By Eileen Ferrer, Skinny Gene Nutritionist
To buy organic or not to buy organic: that is the question. It is safe to assume that Shakespeare never had to ask this question himself; however, it is a question we may ask ourselves. For various reason we prefer to buy organic, such as for health by reducing the amount of pesticides and chemicals entering our body. Even for the environment, as organic farming is less damaging to Mother Earth. But buying organic may not be something everyone can afford. On the other hand it doesn’t have to break the budget either.
Buying Organic Without Breaking Your Budget
There is an exceptional amount of added effort to produce organic crops and animals, and non-food items. Organic farming utilizes natural fertilizers, such as compost for plants. Crops are rotated or good old fashioned hand weeding is practiced to manage weeds. Organic food and/or crops are generally produced using eco-friendly practices without use of synthetic chemicals, genetically engineered materials, sewage sludge or irradiation. Animal products certified as organic must come from livestock that has had access to the outdoors, has not been treated with hormones or antibiotics, and has been given organic feed. Therefore, by following these national standards, organic will usually possess a higher cost.
The Dirty Dozen vs Clean 15
Buying organic may be costly, but everyone can take part in the organic movement by being a thrifty shopper. If your produce budget is minimal, think about buying organic for at least these food items considered to be a part of the “Dirty Dozen.” The Dirty Dozen is a list provided by the Environmental Working Group of the top fruits and vegetables tested for the highest level of pesticide residue.
The Dirty Dozen includes:
- sweet bell peppers
- imported nectarines
- cherry tomatoes
- imported snap peas
PLUS these which may contain organophosphate insecticides, which EWG characterizes as “highly toxic” and of special concern:
- hot peppers
- kale/collard greens.
For a full list of the Dirty Dozen, as well as the list of the Clean Fifteen; top fifteen fruits and vegetables with the least amount of pesticide residue, click here. If some of these fruits or vegetables or other food items like milk or eggs are purchased often, go organic.
Other Tips to Buy Organic on a Budget:
- Get them in season. They will be more affordable, and possibly half the cost. Have a family day, and go to the local farmer’s market to see what fruits and veggies are in season.
- Buy in bulk. Only buy organic foods if it can be used or stored without spoiling.
- Compare prices. Fresh vs. frozen or dried vs. canned varieties of organic foods may be cheaper than fresh.
- Use coupons. Look for deals in the Sunday ads, daily grocery mailers or online websites to find coupons for organic products.
- Menu planning. Plan a menu based on the deals you find, which will help stay within budget.
- Go generic. Try the generic organic version that is similar to the brand named product.
- Plant a garden. Grow your own organic produce, and another great idea to incorporate the entire family or even the community for a community garden.
Utilizing these tips ultimately prevents you from taking a mini loan out just to purchase organic. Instead it provides options for everyone to acquire organic foods. If you have a food budget already set in stone, don’t break it; remember, go organic if it is something you use the most.