Go Organic Without Going Broke
There are plenty of good reasons to go organic: food safety scares; concerns about genetically modified crops and their effects on the human body at the cellular level; high levels of chemicals and pollution that growing plants may be exposed to; and the burden of ethical responsibility for limiting the ecological impact that imposed on the planet.
Anyone who has attempted to go fully organic knows that there is an organic version of almost any consumable product nowadays; from common fruits and vegetables, to cotton for clothing, cosmetics and hygiene products, to pet food. Organic options can be found in many unexpected markets as well: automobile interiors, home furnishings, and fertilizers to grow your own organic foods.
However, choosing to go fully organic is quite expensive and often not very practical on a daily basis.
The key is to find a balance; knowing when and where to spend the extra money on organic products that will have a real benefit for your health. Here are a few helpful tips to living a more organic lifestyle while staying on budget.
Tip #1: Avoid the Dirty Dozen
Every year, the United States Department of Agriculture conducts tests on non-organically grown produce and livestock; evaluating their levels of pesticides and chemicals. These tests are then distributed, and can easily be found online. Similar lists are published in other developed countries, and so it is easy for consumers to evaluate the farming practices and chemical additives of many of the products available at supermarkets across the globe.
The Dirty Dozen represents the dozen or more non-organic food products that have the highest amounts of chemicals in them. To limit your chemical intake, it is best to avoid these items, or buy them as organics.
The Dirty Dozen often includes: apples, sweet peppers, celery, fatty meats (it’s actually the fat, not the muscle, that holds the chemicals), kale, lettuce and bitter leaf greens, milk, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, strawberries, and tomatoes. Of course, there are always exceptions, but in general limiting intake of these foods as will lessen your intake of their non-organic chemicals.
For sure, there are still some chemicals used in the production of many common foods that
are not on the lists mentioned above. In general, however, it can be a waste of money to buy organic versions of foods that are already grown safely. Most chemicals are only on the surface of the food, and products that mature very quickly don’t typically have much pesticide residue because the pests don’t have a lot of time to attack, and the farmers don’t want to spend money needlessly protecting their crops.
Most of these foods do not need to be purchased as organics: some of the best foods to not buy as organics include asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli and cauliflower, cabbage, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, eggplant/aubergines, garlic, kiwis, mangoes, mushrooms, onions, pineapple, sweet potatoes and yams, and watermelons. For the most part, the general rule of thumb is that if you don’t eat the skin, then the produce will be fairly safe.
Tip #2: Only Buy Organic for Foods Eaten Regularly
One of the simplest ways to be organic more often is to only buy organic foods that you eat
often, since these will have the biggest overall benefit to health. Don’t buy organic for foods that are not part of your regular diet, such as organic coconut milk for a Thai curry that you will likely only prepare once a year at home. Buying organic for specialty products means that the cost will be much higher, and the net reduction in chemical intake very low.
Unlike coconut milk, potatoes are a common part of many people’s diets, and the organic version of potatoes is only nominally more expensive. Thus, the extra cost of buying organic is money well spent.
Tip #3: Shop for Meats Before Veggies
The logic behind shopping for meat before veggies when heading to the supermarket is two-fold. First, the difference in cost between organic and non-organic meats can be pretty significant, but because all fresh meats have a very short shelf-life, it is often easy to get organic meat on sale or to shop around for the best price. Afterwards, you can plan the rest of your weekly meals around your meat purchase.
Going to the market with the idea that you will purchase the meat first means that you are less likely to buy a lot of vegetables and fruits that go uneaten and thus must be discarded, adding to waste in your budget.
The only thing to remember is that you should keep your meats cool while shopping to avoid spoilage, either by putting them in an insulated container or having your butcher wrap them and keep them refrigerated while you finish your shopping.
Tip #4: Shop for Sales and Don’t Fear the Freezer
Shopping for organics that are on sale is a great way to save some cash on the grocery bill.
Plus, when you find foods on sale that you eat often, it may be a good idea to stock up on an extra supply and freeze these products for later use. Freezing is especially smart when it comes to organic meats, berries and stone fruits that don’t loose any taste after being frozen for a few weeks and then thawed for use.
Additionally, frozen non-organic vegetables such as peas, carrots or spinach typically have much lower chemical contents than the same foods sold fresh, so buying organic frozen vegetables can prove to be a waste as well.
Tip #5: Get to the Root of Your Food
Many local farms, both certified organic and not, will sell their produce directly to the public, often at much cheaper prices than the supermarket – indeed, there is no packaging or shipping cost to be accounted for. Additionally, talking to the farmer is a good way to get an idea of what, if any, benefit there is to buying certain items as organic because, in some cases, local farmers already practice organic farming, but have not gone through the trouble of certification due to the cost or regulatory hassles.
Tip #6: Grow Your Own
For the ultimate organic experience, there is nothing that compares to homegrown foods.
Sunshine is free, water is very cheap, and soil can be used year after year. Plus composting biodegradable garbage means that you will have readily-available fertilizer available that doesn’t pose health risks and it is completely free to boot.
Anyone with even a very small space that gets some natural light can grow their own organic foods for both health and financial savings. For some useful hints to get started, just scout around on the internet for hundreds of organic gardening blogs and websites.
One Simple Warning:
Trying to go organic, whether on a budget or not, does have one potential health drawback. In places where a well balanced diet of organics is lacking (or prohibitively expensive), there is the risk of falling into bad eating habits, such as a high carb/low protein diet, or a diet that lacks essential vitamins and minerals. Ultimately, going organic is intended to help a person live healthier, so never sacrifice good sense for organic foods or financial savings.
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