Buying Organic? You’re wasting your money.

July 12th, 2008 by katie

Organic LabelAs both a mother and a foodie, it is important to me to buy the best food possible for my family. This means foods in their most delicious, nutritious, and safe states, all while sticking to an ever-decreasing food budget. I don’t live within a reasonable distance to any great farmer’s markets so I have to rely on what I can get at our local grocery store. It’s easy to be drawn in to the “Nature’s Market” aisle-full of organic juice boxes, cereal, and bananas-and feel like your doing something good for yourself and your family. But if you’re breaking the budget to do it, you aren’t doing anybody any good. So when should you buy organic? Here’s a little primer on which organic foods you should work into your budget and which ones you can pass up.

Fruits and Vegetables. The general rule with fruits and vegetables is if you’re going to eat the whole thing, buy organic. If on the other hand, you have to peel it or you don’t eat the skin, don’t bother since that’s where most of the pesticide residue remains. So for strawberries, lettuce, grapes, potatoes, spinach, etc… splurge on organic. You’ll be wasting your money buying organic bananas, corn, mangoes, or onions. There are some exceptions so check out this great article for the complete list (scroll to the bottom if you don’t feel like reading, although it really is a great article). Also, never fear, there are now tons of frozen organic fruits and veggies in the freezer aisle.

Meats, Dairy, Eggs. Here you always buy organic, free-range, grain-fed, hormone-free or whatever combination is available to you for both health and taste. I know there are only “trace amounts” of leftover hormones and antibiotics passed into milk and milk products, but we drink 2 gallons of milk a week, not to mention about a gallon of yogurt, various amounts of cheese, cream, and butter. That adds up over time. In addition, allowing animals better living conditions, even if only slightly, is good karma and leads to tastier end products.

Fish and Seafood. Guess what. There’s no such thing as “organic” fish or seafood. Companies are lying to you so you will spend more money on the same fish. The only thing that matters here is farm raised vs. wild-caught, but that’s another article. Also, unless you live on the beach, all fish and seafood gets frozen at some point. So stop wasting your money on the “fresh” stuff that’s already been thawed out in the case. Just buy frozen and thaw it yourself.

Crackers, cereal, bread, cookies, boxed and canned foods of all types. These are all of your shelf-stable, pantry items. Don’t bother buying organic. Yeah, you heard me. Think about it. Processed organic food? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Just look at the ingredients and pick the ones with the fewest and most recognizable.

Baby Food. OK, this one could go either way. Baby food is a highly regulated industry with strict standards which most baby food companies claim to beat.  The produce and soil is already under the highest scrutiny.  However, the vegetables in baby food are also highly concentrated, so again, even the tracest amounts of pesticides eventually add up.  My opinion initially was to forgo organic, however, Consumer Reports says to go organic just in case (of course they were right about the whole BPA in plastic baby bottles thing for years).  So it’s really up to your budget and conscience.  Frankly, at forty cents a jar versus $1.25 my conscience says “you still have to buy food for the other kids, too.”  Of course, making your own baby food from organic fruits and veggies is a great choice (hahahaha, phew, sorry), however never make your own baby carrots, spinach, greens, turnips, or beets unless you know whether they were grown in nitrate-free soil.

What are your thoughts on organic food?  Which items do you buy organic no matter what and which have you never considered? Was any of this information helpful or just crazy talk?

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Posted in Budget, Health/Nutrition

16 Responses

  1. betsbillabong

    Something important to think about is the impact to (a) the earth and (b) other people of your non-organic fruit. Specifically, conventionally-grown bananas are farmed with probably the most toxic stew of fertilizers, pesticides, etc out there — and the communities where bananas are grown (most often in Central and South America) have had high incidences of birth defects, sterility, and other problems directly linked to the chemicals used.

    Organic bananas cost about a dime more apiece. That’s a small price to pay for the health and welfare of children who were born less fortunate than ours.

    http://www.rawfoodinfo.com/articles/art_bananaspestic.html
    http://www.envio.org.ni/articulo/2972

    great point, bets! -Katie

  2. Chris Knighton

    “In addition, allowing animals better living conditions, even if only slightly, is good karma and leads to tastier end products.”

    Good Karma? Since when does killing living beings you don’t need to generate good karma? Perhaps you mean slightly worse karma? and even then this is questionable.

  3. CherylM

    Frankly, at forty cents a jar versus $1.25 my conscience says “you still have to buy food for the other kids, too.”

    I totally agree, but having said that, I’m finding organic baby food at about $0.64-0.72/jar at Babies-r-us and at Walmart. So if you’ve got a little wiggle in your budget, it’s worth shopping around.

    (Organic baby food short cut – adult sized jar of unsweetened organic applesauce. The stuff I buy has two ingredients – ascorbic acid and apples. And it’s still cheaper than buying a jar of baby “apples”.)

    Thanks Cheryl! That’s a great tip on the applesauce. I will check the price at Walmart here (alas, no Babies R Us in sight). I used to have a lot more wiggle (or was that jiggle?) but I feel like it is all going in the gas tank these days. – Katie

  4. Bob

    Pesticides are one of the world’s greatest inventions. I’m not kidding. They have caused the world’s farmers to drastically increase their output over the past century. Sadly, the organic movement and its inefficient crop turnout is causing us to move backwards. We are now producing less food per square km of cropland than we did a decade ago, thanks in large part to the proliferation of organic farming. Heaven forbid that the entire world starts eating organically – food prices will be much higher than they are now. But hey, it’s worth it for food that’s 0.0001% healthier. (‘Cause as we know, the presence of pesticides in our foods for the past 50 years is why life expectancies have been steadily getting lon- … um, never mind.)

