Very few people will argue that organic produce is better for you than produce obtained from commercial farming. At our home, we’re on a very limited budget for food of around $30 a week for two adults right now, but that budget does fluctuate throughout the year. Fortunately, we keep to a vegetarian diet at home (I eat meat when someone else is kind enough to fix it for me) unless we have company. If we were eating meat, we wouldn’t be able to get by on that little.
We eat seasonal as much as we can, because doing so cut down costs and doesn’t support shipping things like tomatoes from other countries.
We eat local produce as much as we can, which in the summer is actually easier and more enjoyable than going to the grocery store. I’m not sure when the last time I bought food for us at a conventional grocery store was, because most of our food is currently coming from the farmer’s market or a CSA share we belong to. When I go to pick up my CSA, I grab up flour, milk and the other necessities I can’t get at farmer’s market at a tiny grocery store that only sells locally-produced products and a few carefully selected organics from not within our state.
We also eat as organic as possible, which admittedly isn’t easy when we’re stretching the dollar, though the price of organic food is actually more realistic and fair to the farmers that produce it. Most of your local farmers would likely tell you that conventional farming doesn’t pay a living wage.
Still I sometimes have to choose to obtain certain things from the grocery store, and they aren’t organic due to cost. We do what we can, but we’re committed to not owning credit cards to buy our necessities with.
For those of you who are like me, you can still buy a mix of organic and non-organic produce. When I have to buy conventional, I stick to the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists. Things on the Dirty Dozen list are the produce for the year that they’re finding the highest concentration of pesticides (and sometimes unapproved ones! Yikes!) on, and the Clean 15 are the least chemical-laden. This is even after being washed and peeled.
This is the Dirty Dozen List for 2011: Apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines (imported), grapes (imported), sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries (domestic), lettuce, kale/collard greens. I personally ad #13 to the list, which is cilantro, because that’s a big one for unapproved chemicals this year (33? Really cilantro farmers? Really?)
The Clean 15 List for 2011: Onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocadoes, sweet peas (frozen), mango, eggplant, cantaloupe (domestic), kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, mushrooms, and winter squash.
So what about you? Do you stick to lists like this to help you make decisions in shopping? Are you organic or death? I’d love to hear about your rules for grocery shopping.