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Organically Grown for less

Shopping for quality organic foods on a tight budget is difficult. Luckily Tampa has a great selection of natural grocery stores from which to choose. For organic shop patrons like senior Simi Bhullar, buying food at a normal store is not an option.

Bhullar said she shops organic “because it comes from smaller, local farms and it’s free of hormones and pesticides; besides, it just tastes better.”

Although Publix has an organic food brand called Greenwise, those who consistently shop organic would be better served at a store specializing in natural and organic products.

Because Publix doesn’t specialize in organic and natural foods, the prices are often higher on most items than they would be elsewhere. Energy and protein bars are the exception, unless there’s a sale. Balance Bar prices at Publix beat even the organic store Nutrition S’mart, which has the lowest prices overall.

Below is a sampling of natural food stores in the area. All are set up like supermarkets and carry everything from makeup to food. Besides food, all of these natural food stores have teas and vitamin supplements. Nutrition S’mart has the largest collection of health-related books and the best prices on teas. Vitamin prices vary from store to store depending on the product. Harvest Market has the smallest selection of vitamins.

Beauty products are also available in organic food stores. Herbal hair tints, Burt’s Bees Products, makeup and perfume line the shelves. The beauty section of Chuck’s had some wonderful, solid Indian perfumes for only $6.99. Solids tend to last longer than spray perfumes, so they might be an interesting alternative. Called Temple Essences, they smell delicious but aren’t overpowering.

Chuck’s Natural Food Market

Chuck’s Natural Food Market, located on 56th Street just off Fowler Avenue, is a convenient place for organic and natural food shopping. Chuck’s does tend to have better prices on organic foods than Publix. For example, Publix was charging more than $4 for a bag of blended Terra chips. Those same chips were available at Chuck’s for more than a dollar less.

Be sure to check out the juice bar in the back of the store. According to owner Chuck Homuth, the all-natural juice bar uses only fruit and contains no syrup in its smoothies.Eager to promote the healthy lifestyle, Homuth is introducing a 10 percent discount on groceries for anyone with valid USF identification.

Abby’s

Produce at Abby’s looks fabulous and the prices are reasonable or lower than competitors. The produce is one of two excellent reasons to visit Abby’s. The other attraction is the in-store organic café called Eden. The sandwich bar features fresh organic ingredients that are healthy and tasty.

An extension of Eden is the deli case that includes everything you would need for an organic picnic. Chicken, herb roasted turkey and maple-ginger salmon can be bought by the pound. Various pre-made salads are also available.

Prices here are moderate for organic foods but some of the sales are excellent. A pint of soy green tea ice cream was on sale for only $1.99. While Balance Bars were on sale for 99 cents.

Nutrition S’mart

Nutrition S’mart has the best prices overall and widest selection of organic foods. The prices make it feasible to buy a week’s worth of organic groceries. While still more expensive than non-organic food, the prices for packaged foods are lower than Chuck’s, with some items priced almost 50 percent cheaper. Across the board, Nutrition S’mart beats out the competition in price.

Nutrition S’mart is more likely to have cut-rate sales than the other natural food stores, particularly on prepackaged items. Drew’s Salad dressings were available in other stores for prices ranging from $3.59 to $2.79, but two varieties of Drew’s were on sale at Nutrition S’Mart for just $1.99.

The best deal in the store was Tasty Thai noodles, at an everyday price of a mere 69 cents. The noodles come in a variety of exotic flavors like Lemongrass Chili and Bangkok Curry.

Nature’s Harvest Market

Nature’s Harvest Market is about 20 minutes from USF on MacDill Avenue. Of the four stores, Nature’s Harvest Market is the most pleasing to the eye. The setup and color scheme contributes to a richer shopping experience. The deli includes hot foods and fresh muffins. Prices were inconsistent. Some of its sales, which are posted on yellow cards, beat Nutrition S’mart. Other items’ prices, like Amy’s frozen non-dairy burritos, at $2.29 each, were higher than most of their competitors.

Where the Harvest Market really shines is in the produce area. Its selection is more extensive, beautifully kept and sometimes cheaper. Fresh high-quality pineapples went for only $2.99 each, a full three dollars less than one of its competitors.