In a perfect world, all of our food would be safe to eat, grown the way God intended. Unfortunately, most of our produce is sprayed with pesticides, and genetically modified food actually contains pesticides inside its DNA.
Our bodies can’t handle these poisons, and it attempts to cope in several ways: by storing the toxins inside fat cells, disrupting our hormones, wearing down our digestive system, and causing irregular (cancerous) cells to grow.
Organic food, the optimal choice, can be more expensive and accounts for only 4% of food grown in the U.S. Organic produce is typically more expensive than conventionally grown produce for several reasons:
- no chemicals equals more labor
- crops are smaller and take longer to grow
- crops are rotated to resist disease (like farmers did in the olden days)
- organic certification takes money and time for farmers
For most of us, eating 100% organic is not realistic, and that’s okay. I believe the most important thing we can do as consumers is to be informed, and make decisions based on that knowledge.
And eating better doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are 10 ways to stay within your budget and buy food that’s better for you and your family:
- Buy seasonally – in-season organic fruits and veggies are usually only slightly more expensive than conventional produce. Buy asparagus in the spring, strawberries and melons in the summer, and acorn squash in the fall. Here is a list of produce available by season.
- Buy locally – food that doesn’t travel far is less costly than food that has. Plus, it’s fresher!
- Visit farmer’s markets – I love shopping the farmer’s markets in Tucson and San Diego. With tents, music, and free samples, it’s a party-like atmosphere! Many markets also sell farm fresh eggs, organic meats, fish, and cheese, and olive oils. You get to talk to the folks who grow the food, and you’re supporting people in your community!
- Eat less meat – it’s expensive, and most of us eat way more than we need. Make it a goal to eat one or two meatless dinners a week. Instead, add beans, nuts, or avocados to make the meal more filling and nutritious. It’s also less work – no need to remember defrosting! Less money on meat means more money on nutrient-dense food.
- Join a co-op – many cities have a co-op or CSA such as Bountiful Baskets or Market on the Move. You either volunteer or pay a small fee and receive a basket of produce regularly. The food is typically local, and less expensive than buying at a grocery store. The produce may not be certified organic, however, it is usually sprayed with less, if any, pesticides. Remember, it’s very time consuming and expensive for farmers to earn the “organic” label. The same goes for produce at farmer’s markets.
- Grow your own – start your own garden, or grow veggies in pots! I have two tomato plants, basil, and thyme all growing in pots right now. Get your neighbors to grow some too, and share your bounty!
- Eat out less – eating out is pricey. Also, who knows what’s in the food? Lots of butter, salt, and chemical ingredients (think MSG) are added to make the food taste better. Plan ahead, freeze a few meals, or break out the ol’ crockpot for days you know are busy.
- Plan meals – the weeks I plan my meals go much more smoothly than the weeks I don’t. Try to grocery shop on the same day each week. The night before, plan what meals you want for that week. Try to use what you have on hand and make a list for the items you need. You’ll spend less money at the store and have a less stressful week!
- Freeze food – this is great for green smoothie ingredients. I freeze bagged spinach and kale right in the bag. Frozen greens don’t look pretty, but they don’t need to for smoothies! Ripe bananas? Peel and freeze in ziplock bags. Bonus tip: once a week, make an “everything but the kitchen sink” salad with the veggies in your crisper. Less waste, and you’ll be eating a great salad!
- Know which foods have the most pesticides – the Environmental Working Group puts out two lists each year: the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15. The Dirty Dozen are the top twelve conventional produce that contain the most pesticides. For example, spinach contains 54 pesticide residues! Spend your ‘organic dollars’ on these fruits and veggies. The Clean 15 have the least amount of pesticide residues, and are safer to eat. Below you will find the 2014 lists for the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15. Additionally, you can go to www.whatsonmyfood.org to look up individual produce and find out what pesticides were found.
What tips do you think you’ll incorporate? Which do you think are the most helpful? Do you have any tips you’d love to share? I’d love to hear from you – please feel free to comment below! Happy shopping!