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When to Splurge on Organic (and when it is okay to skip it)

Welcome to the July Carnival of Natural Parenting: Let’s talk about food

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about their struggles and successes with healthy eating. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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The first tomatoes from our garden this year (and a crab apple that Gavin picked!).

If you are like me, you have to maintain some type of food budget every month. I would love to buy all of my groceries from the farmer’s market and health food store, but I haven’t figured out how to make this possible within our budget. I try to buy organic when it is important, and well, skimp on the organic when it is not nearly as important.

I am going to give you a few caveats first, though. Organic and natural food is always important. Conventional farming is not only bad for our environment, but it can also be bad for the farmers. Corporations like Monsanto have genetically engineered (GM) food like soy beans and corn (and beets, too, I just learned tonight). While many people argue that GM food is no different than conventional food, there is no doubt that GM crops change the environment and the entire culture of farming. Some farmers can even be penalized if they are caught “saving seeds” from their crops to plant the next year. Because these corporations own the genetic make-up of the seeds, farmers are required to buy new seeds every year. This is in stark contrast to the tradition of farming. And the answer isn’t as simple as just using a non-GM seed. Over 90% of soy beans are GM now. Furthermore, genes flow from one crop to the next, so a GM crop can contaminate a non-GM crop, and at that point, it is hard to prove that your seeds are yours and not some corporation’s. (Watch Food, Inc. for more information about this)

Okay, okay…long story, short: organic and natural foods are always best.

However, they can also be expensive.

One more caveat – some people have sensitivities to certain foods, food additives, or pesticides. And for these people, natural and organic foods are also always best.

Also, organic is always better for the environment. Always. Sometimes, though, we have to put our budget and our individual needs above the needs of the environment.

Okay, so back to the story. When eating organic is not always possible, when is it okay to cut corners? Here are some general guidelines I follow. And when I say general, I mean I am very liberal with my own rules. I try not to stress myself too much over these types of things.

Fruits/Vegetables: The Environmental Working Group has a list of “The Dirty Dozen” and also the “Clean 15.” I try to buy organic when I buy The Dirty Dozen, but I am okay with skimping on organic when it comes to the Clean 15. Buy fruits and veggies in season when possible. Try to buy local when possible.

Eggs: Buy organic. Conventional eggs in my area cost about $1.50 per dozen. Organic and free range eggs cost about $3.00 per dozen. The cost per egg is about 12 cents for conventional or 25 cents for organic/free range. This is not a big difference. Yet, the living conditions for the organic/free range chickens are so much better, especially if you buy from a local farm.

Dairy/Meat: Buy organic or local. Conventionally raised animals are often given antibiotics and hormones. Both of these show up in the milk and the FDA recently put out a statement that antibiotics in meat are a major public health threat because it can lead to antibiotic-resistant strains of diseases.

Processed food: I personally don’t see the point of eating organic processed foods, but that is probably because I aim to eat few processed foods. Therefore, they just don’t make up a big portion of our diet, and the effect it has on our health is minimal.  

So where should you buy this organic food? If you’ve only looked on the shelves of your grocery store, you might be missing out on a lot of cheaper options. Here are some sources of organic or chemical-free food:

 
Gavin in the garden.

Grow your own: The best way to know exactly where your food has been is to just grow it yourself. Your biggest concerns will be making sure you have a lead-free hose and healthy soil. The best part about growing your own is that your fruits and veggies won’t lose taste or nutrients during transport.

Raise your own food: You can keep just about anything on your property if you have enough land (or if you rent some land). You will have complete control over the way the animals are treated and what the animals eat. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have access to enough land to raise our own beef or pork (though some cities will allow chickens in your backyard!).

Hunt/fish: If you eat meat, you can’t get much more humane and natural than eating an animal that spent its life frollicking through the woods. Sure, it’s sad to think about eating  Bambi, but it is much more sad to eat an animal that was weaned from its mother at birth, forced to live its life in a dirt pen, shoved against each other, while wading in its own feces.  As for fishing – just make sure the pond/river/lake/ocean is clean and your fish should be relatively clean, too.

Buy from a food co-op or farmer’s market: Both of these options allow you to talk to the farmer/rancher and learn how they have taken care of their food. Some might not be certified organic, but you’ll find that most do not use chemicals. Find local food and farms at Local Harvest.

Health food store: Health food stores have a wide range of organic and natural foods. Some even bring in local organic food.

Shop the organic section of your grocery store:Yep, you can probably find organic food in your local store. I can even buy organic and free-range eggs at my Walmart, as well as other natural and organic foods. Buying from your grocery stores allows you to “vote with your dollar.” Vote for organic, and make it more widely available to others who may not take the time to visit the farmer’s market or grow their own.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated July 13 with all the carnival links.)

Like what you read? Buy me a coffee! Thanks for your support!

Published in Food