Eating organic foods can be very pricey, especially if you’re already on a modest budget. Why go organic in the first place? In addition to being better for the environment, pesticide- and chemical-free food might save you money in the long run by reducing your risk of costly medical issues, according to organic food advocates.
So what’s a renter to do? Eating organic foods doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing kind of thing! If you don’t have the budget to buy strictly organic (and let’s face it, not many of us do), we’re here to help you prioritize when to splurge and when to save.
The Dirty Dozen
Twelve fruits and veggies tend to be the most contaminated by carcinogenic pesticides: Peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, strawberries, celery, pears, cherries, potatoes, lettuce, spinach and imported grapes. Spend your resources on buying these high-risk foods organically. If you can’t afford to do so, at least soak these items in a mixture of one part white vinegar to three parts water before eating them.
These twelve food items are the least likely to be contaminated by pesticides: onions, frozen sweet corn, avocado, pineapple, mango, asparagus, kiwi fruit, frozen sweet peas, banana, cabbage, broccoli and papaya. If you’re on a budget, you can feel good about buying these foods conventionally.
Organic vs Local
It’s also worth mentioning that buying organic strawberries from Whole Foods isn’t your only option for healthy eating. You can often find much more affordable produce at farmers’ markets and local food stores. Many small-town farmers can’t afford the pricey label that accompanies organic food, even if they practice farming in an organic way. Head to your local farmers’ market and chat with vendors about their practices! Again, just because their products aren’t USDA-certified organic doesn’t mean they don’t use ethical and healthy farming techniques–you just have to ask! Many sustainability advocates favor buying locally over purchasing organic items from a major food provider.
A Note About “All-Natural” Foods
If you’re at a conventional grocery store and are tempted to buy “all-natural” items, resist the urge. Major food companies can’t get away with labeling non-organic foods as “organic,” but they can label them as “all-natural.” Local farmers may be able to discuss their farming practices with you, but there’s no way to tell how nationwide food producers harvest and care for their crops. If you’re not shopping at a farmers’ market, your only choice is to trust USDA regulations–so “all-natural” means absolutely nothing. Don’t waste your money.