How to Eat Organic Foods on a Budget
Eating organic doesn't have to break the bank. Try these tips for trimming your organic food costs.
Whether it's because of worries about food safety, ecological concerns, or
just a desire to eat fresher, less processed foods, more and more food shoppers
are buying organic these days. Yet organic foods and beverages can cost as much
as 50% to 100% more than conventional foods -- and prices are going up for both
organic and conventionally grown items.
Still, rising prices don't have to mean that cost-conscious consumers must
give up the advantages of organic food. Here are some tips on how shoppers can
stretch their food dollars for organic foods, and information about other food
options that may be equally kind to the planet.
What Exactly Are Organic Foods?
Don't confuse terms such as "free-range," "hormone free" or
"natural" with organic. While they may be truthful, these terms are not
regulated by law. Look for the following regulated terms on food labels:
- "100% organic" is for foods that have no allowable synthetic
ingredients and can use the U.S. Department of Agriculture's organic seal.
- "Organic" foods have a minimum of 95% organic ingredients and are
also eligible by law to use the USDA organic seal.
- "Made with Organic Ingredients" must contain at least 70% organic
ingredients. These foods are not eligible for the USDA seal.
A USDA organic seal indicates that the food was grown, harvested, and
processed according to national organic standards that restrict the amounts and
residues of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, foods called
"organic" cannot be treated with any synthetic pesticides, sewage
sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. They may, however, use
biological pesticides (those derived from a natural source).
Keep in mind that while years ago, most "organic" foods you found at
your neighborhood health food store came from small, local farms, this is now
more the exception than the rule. Today, organic foods are big business, sold
in chain groceries and often produced by multinational companies and then
trucked across the country.
Organic Vegetables and Fruits
Organic foods generally cost more because the lack of pesticides means
growing them is more labor-intensive, and the crop yield is not always as good.
But, experts say a good place to spend your organic dollars is on fresh
produce. Fruits and vegetables are
conventionally treated with pesticides and fertilizers to enhance growth and
prevent infestation, and are likely to contain pesticide residues.