Organic produce doesn’t have to be costly. Here’s how to spend wisely.
Don’t think you can afford organic food on your family’s grocery budget? Think again. With a few simple tips, you can become a savvy organic shopper and your family will reap the benefits.
Choosing to go organic is an easy decision to make when you understand the advantages. First and foremost, by choosing organic you are avoiding pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals used in conventional production methods. These chemicals have been shown to have adverse effects on our health and the health of our children, and many of them are known carcinogens.
Second, by choosing organic food you are taking a huge step towards helping our environment. With a reduction in chemicals for production, and care and support for the soil, organic farming is better all round for Mother Earth. And last but not least, organic food just tastes better. If you don’t believe me – try it! Be warned though, you may have a hard time going back.
Organic food is more expensive than conventional food simply because it costs more to produce. Organic food can only be labelled organic if the farm it comes from has followed very stringent guidelines that prohibit the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified seeds, or crop radiation. Following these guidelines, paying for yearly farm inspections to maintain certification, and the manual labour required to control insects and weeds, means higher prices for organic food for the consumer.
While most parents want the healthiest foods for their kids, and agree that organic is the best way to go, it’s hard on the budget to always choose organic fruits and vegetables. Here are a few simple ways to stretch your organic dollars.
Eat seasonally and locally. As consumers, we are used to buying the produce that we need all year round. When buying organic, we need to alter that thinking. Organic foods are grown and harvested according to the seasons. If we buy our organic produce locally and in season, it’s much easier on the wallet. Buying organic food that is not in season or grown elsewhere will be more expensive.
Visit your local farmers’ market. Buying directly from the farmer cuts out the middle man, and you get to talk to the person who is responsible for growing your food. Many small family farms may not be certified organic – this is after all a long, tedious, expensive process – but nevertheless use organic farming methods. It pays to chat with farmers about how they grow their produce; you may just find organic foods at very reasonable prices.
Join a CSA. CSA is Community Supported Agriculture. Some CSAs are certified organic, and even those that are not tend to practise organic farming methods. Again, it pays to talk to the farmer. When you join a CSA, you buy a share of the farmer’s bounty, giving the farmer access to guaranteed funds to help support their farm and crops. This is a mutually beneficial partnership for both farmer and member.
Grow your own. The best way to know for sure how your food is grown and to cut costs is to grow it yourself. Growing your own is very rewarding – avoiding pesticides and other chemicals, and using organic fertilizers and your own compost produces beautiful and delicious vegetables. It is so satisfying to head out to the garden each afternoon to pick food for your dinner. You gain a whole new appreciation for the food on your plate. If you have never grown your own food, start small – a patio tomato plant or some fresh herbs. You will be amazed at how satisfying and cost effective it is.
Use these lists. The U.S.-based Environmental Working Group (EWG) has compiled two lists for consumers – The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen (see sidebar). The Dirty Dozen lists the 12 foods you should buy organically; they use many different chemicals in their production and have high residues. Your organic dollars are best spent on The Dirty Dozen. The Clean Fifteen on the other hand are foods with little chemical exposure in production and low residues. You can save your organic dollars on these foods.
With a few simple tips you can stretch your dollars a little further, enjoy organic food and feel good about what you are doing for the environment, your community and your health. Happy eating!
The Dirty Dozen
Peach, Apple, Bell pepper, Celery, Nectarine, Strawberry, Cherries, Kale, Lettuce, Grapes (imported), Carrot, Pear
The Clean Fifteen
Onion, Avocado, Sweet corn, Pineapple, Mango, Asparagus, Sweet peas, Kiwi, Cabbage, Eggplant, Papaya, Watermelon, Broccoli, Tomato, Sweet potato