Since my family has been making some new food choices in hopes of living a longer/healthier life we have adopted a few “food rules.” Make no mistake, we ENJOY eating, we eat meat, AND we live on a budget – but we are not deprived. This may or may not be similar to your life style… and that is okay. But, here I will share a rule that we have adopted. You can adopt this rule too, or not. Either way, it will be okay with me. =)
Know when to eat Organic, Local, or Conventional
If you’ve been making changes to your families diets and just beginning to purchase things organic you already know that it can be costly. But, even though you hear me talking about eating some of our groceries organic, it isn’t always the best choice. “WHAT!?!! How can that be!?!” you ask.
Organic food is usually well grown in healthy soils without pesticides – and this is GREAT. However, because there has been an increase in the amount of food we as shoppers have been purchasing organically, there has been an influx in the amount (and variety) of foods and food products that companies are making and selling at your local supermarket. (Remember supply and demand?) Well, this isn’t all bad news, more can be great for those of us who are trying to find organic items in rural areas where it can be difficult as there seems to be less demand. However, some of these products are processed. Processed organic foods (like frozen meals, cookies, sodas, etc.) are hitting the store shelves and although they are still made with organic foods, they are little better, at least from a health standpoint, than their conventional (not organic) counterparts. Let me give you the same example I give my cookie monster husband: organic chocolate chip cookies are still cookies – they are not a health food.
You may be laughing at my example right now, but you’d be surprised at how many people are purchasing these items. Most consumers automatically assume that the word organic is synonymous with health. I’m not saying you should never purchase cookies, or that we don’t all need a little junk food every now and then, I’m just saying don’t waste your precious grocery money on a bunch of organic processed food. (I’ll be the first to admit that during the summer months when my baking decrease I have been known to purchase organic animal crackers -when they are on sale- for my little one). Save those dollars earmarked for healthy foods for just that – healthy unprocessed foods, like vegetables, meat, dairy, and baking goods (flours, oils, sugar). You can still make organic cookies from the unprocessed ingredients you purchase, or that lasagna – without purchasing the one labeled organic in the freezer case. The mark up on organic is high – but the mark up on PROCESSED organic is even higher.
When it comes to buying produce especially, there are some items you will want to buy organically, others you can buy locally (local organic and local conventional), and still others that are fine to purchase conventionally. It is all about determining which ones fall into which categories, and knowing this will help ensure you the best products for your family as well as the best price for your wallet.
First, go check out the Environmental Working Groups dirty dozen list. If your budget is limited start by purchasing these items organically. The next thing I did is look at the whole list of 49 to see where the other fruits and vegetables that my family eats a lot of fell, things like sweet potatoes, green beans, and spinach. Then it is up to you to determine how “dirty” they are and if your budget allows, purchase them organically.
The next thing you can do to keep your pesticide intake and your cost low is buy local. If the item is on the dirty dozen list it is best to stick with organic, unless you are buying at a farmers market (or other local distributor where you can talk directly to the grower). In this case you can talk to the person who grew the produce. Some farmers aren’t certified organic for one reason or another but they do not use pesticides and are exceptional at what they do. In this case you might be able to get a product that is like organic at a much better cost – and since it is local it will be fresher. Even organic produce deteriorates when riding across country in a a truck and loses its nutrutional quality.
If items are not on the dirty dozen list and especially if they are on the clean 15 list it is fine to buy them conventionally. But, I would still stress that these items will still be better nutritionally if bought locally. Buying local and in season ensures you are a buying a good product – and even if there isn’t a farmer’s market near you, your local supermarkets are stocking some local produce – just check the labels.
One last tip, buying produce that is domestic (or grown in the U.S.) is almost always going to ensure you a superior product. Our FDA has stronger regulations on which (and how much) pesticides can be used on crops than do foreign nations. So, even when choosing organic produce it is best to make sure your organic strawberries or blueberries, etc. are grown in the U.S. instead of Mexico or Guatemala (and others).
To know more about which products my family feels strongly about purchasing organic read the article HERE.
To know when fruits and veggies are in season read the article HERE.
If you are a new reader you might want to read some of my older “My Whole Food Journey” posts HERE.
Have you got questions? Are you on your own quest to eat wholesome and/or organic? If you’ve been shopping a little differently as well and the labels have got your brain in a fog… email me or drop me a comment here and I’ll be happy to help you find the answers your looking for! Sometimes shopping in a whole foods store can be overwhelming and leave you with more questions than when you came in!