible. I love this variety pack from Peter Rabbit as there are no fillers or preservatives and it’s a great mix of fruits and veggies. I also keep a few in my bag for the times I forget to pack a snack or we are delayed.
We also keep freeze dried fruit in the diaper bag for planes and waiting in restaurants. My daughter doesn’t eat grains yet and these are a great alternative to Cheerios. Lucky Duck snacks are fruit only, and you can also find freeze dried raspberries and blueberries at Trader Joes. Beware, these are incredibly tart, but she seems to love them.
If you do chose to use prepared foods daily, I suggest buying in bulk online, or waiting for good sales at the store. We used mostly jarred food for about a month, after I burned myself out obsessing over my daughter’s food, and before I started practicing #1 above. We liked the Earth’s Best variety packs for fruits and veggies.
Save on Organic Food for Kids #5: Follow the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15
If you are looking for a way to prioritize your spending, consider using the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists. The EWG looks at overall pesticide load and ranks fruits and vegetables accordingly. Using this list can help you choose how to spend your food budget wisely to avoid the highest pesticide load. (Keep in mind, this list is based purely on load, not risk.) For example, I almost always buy organic bell peppers, but I don’t worry about seeking our organic avocados.
Do you have tips on how to save money while feeding your little one organic food? I’d love to hear yours in the comments!