organics on a budget

having just returned from the grocery store, the topic of whether or not to buy organic foods is on my mind. i've been buying organic milk fairly regularly for quite some time now after i read that dairy and meat products should be your first switch, followed by produce, when considering a commitment to organics. that said, i don't like the organic selection of yogurts (has anyone started eating greek yogurt with honey and fruit yet?), and i haven't made the switch with my cheeses. i also haven't convinced myself to pay for the highly marked-up organic meats. $9 per pound for chicken breasts is just too much for me to justify...tyson it is.

now that all sounds really confusing, doesn't it? that's because it is; i go back and forth about where i stand on the issue. yes, i think it's important to reduce the amount of chemicals, hormones, and pesticides we consume. and, yes, i think it's important to treat the earth better when farming. but i can't afford to do it all the time. sorry, mother earth!

so, here's my approach: i make my grocery list each week, pull my coupons (yes, i am a nerd--but a thrifty nerd!), and make my way to the store. my first stop--after oggling the fresh-baked breads--is to the produce section. before i go anywhere else in the section, i head straight to organics. i put whatever is on sale in my cart first, then head to the rest of the section for the other items on my list. i do the same for crackers, etc, and have fully committed to paying the extra $.25 for a can of organic beans--in hopes that buying one organic protein will make up for the lack of buying the previously mentioned chicken. this method allows me to buy organics at a discount, reduce my intake of chemicals for the week, and support organic farming practices. read happy budget, happy me, and happy organic farmers.

the environmental working group published a list of the "dirty dozen" produce items that should always be purchased organic because of the high levels of pesticides found in their non-organic cousins. they are: peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuces, grapes (imported), carrots, and pears. on the flip side, they also published fifteen of the safest non-organic foods, which are: onions, avocadoes, sweet corn, pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, cabbages, eggplants, papayas, watermelon, broccoli, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. do you notice any trends when reading through these lists? as a general rule, thin-skinned fruit and veggies should be purchased organic; foods with hulls, husks, or shells are generally protected a little better. there are a few exceptions, of course, but it's a pretty handy set of guidelines...and it makes it much less ominious when attempting to select organic foods on a budget!

my next step--one that i've been meaning to do for quite a while--is to hit up our local farmer's market for my weekly food yummies. it's important when considering what's good for the environment and for a budget to consider buying locally. the additional cost and pollution is increased dramatically when a plum has to be flown to my store from peru. i love the term that has been dubbed for people who make an effort to eat locally: locavores!

so, that's where i stand so far. i don't want to come across as a tree-hugging, bare-footed hippy (though i do love trees and being barefoot...), but i do think it's important to take responsibility as a consumer. we make a statement with what we purchase, and i hope that mine is that i try to do right by our planet and my body. tell me your thoughts on this.

on the menu this week (it's finally cool outside!): cooktop cassoulet with chicken and sausage (a recipe from my sister-in-law); mahi-mahi with roy's restaurant home-made blackening seasoning recipe, vegetables, and butternut squash-curry soup; slow-cooker pot roast with potatoes and veggies; and a tortellini with spinach and prosciutto. i'll share the reviews and recipes when i can; have a great week!


  1. My breakfast for the last few weeks has been Fage 2% greek yogurt with honey. Delish! Seth and I have been talking about organic/locally grown a lot more recently and most of the meat we buy is organic. As far as budget concerns we're easing ourselves into the idea of less meat, higher quality. So, maybe we will only eat meat with a couple of meals per week, but we'll pay the extra for organic or locally grown. Just something to think about...

  2. i like your approach, sparkles! i've thought about making it a ritual to have "vegetarian night" in our house at least once a week, in addition to the "fish night" rotation that we already do. sometimes, we go vegetarian without even meaning to! it is healthier overall to cut back on the meat intake, according to many articles i've read, so i'll think on it some more. thanks for your input!