Those of us who live off-campus or don’t have a meal plan make executive decisions every week at the grocery store.

Processed or organic? Run-of-the-mill Walmart-brand eggs or grass-fed chicken, cage-free eggs? Fresh farmer’s market vegetables or a box of Oreos?

Speaking personally, I can disclose that I’m not the healthiest of 22-year-old consumers. I live with two vegetarians, and they put me to shame. They’re constantly looking up Pinterest recipes and putting them to good use. They’re creative in that way. I am not. My weekly shopping list consists of a few essential fruits and veggies (enough lettuce for a salad and enough bananas to throw in my cereal), bread, eggs, milk, butter, some shameful frozen dinners, a staple-meat, like chicken, and some tea or coffee.

It’s simple, and it’s cheap.

When I shop, I’m not looking for organic or fat-free items. I’m looking at the price and grabbing whatever doesn’t worry my wallet.

However, despite my frugal ways, I began to wonder how much of a difference it would make if I started to eat healthier and consume foods produced organically over processed ones. I consulted my biology major roommatev Hayley and my nutrition major best friend Dylan. I told them how much I spend on groceries each week, and they said they spend just about the same amount. I was surprised, to say the least.

They told me it’s all about cutting back on the unnecessary items (like you, my sweet, sweet Oreos) and finding deals on foods that can benefit you in the long run.

Shopping at Walmart is good for the wallet but not necessarily for the body. Their produce is few and far between. If you’re absolutely strapped for cash, Walmart won’t kill you, but a quick trip to either Price Chopper or Hannaford will really get you the fresh veggies you need. My vegetarian and vegan friends also introduced me to brands like Horizon Milk and Annie’s Organic & Natural Mac and Cheese. A 30-cent trade-off for Kraft versus Annie’s won’t kill me.

I also found out that, if you are a vegetarian, or thinking about possibly converting to the dark-side, the brand Morningstar makes just about every meat substitute there is, all organically. An 8-pack of veggie burgers is actually $3 cheaper than a pack of chicken breasts at the deli. Morningstar also makes a soy-based riblet that tastes exactly like barbeque ribs. I was astounded.

Plattsburgh also has a Farmer’s Market that opens downtown in April, but until then, they have an online store you can visit. There’s also the North Country Food Co-Op, located on Bridge Street, which is only a quick jaunt from campus. I took a trip there as well and was pleasantly surprised to find fair prices and incredibly fresh produce. They also sell many types of organic soaps, essential oils, and, if you’re a chocolate lover, like myself, a range of organic chocolate bars.

After my little week-long experiment and my trips to various shops, I’ve concluded that it is possible to shop organically at a reasonable price. Of course, in certain circumstances, you’re paying a few extra cents or dollars here and there for produce, but there’s a key to shopping this way.

As my roommates told me, it’s a give and take process. It’s possible to find your staples and essentials in a healthy, organic way, but you can’t go overboard. You have to find the deals and plan out your list before hand so you don’t end up with 20 avocados you don’t actually need.

Email Courtney Casey at cp@cardinal pointsonline.com

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