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If you’ve been following my blog then you already know that my family is making some life changes and some of those changes involve purchasing some of our food organically.

But organic is expensive you say? Yes, your right, that is why I’ve been doing research on all the local stores to determine who has the lowest overall prices. I’ve also been researching which food items will give me the biggest bang for my buck organically. I wanted to know which foods were most harmful and which ones I should replace first. That way I could begin to purchase those things organically and the rest conventionally so that I could stay within my $65 a week budget.

Are you wondering what those “most important” items are? Want to know what my family is purchasing organic and why?

I am by no means an expert on the subject but after doing some research here’s what we’re buying organic and why:

1. Meat and Poultry: conventionally raised livestock and poultry are given antibiotics and hormones and can be fed animal by-products. We purchase organic when we can – but at least grass-fed and hormone-free, antibiotic-free beef and chicken. We’ve decided to lay off the pork as a personal choice. We do eat fish, but there aren’t any official government regulations on “organic fish” yet. To read more about the differences between organic and conventional meat and dairy go HERE.

2. Dairy: We purchase all dairy products organically including butter, cream cheese, cheese, sour cream, milk, and yogurt. Organic dairies cannot feed their cows with grains grown with pesticides, nor can they use antibiotics or growth hormones like rBGH or rbST. Since milk is a big staple of child’s diet this makes it that much more important to me. There is tons to be said about the benefits of a grass-fed cow: Many connoisseurs say the best milk comes from cows who eat mostly grass. The flavor is more complex, and varies with the seasons. In addition, a grass diet leads to milk with as much as five times the amount of conjugated linoleic acid, which some studies using animal models show can help fight cancer. And grazing is better for the cows’ health than a diet of grain. Want more info? Read the article HERE.

3. Eggs: The benefits of organic eggs are similar to that of organic milk. Most eggs are produced using a range of antibiotics and hormones on the chickens that bear them. Essentially, organic eggs mean fewer hormones in the chicken and fewer foreign hormones (or chemicals acting as hormones) in your body. There is a health benefit as well! Studies show that organic milk and eggs have higher levels of vitamin E, omega-3 essential fatty acids and antioxidants! If you can find them, pastured eggs are best. Labels such as “free-range and cage-free” can be deceiving. If you have local farmer or farmer’s market you can buy them from (or raise your own) that is your best bet. For a great article on choosing eggs and understanding all the labels go HERE.

4. SOME fruits & Vegetables. Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are grown with a plethora of pesticides and fungicides. While the federal government does try to regulate the use of these chemicals, many of them are linked to nasty, scary health problems. (Want to know more, read HERE). While all conventionally grown produce receives doses of these chemicals, certain fruits and veggies receive a heavier pesticide load (higher doses, more frequency, and more types). The EWG (environmental working group) publishes a list of fruits and vegetables rated in order according to which ones receive the highest pesticide load. The dirtiest ones are the top 12 (also known as the “dirty dozen). We buy all of them organically – or not at all (depending on if we need them if they are in season, and what the cost is). The other vegetables we purchase organically are those that are in the top half dirtiest that we eat a lot of – like green beans, spinach, and potatoes. Since apples are number 2 -dirty – and Judah drinks A LOT of apple juice and eats a lot of apple sauce those are two items we purchase organically as well. To see the full list of vegetables and fruits and their pesticide rating go HERE. To see other great articles about what fruit and veggie products are the best to buy organic go HERE.

5. Peanut Butter: Organic peanut butter has no added hydrogenated oils. Organic peanut butter will have a short, natural ingredient list. It might contain only organic dry roasted peanuts, perhaps with a pinch of salt. Peanuts are a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, protein, vitamin E, niacin, and folate. Peanuts are packed with antioxidants, on par with blackberries (and roasting peanuts raises the antioxidant levels). Molds can grow on peanuts during growth and storage, so fungicide use on peanuts is very common in conventional farming. Fungicides can be quite toxic and disrupt endocrine systems. Organic farming methods tend to result in more bio-diverse soil and less mold and mold toxins than does spraying fungicides. For more great information about choosing organic read HERE.

6. Other Stuff – (occasionally): When I can find organic versions of the things I buy on sale as cheap as their conventional counterparts of course I buy those too! These are things that don’t have as much impact but if I can purchase them on sale or with a coupon and get them just as cheap as their conventional counterparts then I do! Things I’ve bought recently that fall into this category are: avocados, canned soup, jarred pasta sauce, cookies, and crackers. That means I don’t ALWAYS buy these things organically but if I see a good sale… why not?

To read past “My Whole Food Journey” posts go HERE.