As a mom on a budget, I routinely experience feelings of guilt and uncertainty at the grocery store, trying to decide whether or not to buy organic. In a perfect world, one where I have an unlimited source of money to spend on groceries, I would always buy organic. Unfortunately, like most of us, I don’t live in that perfect world. I only have a set amount each week to spend on feeding my family and since organic food is more expensive, buying exclusively organic is not a possibility. I have to pick and choose what to buy based on what I can afford and how important it is to buy that particular item organic. What many people don’t know is that not all organic foods are created equally. Meaning that buying certain foods “organic” is more important then other foods.
Why Buy Organic At All?
You may be wondering, what the big deal is about buying organic food anyway? Why should I spend so much more to essentially get the same thing? Nutritionally there isn’t any difference between an organic vegetable and a non-organic one. They both contain the same amount of vitamins and minerals. The key difference is what isn’t in the organic version. Organic vegetables are free of synthetic pesticides and organic meat is raised without the use of antibiotics and growth hormones. Organic does not mean that the food is free of pesticides. Organic farmers are permitted to use some pesticides, just not the synthetic ones. Organic foods also have less of an impact on the environment as synthetic pesticides used in traditional farming can wreak havoc on the soil and water sources nearby, effecting fish and other wildlife.
When Buying Organic Is Important and When It Isn’t:
There are some foods that you will definitely want to buy organic if possible. These are foods that have thin edible skins that are not easily scrubbed. Berries are at the top of this list. Lettuce, celery, carrots, potatoes and fruits like apples, peaches and pears should also be purchased organic when feasible as they are typically sprayed heavily with pesticides and have soft, thin skins that either make it impossible to scrub or completely eliminate the toxins. If you have to buy these items non-organic at the very least make sure they were produced in the United States. The US has much stricter regulations than many other countries. Fruits and vegetables with thick inedible skins are not as important to buy organic. Oranges, bananas, avocados, onions, peas and eggplant fall into this category. Just be sure to wash them before you cut into them to make sure you aren’t transferring any of the pesticides from the skin to the inside. There are also vegetables that pests don’t find all that attractive like broccoli, asparagus and cabbage that you also don’t need to worry about as much.
Meat is another food where buying organic makes a big difference, but the difference in price can be staggering. The best answer for those on a budget is to eat less of it or eliminate it from your diet all together. Personally I’m trying to eat less, that way I can use the extra savings to buy meat that is organic or at least not fed growth hormones.
Other Things To Consider…
- Growing vegetables in your own garden is the cheapest and I would argue best way to obtain organic produce!
- Buying locally can often be even better than buying organic. Many of these farms are not certified “Organic”, but this doesn’t mean that their produce is full of pesticides or that the meat they raise is full of antibiotics and growth hormones. The best thing about buying local is the fact that you can talk to the person who raised or grew the food and find out exactly what process they use. Most farmers are more than happy to talk to you about it. Obviously there is a bit of driving around and planning involved with buying food locally, but what I love about it is the personal interaction. It’s a much more human experience than that of the grocery store and I feel good keeping more of my money in my area.
- If you can’t afford to buy organic or organic food is not available where you live, don’t avoid fresh fruits and vegetables. Pesticides or not they are still the best most nutritious food you can eat. Just make sure to wash the produce thoroughly using a scrub brush that you use exclusively for washing fruits and vegetables.