How to Make Organic Affordable Part 1

Organic this, organic that. Organic is everywhere these days. It seems like a fad, but the power behind organic is more than just monetary. There are some truly scary health problems for humans and the ecosystem linked to pesticides. For thousands of years humans managed to produce enough food to feed themselves and be prepared for famine all without the use of GM crops, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and big agriculture. In the last 200 years, farming and agriculture have made leaps and bounds in technology, some good, and some really bad.

Unfortunately, organic food can be expensive and rather inaccessible in some areas. Of course, there is always the cheapest and best option of producing organic produce in your own backyard. Another great cost-effective option is to spend your dollars wisely by picking and choosing where you will and will not spend money on organic foods.

The following list is known as ‘The Dirty Dozen’. It was developed by the Environmental Working Group to help educate consumers about the foods they are buying and consuming so they can make informed choices about what they spend their money on. This is the most recent list available which was recently released in 2011.

The Dirty Dozen

1. Apples

2. Celery

3. Strawberries

4. Peaches

5. Spinach

6. Nectarines- Imported

7. Grapes- Imported

8. Sweet Bell Peppers

9. Potatoes

10. Blueberries- Domestic

11. Lettuce

12. Kale/Collard Greens

Why do these foods matter most? These foods test highest for toxins from pesticides according to the Environmental Working Group. Some of these plants just don’t have a natural pest barrier, others have persistent pests, and still others are terribly susceptible because of mono agriculture and heavy use of pesticides leading to resistance. These foods may also be irradiated which depletes nutrients in our food because of use of radiation to kill bacteria and pests found in and on these foods. Your safest bet is growing them yourself, preferably in your own backyard, using organic practices. Sure, the outer leaves of your cabbage may look like Swiss cheese but on the inside will be sweet, tender, healthy leaves perfect for eating. Your next best option will be to grow at home using as few pesticides as possible, in the lowest doses and strengths, and thoroughly cleaning your produce before consumption. If you don’t have the space to grow your own, look for organic, local produce, then look for organic produce in a conventional grocery store. Local food, even when not certified organic is often a better option, nutritionally speaking, than store-bought organic that has been shipped thousands of miles. Spend time getting to know your local producers and farmers and you’ll likely find that most of them use organic practices to varying degrees.

Foods That Aren’t Worth It

1. Onion

2. Sweet Corn*

3. Pineapple

4. Avocado

5. Asparagus

6. Sweet Peas- Frozen

7. Mango

8. Eggplant

9. Cantaloupe- Domestic

10. Kiwi

11. Cabbage

12. Watermelon

(*Note: While sweet corn tends to test safe for little to no residue from pesticides, there is another consideration that is just as important. Unfortunately, a vast majority of corn produced these days is genetically modified (GM, GMO). Personally, this is a major concern and consideration for our family so I’ve decided to grow our own corn this year since organic corn is hard to come by and/or extremely expensive in our area. Whether or not you are willing and/or able to grow your corn, know that this is something you need to be aware of and take into consideration. This also applies to purchasing seed for growing your own corn.)

These foods are typically the least contaminated according to research done by the Environmental Working Group. There are a number of reasons for this: minimal pest to a particular plant, natural pest resistance, thick barriers like the skin, peel, or rind that prevent toxins from pesticides to reach the edible part of the fruit or vegetable, and minimal pesticides used on the plants. Of course, if you have the means to buy these organic, then it’s always the best option. However, if you’re like most of us and are on a limited budget, these fruits and vegetables are an area where it’s okay to skimp and buy conventional produce. I still recommend thoroughly cleaning these fruits and vegetables to eliminate viruses or bacteria that they may have been exposed to while being grown, picked, processed, packaged, or handled in the store. A solution of 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice to 1 gallon of water will do the trick.

Check out this page to see a complete list of the 53 fruits and vegetables that were tested.

Stay tuned! Part 2 of How to Make Organic Affordable will be published soon! Do you keep ‘Dirty’ and ‘Clean’ foods in mind when you’re at the grocery store? Do you set aside part of your food/grocery budget for organics from the Dirty Dozen? If so, what are your most important priorities? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

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