If you eat organic, you know that in general, organic food is usually more expensive than conventional food—47 percent more costly, according to a 2015 report by Consumer Reports.
Yet more families than ever before are buying organic food and food without artificial ingredients, hormones, steroids, pesticides, antibiotics and GMOs.
In fact, according to a 2014 study by the Organic Trade Association, 8 out of 10 families in the U.S. have purchased organic products one or more times in the past two years.
As a result, sales of organic food are also at an all-time high. In 2018, they reached a whopping $52.5 billion.
When my daughters were younger and I made all of their baby food, I did my best to buy organic. Yet as they’ve grown and our food bill has significantly increased, I’ve had to scale back quite a bit.
Still, if you eat organic, studies show there are a ton of health benefits for you and your kids. Although it’s usually more expensive, the good news is that you can eat organic regardless of your budget.
ORGANIC FOOD ADVANTAGES
According to a 2016 poll by Pew Research, 4 in 10 Americans say at least some of the food they eat is organic and the reason they do so is because of health concerns.
In fact, 55 percent say that organic fruits and vegetables are better for your health than conventionally-grown produce.
When it comes to the advantages of eating organic food, experts say, it is indeed healthier.
Fewer pesticides and lower levels of heavy metals
According to the Organic Trade Association, the organic food label guarantees:
- No toxic and synthetic pesticides or fertilizers
- No GMO ingredients
- No antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones
- No artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
- No sewage sludge or irradiation
Studies show that organic food has fewer pesticides and lower levels of heavy metals and may be healthier.
According to a 2014 meta-analysis in the British Journal of Nutrition, organic crops have higher concentrations of antioxidants, lower levels of cadmium (a highly toxic heavy metal), nitrates, and fewer pesticide residues than conventionally-grown crops.
Lower risk for antibiotic-resistant bacteria
Some studies show that eating organic food lowers the risk for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
According to a November 2011 study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, poultry and beef produced without antibiotics was associated with a lower prevalence of bacterial resistance.
More healthy fats
When you eat organic, you and your kids may also be getting more of the healthy fats in your diet.
According to a 2016 study in the British Journal of Nutrition, both organic milk and meat contain around 50 percent more omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally-produced foods.
Lower risk of cancer
Eating organic foods may also lower your risk of cancer.
According to a 2018 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, people who consumed the highest amount of organic foods had a 25 percent reduction in overall cancer risk, compared to those who consumed the lowest amount of organic food.
THE EWG’S 2019 CLEAN 15 LIST & 2019 DIRTY DOZEN LIST
Every year, the Environmental Working Group publishes their Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The guide includes the “Clean 15 List,” which is a list of foods that are considered safe to buy as conventionally-grown and the “Dirty Dozen” list of foods that are best to avoid as conventionally-grown and better to be consumed as organic.
THE 2019 CLEAN 15 LIST
2. Sweet Corn
4. Sweet Peas (Frozen)
15. Honeydew melon
THE 2019 DIRTY DOZEN LIST
How To Eat Organic On Any Budget
Regardless of your family size and food budget, there are simple ways to add more organic foods to your meals and snacks.
1. BE REALISTIC
If I had an unlimited food budget, I’d definitely buy all organic food, but for most of us, that’s not a reality.
Instead of an all-or-nothing mindset, I make choices about what’s really important to buy organic.
For example, I will try to buy organic, grass-fed beef and organic berries, but foods that have a skin like avocados I’ll buy conventional.
Although it’s more expensive, quantity is also something to consider.
If you buy strawberries every week and you know your kids will devour an entire package in one sitting, you might consider buying organic.
On the other hand, it may not be necessary to buy organic cookies which they’ll (hopefully) eat less frequently. Besides, just because they’re organic doesn’t mean they’re healthier.
2. SHOP AROUND TO EAT ORGANIC
I love shopping at Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck) because the produce is so fresh and there are foods they carry that I can’t find elsewhere. Although I have found they have some foods that are more affordable than other grocery stores, buying organic can get pricey.
When you’re trying to eat organic on a budget, shop around and compare prices.
You may be able to find better deals on organic food at your local large grocery store, Trader Joe’s, big box stores like Target, or club warehouses like Costco.
Also, check out online retailers like Thrive Market, which offers organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan foods and healthy products at 25-50% below retail price.
You might also consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture farm (CSA) or get deliveries of meat through a share program.
However, be sure to compare their prices with your local grocer to make sure you’re actually saving money.
Also, look for foods labeled with the “USDA Organic” seal which means the product has adhered to strict standards and is certified organic.
3. BUY LOCAL AND ORGANIC
When you eat locally-grown food that’s in season, the idea is that it’s fresher, more nutritious, and tastier.
If you can find produce that’s both local and organic, it’s a win-win.
Your grocery store may sell local produce, but also try local farms and your farmers market.
Be sure to ask the farmers about the types of pesticides they use and if their produce is certified-organic.
Also, visit the farmers’ market towards the end when farmers are more likely to give you a discount on what they didn’t sell.
4. PLANT A GARDEN TO EAT ORGANIC
Two years ago, our family planted our first vegetable garden and my kids were thrilled to pick and eat the salad, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers that we grew.
Planting a garden gives you more affordable organic options and allows you to know where your food comes from.
It’s also a great way to get your kids excited about eating healthy. In fact, a September 2016 study out of the University of Florida suggests kids who garden are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables throughout their lives.
5. EAT LESS MEAT
If your husband likes a big steak for dinner or your family can polish off a whole chicken in one sitting, eating organic can get pricey.
Instead, put less of a focus on meat, or what Dr. Mark Hyman refers to as a “condi-meat,” a small amount of meat on a plate that’s made up of mostly vegetables.
6. SHOP SALES
Check the sales flyer (in print or online) for sales on organic food and stock up.
Organic beans and grains are really affordable, last a long time and can stretch your food dollars.
To prevent food waste when buying vegetables, blanch and freeze them in plastic freezer bags.
7. BUY FROZEN ORGANIC FOOD
One of the best ways to eat organic without overspending is to buy frozen vegetables.
Frozen vegetables are picked at their peak freshness and flash frozen so they may be healthier than fresh varieties.
In fact, a June 2017 study in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis found in some cases frozen produce is more nutritious than fresh that’s been stored in the refrigerator for 5 days.
8. USE COUPONS AND APPS
While most of the coupons you’ll find in the newspaper or online are for processed foods, there are ways to take advantage of coupons and savings on organic food.
For example, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, download the Whole Foods App and you can take advantage of exclusive deals.
Or sign up for Driscoll’s Rewards Club for coupons on organic berries.
Also, be sure to use your store’s loyalty card and look for apps that give you gift card rewards on your purchases.
My new favorite? Fetch Rewards. All you have to do is take a photo of your receipt and you start to accumulate points—it’s so easy!
9. WANT TO EAT ORGANIC? BUY PRIVATE LABEL BRANDS
Many stores carry their own private label brands which may be less expensive than the brand names. For example, Target has Good & Gather and Stop and Shop has Nature’s Promise.
10. AVOID BUYING TOO MUCH ORGANIC FOOD
In the U.S., an average family of four wastes about 25 percent of the food they buy, or about $2,200 a year.
To cut down on food waste, and make the most of your food budget, don’t buy more than you think you’ll eat.
Try to make a meal plan each week and at the very least, stick to your grocery shopping list.
At home, wash, cut up produce, and store it in clear glass containers which keeps it fresh but also encourages kids to eat it.