I’d like to preface this post with a fact: I don’t always eat organic. Wait what? I know . . . in my perfect world all the food would be fresh organic deliciousness in my belly!
But for many people, myself included, eating exclusively organic is many times prohibitively expensive! Therefore, getting ahold of organic goods, for me, is a matter of prioritizing and strategizing (and making compromises when needed) and these strategies and tips are what I’d like to share today 🙂
First things first, is organic actually better?
The question I hear from many people is this: if organic and non-organic are practically the same, then why the heck would I pay more for organic foods? But the truth is, there are many health and environmental benefits to organic foods. Organic foods, by definition, are grown, raised, and made ready to eat without the use of:
- Most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides
- Sewer sludge fertilizers
- Growth hormones
- Genetic engineering (GMOs)
- Many synthetic additives
- Artificial ingredients
When we buy and eat organic foods, we lessen our personal exposure to many environmental toxins, and also support agricultural processes that do not put as many toxins into the environment in the first place (both of which are beneficial to our health since many of these toxins have been categorized as potential carcinogens and linked to other negative health effects).
Soil quality of organic produce is also typically better as it has not been depleted by excess chemicals, therefore organic fruits and veggies are typically more nutrient-dense as well.
Additionally, organic processes are typically *slightly* better for animal welfare, in that organically raised animals cannot be given hormones or antibiotics in the absence of illness to promote growth, they cannot be fed mammal or poultry by-products, and living conditions, nutrition, and care must all meet minimum standards.
I made it a point a couple years ago to do my very best to only buy organic animal products. The reasons for this are twofold: 1) I want to support a better quality of life for the animals involved, and 2) I can’t wash antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides (from the non-organic feed eaten and digested by the animal) out of my yogurt or hamburger.
I’d like to eat more organic foods, now what?
As I mentioned, sometimes eating exclusively organic is just not feasible (of course, if it is within your budget I’d highly recommend it)! Below are some strategies I use to incorporate organic foods into my diet:
- Look for sales. When fruits and veggies are in-season, they are much more likely to be discounted. Check for store specials, and be flexible in making substitutions in your recipes/meals based on the items that are cheapest. Additionally, buying organic meat while it is on sale can save lots of money. Meat is easily stored for longer periods of time in the freezer, so don’t be afraid to load up!
- Buy frozen. If the item you are looking for is not affordable or available fresh, check the frozen section. Just be sure to read the label for any added ingredients.
- Shop the farmers market and ask the vendor about how the food is grown or raised. The organic certification process is expensive, and some smaller farms may opt to follow organic processes without becoming certified. So, you may be able to find non-organic foods that still meet organic standards, which may save you some money.
- Prioritize. For me, organic animal products are a priority, and therefore I often eat conventional produce. But perhaps your priorities are different. Try to choose organic options of the foods you eat very frequently, or foods that may have a higher toxic load (see #5).
- Consider the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen.” As it turns out, some fruits and veggies are more likely to be loaded with chemicals than others. The Environmental Working Group dubs them “the dirty dozen” and suggests buying organic options when available. Similarly, there is also a list of “clean fifteen” which are the safest produce to buy conventionally (this list is update each year; the posters below show the produce for 2015).
Opting for organic foods is, in my opinion, a great choice! I hope these tips are helpful for you as you incorporate more organic options into your diet. If you found this information useful, or know someone who would, please share!