Before I had my baby I always tried to eat healthy but I rarely purchased organic foods. I bought some here and there but usually organic produce was more expensive and I wasn’t sure if I really should invest in it.
Eventually I started looking into pesticides and was really terrified about what I discovered. Pesticides have been linked to all sorts of health issues, like cancer, food allergies, obesity, memory loss, diabetes and even infertility. They can damage our brain and nervous system as well as interfere with the hormones in our bodies. Basically, they can cause a wide range of health issues. These issues don’t usually come up overnight. Since we eat pesticides every day, their effects accumulate little by little in our bodies until we develop a more serious issue.
After having my daughter, eating as clean and healthy as possible became a priority, even more so after I watched this video on how babies are now born with chemicals they inherit from their mother. Also, I breastfeed my babies so everything I ate, they ate. I didn’t want their diet to be full of pesticides so I knew from the day my first was born that we would switch to organic.
I live in DC so buying organic food meant going to the farmer’s market or buying at Whole Foods Market, but we rarely make it in time to the farmer’s market and Whole Foods Market can get pricey if you’re buying your groceries there. I knew I needed to find a solution and that’s when I discovered CSA’s and other food stores…
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You basically buy a “share” of vegetables from your local farmer. In most CSA you can also get “shares” of fruit, eggs, cheese and meat. You pay a fee for the entire season (this varies according to where you live) and they deliver the produce to your house or neighborhood on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
Why my family joined a CSA?
- Produce is cheaper. Yes I paid up front but once I did the math, it’s A LOT cheaper to get our food through our local farmer than at the supermarket. Our CSA only offers organic produce so the savings are even bigger.
- We eat what’s in season. This also means we had to step out of your comfort zone and cook vegetables we’ve never cooked before but I love this because we’ve discovered lots of delicious vegetables. Although some CSA’a let you chose the vegetables you want delivered each week.
- We get the produce that’s locally grown, which means it doesn’t have to travel a long distance.
- We support our local farmers.
- Our food gets picked a day or two before it arrives to our house. Talk about freshness!
If you live in the DC, MD or VA area I recommend you joining the CSA we belong to: Earth Spring Farm. We’ve had a great experience with them and their produce is always fresh and delicious.
Eating organic on a budget…Is it possible?
Yes it is. I recommend getting your organic produce directly from a CSA but if you can’t then there are other options.
The first thing you should know is how produced it’s classified. You can find conventional produce – which is grown using pesticides, organic produce – which is grown without chemicals and GMO which is genetically engineered food. You can easily recognize how each food was grown by checking the code on the produce sticker:
Your goal should be to buy all produce organic. However if you’re on a budget get familiar with the fruits and vegetables known as the “Dirty Dozen”. The Dirty Dozen is produce that is consider high in pesticides – you should buy these organic, at least for your child.
There is also a list of the “Clean Fifteen” vegetables and fruits, this is conventional produce that is NOT high in pesticides.
To save money you can buy the clean fifteen as conventional produce since you know they won’t have a high level of pesticides and buy the rest of your produce organic or just buy what’s on the dirty dozen as organic produce.
If you’re looking for more resource check out this Good Food on a Budget section.
Supermarkets and Organics
You can find organic foods in almost every supermarket now, from produce to packaged goods.
Here are the places where I’ve found the best deals on organic foods:
- Costco has a huge selection of organic foods and it keeps growing and growing. I usually do my shopping there first and what I can’t find organic I end up buying in our local supermarket.
- Aldi is another supermarket chain that is worth visiting since their food is very afforabdale and they now carry a big selection or organic. They are trying to transition to be an all organic supermarket with low prices.
- Trader’s Joe also has a good selection of organic and most of it has low prices. I love buying packaged organic foods here as well as produce that’s in season.
- Wegmans is another good option according to people I know. Unfortunately I don’t have one near me but the few times I’ve been to a Wegmans I’ve been surprised with their organic section and found the prices to be reasonable.
- Whole Food Market is one of my favorite stories, unfortunately it’s expensive so I buy here what I can’t find elsewhere and I also buy whatever is on sale. Their sales prices really good so look for those.
- Local supermarkets are another good option, although they might not be available everywhere. We have a local supermarket co-op that only carries organic foods. It is more affordable then Whole Foods but a little more expensive than Aldi and Trader’s Joe. Check if there’s one in your area by doing a quick google search or asking around in your neighborhood.
- Amazon is a good option to buy organic packaged foods and now that they’re launching their Amazon Fresh program you can get organic produce delivered straight to your home in some areas.
If all you have near you is Giant, Safeway or any of the other big supermarket chain you will still be able to get organic food there. If you’re on a budget, check what’s on sale – organic foods are being pushed now and companies want you to know they exist so they push sales a lot.
Remember that in most of these bigger stores the organic produce is one section but all the other organic foods are scattered around the store. For example, if you’re looking for organic flour, you should look for it in the flour section.
So walk around the store and get familiar with what you need. Since we try to avoid packaged foods, I usually just walk around the outer aisles.
Eating vegetables and fruit is what matters
Ultimately eating vegetables and fruits is what is important so if you can’t afford organic that’s ok – it’s better to eat conventionally grown produce then not to eat any vegetables or fruit at all.
Once your finances allow it, buy more and more organic and look for deals. I have found some organic foods to be the same price as conventional foods.
Keep in mind that a package that says organic is not the same as a package that has the USDA Organic label. You can read more about what I discovered about the USDA label here.
Our family doesn’t always always eat organic or non-GMO foods, especially because we eat out at least once a week and I don’t have much control over the foods then. However, I do my best to buy everything we prepare at home organic, natural and non-GMO.
It’s all about finding what works best for you family and having priorities, your child needs more organic foods than you probably do. My hope is that some day we will walk into stores and everything will be organic, but in the meantime do what you can to keep your family away from pesticides.
Do you buy organic? Where do you shop?