The great debate: Organic vs. Non-Organic. While the difference in price might make you want to look the other way, there are ways to make shopping organic more affordable. And remember, there may be a price difference, but there’s also a difference in quality.
If you didn’t know this about me already, one of my hustles is photography. Work is great…except when it’s not. It can be brutally slow sometimes. Right now, with the pandemic (and panic) happening, work is completely halted for me and our budget feels it. Now more than ever, boosting our immune systems and focusing on gut health is important. Choosing certain organic options when possible is one way to do just that!
I wanted to share what works for us to continue shopping organic within budget. These are tips I use every time I shop, specifically for fresh produce.
We’ve all seen the higher price tags and we’ve all probably heard at some point why “organic is best”. It might give us some peace of mind seeing that little “Certified Organic” label on our food products, but what doesn’t the word “organic” even mean?
USDA certified organic foods are both grown and processed according to specific guidelines of the U.S Department of Agriculture. Among other factors, these guidelines address a variety of aspects from when the soil is prepared to when the crops are harvested. You can read more about what that Certified Organic label means here.
Overall, while consuming organic produce can reduce the amount of pesticide residue going into your body, organic doesn’t necessarily mean chemical-free and pesticide-free.
“BUT THE PRICE…”
Chances are if you’ve seen an organic label in the produce section, you’ve also seen (and probably winced at) the price.
In most cases, when considering the price point, here’s a little food for thought: The food didn’t just magically appear on the grocery store shelves. It was all started by growing in one way or another. Because the majority of the agricultural industry is washed with chemical and pesticide use, those toxins get into the soil and into the product. Sometimes, it’s even sprayed directly onto the food.
According to the Environmental Working Group’s annual analysis of the US Department of Agriculture data, around 70% of fresh produce sold in the US has pesticide residues on it even after it is washed. The USDA found over 200 different pesticides and pesticide products on popular fruits and vegetables that Americans eat every day. While most pesticide residues fall below the government limits and are considered legal, it doesn’t mean they’re safe.
By choosing organic produce, you are significantly reducing the number of toxic pesticides/chemicals going into your body. This benefits gut health, which is crucial for wellness in general.
And yes, it’ll be hard at first- in some ways, you will feel like you’re spending way more money on your food than you did before. It will happen- staring you right in the eyes in the store, thee will be a sign in the produce section:
Non-organic strawberries on sale for 2 FOR $5.00 sitting right beside ORGANIC strawberries that are $4.99 EACH.
You’ll take a few steps further and there it is again…
Non-organic apples – $1.99 sitting just above the ORGANIC apples- $4.59
You and your wallet might want to go curl up in a ball in the corner. But think of it this way…when it comes to spending money on what we put into (and on!) our bodies, we can choose to pay the farmer now or pay the doctor later.
I’ll tell you from experience- both my physical and mental health is SO much better after being more intentional about what I put into my body. Organic or non-organic, whole food matters.
Food is fuel. What we eat matters. What we eat determines how we feel on many levels. Make it count. Think big picture here.
This is one of those situations where it may benefit you more to focus on quality over quantity.
BUT HEAR ME OUT. This particular time might feel very unknown. Some people don’t have work at all. Others are trying to crunch numbers and adjust to an even more limited budget (that’s us). So it’s important to know that organic or not, do what works for YOU and your family this season.
QUICK TIPS FOR SHOPPING ORGANIC ON A BUDGET
You can save yourself a little time, hassle, and money by using these 5 tips for shopping organic.
PLAN & MAKE A LIST
More than ever, people don’t necessarily want to linger around the store if they don’t have to. Being prepared and making a list helps you stay focused, stick to your budget and get in and out much faster than going in without a plan. Know how many meals you need to prep/cook during the week. Stick to the gameplan and don’t end up overspending or getting so much that the food spoils or gets thrown out. This doesn’t just apply to organic foods!
BUY SEASONAL AND LOCAL (IF POSSIBLE)
Buying seasonal is a great way to offset the cost of organic food. At the store, you can usually find in-season produce featured in the center of the produce section. Since it’s in season, there’s often an abundance of it and will cost less.
You can use a resource, like seasonalfoodguide.org, to check what fruits and veggies might be available in your area this season.
If you’re able to shop local produce, you’re supporting the local economy (which we need now more than ever) and creating more connection with the food you consume and where it comes from.
USE THE DIRTY DOZEN AND CLEAN 15 FOOD LISTS
As you’re planning and writing out your list, consider which foods you might be safe if you need or want non-organic. My favorite way to do this is by referring to the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 Food Lists to help decide which food items you really may want to consider a purchase.
The Dirty Dozen™ is a trademarked term that’s used to define the twelve crops farmers typically use the highest amount of pesticides on. The Clean 15™ is also a trademarked term to describe the fifteen fruit and vegetable that have the lowest amount of pesticide residue on them. I reference these all the time when I’m selecting produce in particular!
Using this list helps me save some money and really focus on the items I want to avoid purchasing non-organic. Thanks to resources from the EWG’s current 2020 info, here are the lists!
* “A small amount of sweet corn, papaya and summer squash sold in the United States is produced from genetically modified seeds. Buy organic varieties of these crops if you want to avoid genetically modified produce.”
CHECK FOR PLU CODES
If you’re having a hard time deciphering between organic and non-organic, check for a Price Lookup code. Foods that are organic usually have a five-digit PLU (Price Lookup) code that begins with the number 9. Conventional foods usually have a four-digit PLU code that starts with 3 or 4.
HIT UP THE FROZEN SECTION
Especially for organic options, check the frozen foods section for typically-less expensive choices for fruits and vegetables. Many of the frozen fruits and veggies are flash-frozen right after harvest so they still pack a nutritional punch. With it being frozen, it’ll keep longer so it’s great if you don’t end up using all of it!
Overall, do what works for you when it comes to shopping! Ultimately, if you’re going back and forth on shopping for organic vs. conventionally grown produce, don’t let this stress you (stress can wreak more havoc on your health than even the most conventionally grown food sometimes). Do what works for you and your family. Don’t judge your choices if you feel like they’re what’s best, especially during this season.
If shopping for organic food has been intimidating or something you’ve considered but feel intimidated by the costs, I hope this helps.
PS- Don’t forget to give your food a good wash and rinse! Here’s one simple way to do just that.
Until next time,