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.
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.
"It really is a personal choice, but how can anyone think substances
such as pesticides, capable of killing insects, can be good for you?" asks
Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, a food studies and public health professor at New York
University. "If you can afford them, buy them. Given the choice, go
organic, and if you can't afford them, try to buy [at least] the ones on the
'dirty dozen' list."
The "dirty dozen" refers to 12 fruits and vegetables that the
nonprofit Environmental Working Group says are among the most susceptible to
pesticide residue, and thus most profitable to buy organic. They are:
- Sweet bell peppers
- Grapes (imported)
The Environmental Working Group also has a list of 12 fruits and veggies
likely to have the fewest pesticide residues, which may not be worth the added
cost of buying organic. They are:
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Sweet corn (frozen)
More Ways to Save on Organic Foods
Aside from limiting your organic produce purchases to the items with the
highest potential for pesticides, how else can you save money when buying
Here are eight tips to help stretch your organic food budget:
- Buy in bulk if you can use the food or store it without spoilage.
- Clip coupons from the newspaper or online sites.
- Plan your menus using advertised specials from your grocery.
- Compare prices between fresh and frozen, dried and canned varieties of
organic foods. They may be less expensive than fresh, yet equally delicious
when prepared correctly.
- Shop grocery chains that feature their own organic brand.
- Buy the generic organic version in your favorite market.
- Join an organic food cooperative (you can often find listings online or in
your local health food store).
- Plant a garden and grow your own organic produce, or join a community
Alternatives to Organic Foods
Foods don't have to be organic to be safe and environmentally friendly.
Buying produce in season, and foods that have been locally grown, are other
ways to eat healthfully while looking out for the Earth.
Produce from local farmers markets may not be organic, but is often fresher
than the same foods from a supermarket and may have less impact on the
environment. An added bonus: Foods from local markets require little packaging
other than a container to help you get them home.