  5. ambre

    life expectancies may be getting longer, but our dna is getting weaker and future generations are going to have more and more problems. is it worth it?

  6. melissa

    here’s a hint for avoiding processed foods and maintaining freshness for baby:

    make your own baby food. all you have to do is purchase the produce and have a food processor. voila. and that includes the applesauce. saves you money AND you know what’s going into baby’s food.

  7. melissa

    p.s. to answer your question on this post;

    i always purchase heavy cream, whole milk and eggs from the organic co-op. i also purchase flour, natural sweeteners and other organic pantry items in bulk. (i go back and forth on purchasing produce bulk)

    as far as processed foods? about the only thing we purchase are tortilla chips and those are non-organic. my theory with shopping is to shop the border of the market (produce, butcher and dairy–avoiding the center where chips, cookies and boxed foods are). i want to be self efficient and know what’s going in my food. we eat healthier and it costs less. (that means i even make my own hamburger buns. and they’re tastier!)

  8. Rayrena

    I’m with bets on the bananas. They are highly sprayed with pesticides to the detriment of the people who have to farm them. Pesticides the best invention ever? Ha. That’s a good one. Tell that to the women who work on the farms and suffer high rates of miscarriage, then die prematurely from freakishly high rates of cancer. But hey, I get to eat more food! And live longer because my doctor can keep me alive with high tech equipment. Expensive? Sure, but who cares, all the other tax payers can kick in to cover it. And could soil depletion have anything to do with lower yields? I don’t know about you, but my soil is cranking out some pretty good yields. No thanks to Monsanto.

    But anyways. I don’t always buy organic but I do try to support farmers in my area. We now only eat grassfed beef. Cows aren’t designed to eat grain; they have to have supplements that reduces the gas buildup in their stomachs. The grain basically ferments and builds up gas that can cause suffocation. Just doesn’t seem right.

    The biggest thing I try to do for my daughter is not eat processed food. I want her to know what food should taste like and understand that it comes from the earth. I’m still blown away when I dig a potato out of the dirt. All I did was add water and this food came up!

  9. TwinToddlersDad

    In my recent post, I offer a few ideas for buying organic on a budget. Check it out…let me know what you think

    http://www.littlestomaks.com/2008/10/29/5-ways-to-buy-organic-on-a-budget/

  10. Facts

    # ambre
    July 31st, 2008 at 8:56 am

    life expectancies may be getting longer, but our dna is getting weaker and future generations are going to have more and more problems. is it worth it?
    ———————–

    Our DNA is getting weaker? What the heck are you talking about? Please show some proof of this ultra-liberal made-up statement you made.

    Never have I heard of our DNA getting weaker. Liberals just think they can throw out stuff like this and the masses will run shaking in their boots to do whatever they said.

    Sorry to be so brusque, but this is some of the biggest bunch of hooey I’ve read in a long time.

    Give us some proof.

  11. Christina

    I agree with the last poster about what Amber said. Yea, our DNA is getting weaker, but only because we’re LIVING LONGER! The older you get, the more messed up your DNA gets; eventually everyone gets cancer.

    Besides doing your best (whatever you think that is) to eat healthy, I think organic is the least of our nation’s troubles. It’s getting fat & obese on plain ol’ unhealthy stuff =P

  12. Mama Chicken

    I think in some ways the organic movement is a marketing buzzword. I totally agree, I look for the least ingredients in the processed items that I do buy as well. :)

    One thing about veggies that I would like to share though – we have a friend that owns a winery in Napa. His sister (and partner) visited some farms in mexico and south america as a part of a research trip. They found that it is a common practice for farmers in those countries to grow carrots in locations previously laden with pesticides to – get this – CLEAN the soil. yikes. I would pay attention to the country of origin, and personally, I buy organic in this case as well.

    Thanks for the link to the great article, too!

  13. Nicole

    the one thing you NEED to ALWAYS buy organic, even if it is the only organic thing in your household, are strawberries!
    They are like sponges and when they are covered and drowned in pesticides, you can’t just wash it off and feel better.
    they soak it up and it becomes part of them.
    not to mention how genetically and synthetically they are altered during off season which is never as good as fresh and real.

    the one thing to also keep in mind is buying IN season with almost everything. Especially veggies, has anyone noticed how expensive they can get in off season?! crazy!

    So, if anything, buy in season and organic strawberries. Some places don’t hurt your pocket with organics but when its a “super”-market, eh-hem red flag should go up, they will always charge WAY more then a local farmer/grower. go straight to the source and it will almost always be way cheaper.

    hope it helps! healthy crops = healthy craps!

  14. mandi

    it’s not the non-organic stuff that is making america obese and un-healthy.

    it’s all the undercover crap in processed foods and the ” eat 3 times daily ” with huge portion sizes. our bodies weren’t meant to run that way. so we over work our bodies, over feed them and we come out with more health problems.
    it should be a top problem since almost one out of 3 americans are either overweight or obese. which gives us the increase in health problems.
    going organic isn’t a conspiracy or some fake thing made up by money hungry ceo’s but its a political money game now. if you look at how we used to eat, i.e. home-grown, honest and trustworthy farmers, our health wasn’t as bad as it is today. yes, most likely more diseases/sicknesses with all the vaccines and such but imagine if we still ate that way AND had preventions of sicknesses.

    it really is personal preference but the saying you are what you eat is exactly the logo for this country.

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