Is organic food really healthier? Some people say it doesn't really matter, but if you think about it - if our bodies have to spend energy fighting off poisons we are not going to be as healthy. If a plant has to spend time fighting off poison - it's not likely to be very healthy either. When I read from several sources that the University of California at Davis conducted research of various nutrients in organically grown vs traditionally (with pesticides) grown tomatoes and the organically grown tomatoes contained significantly higher amounts of nutrients, that convinced me that organic was the way to go.
And what does organic mean anyway? There are 3 USDA approved labels for organic packaged foods.
1. 100% Organic Product (Must contain 100% organically provided ingredients.)
2. Organic (At least 95% organic ingredients. The rest must come from the USDA's 38 approved non-organic ingredients list.)
3. Made With Organic Ingredients (At least 70% organic ingredients, the other 30% must come from the USDA list.) Information is courtesy of The Hain Celestial Group.
Buying organic is not always an option for some families. Organic food is often more expensive. My own family forgoes some things in order to have healthy food. Sometimes it is a priority choice, but sometimes the money is just not there. There is only so much you can do and you should not feel guilty if you can't do otherwise.
A general rule of thumb is if there is one food you eat a lot of, then it would probably be better for you to purchase that organically because even if it is not high up on the pesticide index, the volume you eat, increases the pesticide load. The Environmental Working Group reports that you can lower your pesticide exposure by almost 90% if you replace the following contaminated produce with organic versions.
Sweet Bell Peppers
There are other ways to reduce the cost of your organic foods. One of the funnest is to grow your own garden! You can't get much more local than walking out your door to pick dinner! It can be time consuming and it does take some research and learning, but it is not hard. In 2010 we placed 6 4x8' raised bed garden boxes in our front yards. At first the neighbors thought we were nuts (they probably still do!), but eventually they enjoyed watching the progress as they walked their dogs in the evening. It was a good way to get to know people.
Farmer's Markets are another way to purchase organically grown produce at lower than store prices. Markets often have the added advantage of carrying fresher produce because they eliminate the "middle man".
One of our favorite shopping stores is Trader Joe's. If you have one, you can often find great prices on organic produce and other healthy food.
Natural food co-ops are another good option. I am referring to a buying group or bulk resource, not necessarily a co-op store (though those are fun places too!). I coordinate a drop in our area for Azure Standard which is a whole foods farm/company in Oregon state. Our food comes in a drop once a month. The bulk grains and other products from there have been, in my experience, fresher than other sources and less expensive.
If you have a favorite organic product that is non produce you could go to their company's website to see if they have coupons or special offers.
When I come across more ideas for helping us save on healthy and organic products I will list them here. If you have ideas, let me know!
For additional information, you may enjoy these resources:
Organic Consumers Association
Organic Store Locator
My Local Resources:
Elliott's Natural Foods
Organic Store Locator - California
Sacramento Beekeeping Supplies (Honey)
Whole Foods Market
Finding Local Food And Markets:
Community Food Security Coalition
Farm To School
USDA Farmer's Market Guide
Slow Food USA
True Cost of Food