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I would love to only buy organic products, however when working with our current one income budget it is often not the reality. And that is just where we are right now. So we buy some organic items and some nonorganic items. I also try to look for compromises that fit the budget, so an option that might be “better” than what we have been doing but maybe not the “ideal” yet.
Maybe you are way ahead of me in this area of wellness, if so please feel free to share any tips you might have about best places to get organic food or ways to do so affordably. Or maybe you are skeptical about the whole “organic” labeling and see it as another marketing ploy that is mostly used to make money.
In my About page I share about the concept of being able to vote with our money. This is one of those situations where we are able to “vote” with our spending choices to tell stores, large agriculture and farms what it is we want them to produce.
What is the Difference Between Organic and Non-Organic
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):
Produce can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. In instances when a grower has to use a synthetic substance to achieve a specific purpose, the substance must first be approved according to criteria that examine its effects on human health and the environment.
As for organic meat, regulations require that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on pasture), fed 100% organic feed and forage, and not administered antibiotics or hormones.
The USDA gives the USDA Organic label to those food items that have gone through the certification process. This gives consumers the confidence that what they are purchasing is not a genetically modified organism (GMO) and that it is free of unwanted chemicals of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
For a farm to become USDA Certified Organic, their farming process from seed, to soil, to how they water the crops, manage pest and weeds must be documented. They also need to be inspected every year.
Conventional or Non-Organic produce can be a genetically modified organism (GMO) that has been designed for various purposes. Some GMOs are targeting the plant’s ability to withstand pests or to better tolerate chemicals in various herbicides that are used or to enhance a plant’s ability to grow with less resources or last longer after being harvested.
Synthetic fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides can be used on the plants to help it grow, prevent or remove weeds and pests, such as insects. This helps to protect the crop and less of the crop is lost to insect and weed damage.
All of this is done to be able to produce more from each crop. This obviously impacts the farmer’s bottom line in regards to profitability. It also helps to use less land and environmental resources to produce the crop.
I understand the dilemma for the farmers who need to be able to compete in the marketplace but still make enough money to cover their costs and make enough that it is worthwhile to put out the time and effort required to farm. And I also understand the dilemma for the government who puts regulations around farming practices; we are a large country with many mouths to feed. This causes the need to have plenty of food at the cheapest or most affordable amount possible. Hence the openness to and even dependance on synthetic fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but I wonder what the cost is to the nation’s overall health status and consequently healthcare expenses.
Ways to Make Your Organic Dollars Count
Prioritize What You Purchase Organic
I know many people who commit to eating a completely organic menu, but have a huge monthly bill to support this healthy habit. It can be daunting to have another mortgage sized budget line item every month when trying to feed your family.
Maybe, like me you are willing to allocate some of your weekly or monthly budget towards organic or natural food for you and/or the family. One of the easiest ways is to follow the Environmental Working Group Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists to make the biggest impact to your health by minimizing some of the largest amounts of toxins that we are exposed to through our foods.
These lists are put together on an annual basis and includes details about why a particular item made it on the list. Here is a summary for the lists that came out a few weeks ago.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE DIRTY DOZEN™ FOR 2018
For the 2018 Dirty Dozen list, EWG singled out produce with the highest loads of pesticide residues. This year the list includes, in descending order, strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes and sweet bell peppers.
Each of these foods tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and contained higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce.
THE CLEAN FIFTEEN™
EWG’s Clean Fifteen list of produce least likely to contain pesticide residues included avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbages, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplants, honeydews, kiwis, cantaloupes, cauliflower and broccoli. Relatively few pesticides were detected on these foods, and tests found low total concentrations of pesticide residues.
Shop Competitively Online for Organic Products
With websites such as Amazon, Walmart and Thrive Market it is easy to find many organic products that you can purchase to replace products you use everyday. There are many other websites that are started all the time that specialize in organic products.
Some of these organic products are not too much more than you are currently spending, depending on your brand preference. And there can be deals or coupons to help keep costs down or membership incentives. Or try shopping with EBATES at some of these online stores to receive a percentage in earnings back from your purchases. I love being able to double up on earning cash back from my credit card points for these purchases too.
There are also many online boxed organic produce that can be purchased and sent directly to your home. This is similar to the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) concept of purchasing produce from a local farm ahead of the harvest and picking up your “share” of the harvest at set times and locations. The online version is a bit easier with having it sent directly to your home without the need to coordinate a pickup. These services vary by location within the US, so it is best to do a search online that includes your state or region.
As with many other areas of wellness, if you are not able to go all in with everything being organic then it is helpful to prioritize the areas or items that you personally feel should be organic for you and your family. This helps when needing to spend your family’s money wisely as well as improve the quality of the food you are purchasing and eating.
Sometimes there are areas you can make adjustments that lead to better or fresher food that might not be certified organic but is better than what you have been doing. Sign up here to be notified of additional posts as we continue the series of improving what we eat, while keeping our family’s budget in mind.
Do you currently eat exclusively organic? What ways do you find to do it affordably? If not, do you eat some organic and some non-organic? How does that work for you?
Disclaimer: For informational and educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you have a health concern, a medical condition, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or are taking any medication please consult your healthcare provider.