Financial Feud: Buy organics vs. Be frugal

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In Dispute:

$40 a week

The Argument:


My wife insists on buying organic groceries, but I think they’re unreasonably expensive. She typically spends $100 a week on organics and other wholesome foods from Whole Foods. Non-organic versions of the same groceries usually cost me about $60 at a nearby grocery chain. She says organics are worth the extra cost, because they’re healthier and better for our family. She may have a point, but I don’t think they’re worth an extra $40 a week. AM I RIGHT?

Expert Opinion:

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The Argument:

When you compare individual food items, the difference in cost can seem pretty trivial. By way of example, a gallon of whole milk at our local grocer currently costs $2.50. My wife insists on buying a gallon of organic from Trader Joe's for $5.99. This adds up over time.

She also buys grass-fed beef from a local farmer's market for about $6.00 per pound. I’m pretty sure I can get regular beef at a nearby chain for half the price. She says she doesn't trust meat from just anywhere. She also refuses to buy apple juice sourced from China, even though it costs $0.50 to $0.75 less per carton than the juice she buys. On top of all that, she spends a good deal of money on supplements.

Of course, none of this will break the bank. We are generally thrifty. We save more than 25 percent of our take-home pay for investments and retirement and maintain a $50,000 rainy day cash account. So the grocery issue is more of an annoyance than anything, but we do bicker about it weekly.

You’re right, little expenses can certainly add up over time. Your wife may not recognize the significance of the cost difference, however, if she isn’t the one reviewing bank statements or the family budget every week. On the other hand, costs might not matter to your wife at all if she feels that healthy eating is more important than money.

Whatever the case may be, there are a couple of things you can do to reach a compromise. First, make sure the two of you review bank statements and cash flow together every week, so that you’re both aware of how much money is coming in, how much is going out and where money is being spent. From there, discuss the family budget and determine how much of your income should go toward food. In his most recent book The Total Money Makeover, personal finance expert Dave Ramsey recommends spending five to 15 percent of your budget on food. You might consider using this recommendation as a benchmark for starting your discussion.

Since healthy eating is obviously important to your wife though, and saving money seems important to you, the two of you are going to have to find some middle ground. You could work on creating other ways to obtain organic foods without overspending, like gardening or seeking out local organic farmers who charge less than Trader Joe’s. You could also try to identify certain foods that your wife would be willing to purchase that are un-organic. And finally, I’d recommend keeping things in perspective. After all, in the grand scheme of things, is $40 per week worth arguing over?

About the author

Joy Smithson is the program director for the financial stability initiative at United Way of Southeast Mississippi.


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