A common question I’ve received over the years is when to purchase organic products if you’re trying to stay within a strict grocery budget. There’s a lot of conflicting information about this and honesty everyone may have a different opinion. From my own experience, I find that this answer often changes from year to year depending on how our foods are manufactured and this is an industry that is constantly changing and shifting with increasing demand, political pressures and environmental irregularities. How your food was produced even 2 years ago may be entirely different today, and trying to keep track of this can easily suck you into an endless black hole of time consuming information hunting. So, here are my tips and resources for how to make the decision on what to purchase organic and when.
Rule Number 1: If it comes from an animal, always purchase organic. This is my top food rule and I rarely break it. Purchasing and supporting organic animal farming is extremely important not just for our own health, but for sustainability purposes and environmental stewardship. This extends to every animal product on the market – from meats and bones to dairy and eggs and whey protein powders. If you’re choosing to eat meats on a regular basis, it is well worth the extra money to purchase organic animal products from your local health food stores or local farmers and butchers. The extra money you may be paying goes directly back into those farms for better quality feed, grazing land, humane slaughtering and better living conditions for those animals.
Rule Number 2: If your local farmer grew it with good agricultural practices and closely following organic guidelines, purchase from local farmers first. Maintaining a “USDA Organic” certification is extremely expensive, and often the smaller local farmer cannot afford to do this each year and still maintain their business. If you get to know your local farmers or CSA’s, you’ll know that many of them do follow the USDA guidelines for growing organically, however they may not have the official certification because it is cost prohibitive. That’s why shopping at farmers markets and talking with your farmer is so important and they love talking about what they’re growing! Produce stewards in your local health food store often always know what’s grown organically or with appropriate guidelines and can help guide you to the best quality products as well!
Rule Number 3: Purchase organic fruits if you’re eating the skins. Fruits are one of the most highly pesticide and fungicide laden products on the market, and the skins of fruits often carry the residual pesticides. Although many fruits of which you’re not eating the skins still do carry some residual toxins from those products, if you’re peeling them (such as oranges, bananas, mangoes etc), you’re consuming a bit less than, say, apples, strawberries and blueberries.
Rule Number 4: Purchase organic vegetables if they’re affordable and available to you. Similar to fruits, most vegetables on the market are sprayed with pesticides and you should always wash your veggies thoroughly before consuming them. I generally put vegetables lower on the list because per product they are often sprayed slightly less than fruits. It’s also really easy to stress out about not being able to purchase every single thing organically if you’re budget doesn’t allow for this – so if organic veggies are affordable and available – go for it. If not, wash them thoroughly and eat with gratitude.
Rule Number 5: Check the ewg.org (Environmental Working Group) website every year to get their list of the dirty dozen fruits and vegetables to focus on purchasing organically each year. This list is updated and changes every year and they do an excellent job of digging into the agricultural research annually to find the most heavily pesticides products from year to year. I often always follow this list myself and when I recommend certain foods to clients.
*Note -this website is also an awesome resource to check ingredients in all of your body care products and packaged foods as well!
Still have questions about how to finance your grocery budget in the healthiest and most stress free way? Schedule a one-on- one health coaching appointment with me and we can create a family friendly grocery budget that works for you and your constraints. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.
Lindsay Kluge M.Sc, CNS, LDN | HealthCoach@EllwoodThompsons.com