Buying Organic: When to Save and When to Splurge

The organic food market is booming as more people try to incorporate this healthy alternative into their daily diets. Forty-five percent of Americans are seeking out organic food, and more than half of Americans ages 18-29 are trying to include organic food in their diets, according to a 2014 Gallup poll. And with good reason. Organic food can benefit your health and the environment by eliminating pesticides and limiting its contribution to climate change.

But if it’s such an obvious choice, why aren’t more Americans buying organic? For many, the biggest obstacle to including organic alternatives in every meal is the price tag. Because organic food production requires more labor and demand outpaces supply, organic food is priced 10-40% higher than the conventional alternative, according to The Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health at the University of Washington.

If you don’t have the funds to afford organic foods for every meal, there are still some shortcuts that can keep your body and grocery budget healthy.

What is organic food?

Organic foods, according to law, are grown without using synthetic herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers. Organic farms are managed with a focus on renewable resources and conservation. Each organic farm is inspected by a government-approved official to ensure all farming practices are consistent with USDA regulations.

What are the benefits of organic food?

Organic food has been found to carry more of the antioxidants related to better health than non-organic food. It also carries a lighter load of potentially harmful pesticides.

Organic food production is also environmentally friendly. Organic farming improves soil structure and keeps harmful chemicals from polluting our drinking water. It’s also less dependent on fossil fuels than traditional methods of farming, reducing its effect on climate change.

With the popularity of organic products, many companies are jumping on the bandwagon, splashing green labels on their boxes and using words like “natural” and “free-range.” Those products are not necessarily organic. Look for the USDA Organic Seal (in green or black) to ensure you’re truly buying an organic product.

What foods should you always buy organic?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) lists 13 foods that carry the heaviest load of pesticides. Consider buying the organic alternative of these foods:

• Apples
• Strawberries
• Grapes
• Celery
• Peaches
• Spinach
• Sweet bell peppers
• Nectarines
• Cucumbers
• Cherry tomatoes
• Snap peas
• Potatoes
• Hot peppers
• Blueberries

What foods can I save on?

The EWG also lists 15 products with the lightest load of pesticides. If your grocery budget doesn’t allow for all organic food, you will be safe and savvy buying these foods in the traditional produce section.

• Avocados
• Sweet corn
• Pineapples
• Cabbage
• Sweet peas frozen
• Onions
• Asparagus
• Mangos
• Papayas
• Kiwi
• Eggplant
• Grapefruit
• Cantaloupe
• Cauliflower
• Sweet potatoes

Other Tips to Save

Look up your local farmers market schedule. Buying directly from the source may eliminate costs associated with a third party and hopefully result in a lower price tag for you.. Also be sure to thoroughly wash and peel your non-organic produce to remove any lingering pesticides, giving you the health benefits of organic food without the extra cost.

By knowing what you’re buying and where to make the right cuts, you can have the organic diet you want while staying within your grocery budget. Cheers to a healthier lifestyle that doesn’t break the bank!


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