Organic foods have become more popular these days and a serious consideration when shopping for our families. Buying organic can be mystifying and pricey, which is usually the number one reason many of my clients say, “I don’t buy organic!”
If you have said the same thing, you may not know if the extra cost is really worth it or even what “organic” actually means. Making the switch to organic can be more expensive, but with a little planning, it can be done without breaking the bank. Keep reading, and you’ll discover a savvy shopping list can be green and affordable.
What does organic mean? The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as follows: Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations.
Wow, that is a mouthful. Simply said, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms or ionizing radiation. Organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.
Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic standards. Here are a few commonly asked questions regarding organic products and nutrition.
Q: So why does organic cost more?
A: Great question, right? I have been able to find several reasons like the fact that organic farmers don’t receive federal subsidies like conventional farmers. Also, the price of conventional food does not reflect the cost of environmental clean ups that that we pay for through our tax dollars. Furthermore, organic farming is more labor and management intensive. Lastly, organic farms are usually smaller than conventional farms, so they do not benefit from the economies of scale like larger growers.
Q: How should I know on a limited budget which organic products I should buy? A: A great place to start for shoppers on a budget would be the widely cited Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen” list. These are the top 12 produce foods to buy organic.
1. Apples 2. Celery 3. Strawberries 4. Peaches 5. Spinach 6. Nectarines 7. Grapes 8. Sweet Bell Peppers 9. Potatoes 10. Blueberries 11. Lettuce 12. Kale/Collard Greens
Q: Now, the big question … Is organic more nutritious? A: Probably not. At this time, there is not definitive research that makes this claim true, due to all of the other factors that affect nutrients, such as seeds, soil type, climate, post-harvest handling and crop variety.
The bottom line when it comes to budget-friendly shopping for organic produce is to go gradual and try your local farmers’ market. I love shopping here is South Florida where we have a great Farmers’ market right on the beach! In my area, farmers’ markets are open all year; find a market near you and make sure you buy what is in season for the best prices.
Co-ops are another good place to go. You can get together with friends and family and split the cost. If you have the time, space and desire, grow your own. Get the whole family involved.
We all have our priorities, and sometimes just taking a look at your buying habits can free up more dollars. For instance, maybe purchasing higher quality foods more important than that daily $4.00 latte or $3.00 energy drink. The savings from these budget cuts could mean more than just a balanced budget – it could put you in the green. Bon Appétit!
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