Must know tips and tricks to shopping organic on a budget in Singapore
When we discovered our local organic farmers market back in Australia, we instantly felt at home. Fresh, plump, organic produce overflowing the fold-out tables and farmers Utes, all going for less than half the price than your average grocery store! Brett and I quickly made it our Sunday ritual to get the weeks groceries from these markets when we first moved in together. There was nothing that could compete with good coffee, fresh produce and bottles of wine that we just couldn’t say no to. Not to mention the adorable dachshund puppy that would welcome us at the market gates.
So with this idyllic scene in mind, flash forward to life in Singapore, where organic produce is at best crammed into a few bays of a supermarket. We were at a loss. Our realities of chatting to local farmers and being handed discounts without asking were gone. It looked like we would have to come to terms with paying 3x as much for old, imported produce from chain supermarkets.
Instead of wallowing in despair or reverting to buying lower quality food, we decided to turn our situation into a challenge. How could we get the best quality products without sacrificing all our savings to do so? Over the past months, these are the strategies that we’ve used for shopping organic on a budget in Singapore:
Utilise online shopping
Even though products are expensive here, services aren’t. Singapore has a surprising range of other platforms that will cater to the organic crowd, however the prices can quickly become a big barrier for those on a budget. We have found that Opentaste and Redmart by Lazada are our go-to’s for everything as they both offer a great range for reasonable prices. Buying online can be far cheaper than in store. You also get access to many different brand options, making it far easier to compare prices and check off ingredient lists. Once you know your favourites, it’s a simple click away to reorder and have them arrive at your door! If you find yourself using these services regularly, many offer a small yearly fee for unlimited free shipping. The only major downside here is that you can’t pick your produce. Too many times we have had cravings for guacamole, only for the avocados to be delivered hard…sad times.
Invest in yourself!
The reason why we love online shopping services is bulk order options. Opentaste has a specific bulk foods category, where you can get a 12 pack of bananas for $2.99! compared to the $2.15 you’ll pay at the grocery store for a bunch of 3. Or 10 organic apples at $0.79 each, compared to the $1.80 per apple on other online organic stores. But it doesn’t stop there – you can find bulk savings in veggies, meats and pantry items too. Just pay careful attention to the descriptions for each item as only some options are organic.
The “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen”!?
We won’t blame you for thinking of old westerns as Brett did the first time I told him about it. THIS our dear friends is a handy, go-to chart to see which fruits and veggies are best bought organic. Some produce is far more chemically exposed than others, so the key here is to only buy the ‘dirty dozen’ if they are organic. For example, Spinach has more pesticide residue by weight than all other produce, with three- fourths of samples tested contaminated with a neurotoxic bug killer – YIKES - buy your spinach organic people! On the other hand, the clean fifteen are the foods with the least amount of harmful pesticides, so it’s OK to grab from the non-organic section if you’re looking to save a few dollars. This list is great to portion out organic spending. Find the list here.
A follow on benefit that we’ve found from utilising a one click online reorder system, is that it’s easy to avoid the trap of hunger buying. We all know that feeling of regret, walking out of a store with far more than we actually needed! By setting up your ideal weekly order, you remove the temptation to splurge or make poorly informed choices. This is also another great way to help control your weekly budget.
Although we can’t speak from personal experience, we’ve heard wet markets are a great way to get fresh veggies for the cheapest prices. This sounds like a great option if you’re time flexible at 6am, but for us this is a little too inconvenient to sustain. That, and because markets tend to make me trade dollar bills for sweet potatoes faster than my wallet can say, ‘you really should stop’. If you know of a local market or shop that does great organic produce here in Singapore, comment below as we’d love to stop by!
Know your product
Deciphering the nature of your produce isn’t an easy task by any means. Not all produce bought from a “fresh” market is organic, and not all organic produce may be labelled as such. Why can’t food just be food?? In certain cases, produce imported from poorer countries may actually be organic, as the locals may not have access to chemicals and harmful pesticides that are typically added.
Organic certification can also be an expensive and lengthy process for producers. Immediately dismissing something without a familiar organic stamp can mean that you’re missing out. There is a growing trend for true craft producers to forgo certification as they believe nothing should be added in the first place. If you’re at a market, try to speak to the people running the stall and get as much info as you can out of them. If you’re buying online or in a supermarket, this is really tricky, so stick to the label, your gut and the clean fifteen + dirty dozen.
Be kind to yourself
Last but not least, is do what you can in the moment. Buying all fresh, organic produce is obviously amazing, but we are very aware that budget constraints can quickly run you down. I had planned to do a 6-day juice cleanse before I calculated it would cost me multiple times my weekly food budget to do it properly… Not the best feeling. But we quickly decided that doing little things over a long time will yield more permanent results. We’ll be buying enough organic fruits and veggies for a green smoothie every morning, rather than cramming all of that clean eating into one intense week.
What started as an expensive weekly scavenger hunt here in Singapore is now as easy as clicking a button on Thursday night and having it appear on Sunday morning. This new system will never really compare to our old rituals at the farmers markets, but we’re incredibly grateful to at least have access to the types of products we used to. If you are lucky enough to live in a place where you too can experience the weekly wonder of a local farmers market, we couldn’t recommend it highly enough! But if, like us, you’re not so fortunate we sincerely hope that these strategies can be as useful to you as they are for us.
We are ALWAYS looking for new ways to optimise our grocery shop! So, if you have any suggestions, tips and tricks or even questions, post them below. We would love to hear from you!