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Eating Organic Foods and Staying Within Budget

There’s no question that more and more people are making the switch to fresh / organic foods, but getting away from more conventional foods can be expensive.  Below, we’ll explore some ideas on how you can make your organic food dollar go a little bit farther.

What is Organic?

First, let’s take a look at what constitutes “organic” when it comes to food… according to Wikipedia, Organic Foods are “are produced using methods of organic farming. Currently, the European Union, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan and many other countries require producers to obtain special certification in order to market food as organic within their borders. In the context of these regulations, organic food is food produced in a way that complies with organic standards set by national governments and international organizations. Organic food production is a heavily regulated industry, distinct from private gardening.

For the most part, synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers are not allowed, although certain organically approved pesticides may be used under limited conditions. In general, organic foods are also not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.

Helpguide.org discusses organic foods and states that,

The term ‘organic’ refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Specific requirements must be met and maintained in order for products to be labeled as ‘organic’.

Organic crops must be grown in safe soil, have no modifications, and must remain separate from conventional products. Farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers.

Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and be given organic feed. They may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal-by-products.

Organic Fruits and Vegetables

Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, a food studies and public health professor at New York University, says that when it comes to fruits and vegetables, given the choice, you should definitely go organic.  If you can’t afford to, Nestle suggest that we should at least try to buy the ones on the “dirty dozen” list.

The “dirty dozen” refers to 12 fruits and vegetables that the nonprofit Environmental Working Group says are among the most susceptible to pesticide residue, and thus most profitable to buy organic. They are:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

The Environmental Working Group also has a list of 12 fruits and veggies likely to have the fewest pesticide residues, which may not be worth the added cost of buying organic. They are:

  • Papaya
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Bananas
  • Kiwi
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Asparagus
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Sweet corn (frozen)
  • Avocado
  • Onions

Buy Organic Food in Bulk

Instead of buying small packages of items such as nuts and seeds, flours, cocoa, oats, cornmeal, or other basics, buy them by the pound.  Be sure, however, not to buy more than you will be able to use up in 2-3 months.  This will make sure that your stored food doesn’t get stale or lose nutritional value.

The Farmer’s Market

In nearly every town, there is a farmer’s market or green market where you can get great deals on organic foods.  Just make sure that you ask if the fruits and vegetables have been organically grown.

Start Canning

Having the ability to preserve your fresh fruits and vegetables yourself will save you money down the road. If you have never canned before, don’t worry… it’s easy to do and before you know it, you will be able to enjoy your organic foods all year long.

Grow Your Own

You don’t have to live on a farm or out in the country to start growing your own organic foods.  There are many vegetable plants that can be grown in the smallest of places… even the balcony on a high-rise apartment building.  You will be able to start canning your own vegetables before you know it.

Join a Natural Foods Co-op

Co-ops are natural food stores that are member owned. A small fee allows you to become a member, which not only gives you voting rights but usually allows you to save a lot of money in the long run. That’s because most co-ops regularly offer members-only sales and specials and usually feature organic foods for less money that at conventional grocery stores.


Just like shopping for conventional foods, keep a lookout for coupons from the stores in your area that sells organic foods.  Whole Foods and Earth Fare have weekly coupons.

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