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Eating Organic

Day 3: Eating Out

Eating organic at home is easy. Finding a quick meal out, even in New York City, proves harder. I head to Savoy, a downtown bistro that serves organic food. Although the word "organic" does not appear on the menu, chef/owner Peter Hoffman says the food is not only organic, it's grown locally and served in season. I can't taste the absence of pesticides, of course, but the beef with fried yucca and crème caramel are wonderful.


Day 4: Taste Test

Lily, 13, skips her usual lunch of a PB&J sandwich and chips and packs an all-organic one — Stonyfield Farm yogurt and a turkey sandwich — instead. Oliver, 11, misses his Total, but says the Kashi Organic Promise Strawberry Fields cereal is pretty good. He deems Amy's Kitchen Organic Cheese Pizza "the best pizza he's ever had." We all enjoy a dinner of organic chicken sausages grilled by my husband, Steve. So far, so good.


Day 5: At the Farm

Even in winter, my local farm stand — Holbrook's, in Bethel — sells organic hothouse greens. Owners John and Lynn Holbrook have not yet sought organic certification for their farm, as it would be too costly (about $20,000 they estimate). Although John says his produce is grown — and has been grown for decades — without pesticides, he is no longer legally allowed to label his vegetables "organic."


Day 6: $$ Matters

"Why do most organic meats, produce, and packaged goods cost 20 percent more than conventional?" I ask Sandra Steingraber, an ecologist and author of Living Downstream (Random House; 1998). Organic farming relies on labor — which is costly — instead of chemicals, Steingraber explains. But modern farming practices can exact a price we don't tally at the register. Among its costs: polluted water and soil and depleted ozone.



Day 7: Last Supper

Overall, I paid $50 more this week for groceries I know to be pesticide free and easier on the environment. More than anything else, the week has taught me that the little decisions I make while grocery shopping have a huge impact on the long-term health of my kids. In that light, the 50 bucks seems well spent.

Although I spent more than usual on my weekly groceries, organic food was readily available and not quite as expensive as I had originally thought. Organic packaged goods and snack foods — rice mixes, chips, salsa, ice cream, wine, even dog food — were pricey and added up quickly. If, however, you stick to more wholesome fare and purchase grains, nuts, cereal, flour, and sugar from the bulk bins, you can reduce your grocery bill considerably.

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