How to Buy Organic Without Breaking the Bank

According to a policy analyst with Consumer Report’s Greener Choices, organic produce, meat, and dairy products can cost anywhere between 50 to 100 percent more than their conventional counterpart. Despite that fact, consumers are increasingly turning to organics.

According to market research firm Hartman Group, more than 70 percent of consumers now have at least one organic product on their shopping list.

Yahoo Finance shares five tips for going organic for less:

1. Prioritize – Organic apples, beef, and spinach, for example, give you more bang for your buck than other produce because their conventionally grown counterparts are heavily laden with pesticides and other harmful additives. Seafood, cosmetics, and cleaning products, on the other hand, can be labeled “organic” without meeting the same USDA requirements imposed on vegetables and meats.

2. Consider alternatives – Organic meats, eggs, and dairy products are some of the priciest, but you can find antibiotic- or hormone-free varieties, giving you at least part of the organic benefit.

3. Look for sales – Organic food is frequently put on sale, so look for coupons and discounts advertised in store circulars.

4. Turn to local farmers, and buy in season – Local farmer’s markets and community-supported agriculture programs (CSA’s) are great places for organic produce, and buying fruits and vegetables that are in season will help reduce your cost, as pricing is more competitive during those times.

5. Consider generics – Many supermarkets are now adding their own organic lines to their private labels, pushing your cost down.

Yahoo Finance July 18 2007


Dr. Mercola's Comments:

This is a classic example of how you need to be careful of what you read in the media about “being healthy,” as I disagree with many of these suggestions.

However, eating organic food is a powerful way to optimize your health, ensure that your food has not been genetically modified, and help protect your environment.

Making Good Choices

Conventionally grown food is often tainted with a multitude of chemical residues, including chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides. These pesticides can cause a wide variety of health problems, including:

  • Neurotoxicity
  • Disruption of your endocrine system
  • Cancer
  • Immune system suppression
  • Male infertility and miscarriages in women

It is likely that you are not financially independent, and therefore need to be careful as to how you spend your money on food. You can easily overspend on purchasing organic, so let me show you how to prioritize your spending.

Most Important Food to Purchase Organically

Since animal products tend to bioaccumulate toxins, concentrating them to far higher concentrations than are typically present in vegetables, it would make sense to make sure your meat choices are organic. When choosing organic beef however, you should also go the additional step and make certain the cows are grass fed exclusively, especially the three months before they are slaughtered, as this is when they are typically given grains to fatten them up.

For chickens, it would be important to make sure they are cage free chickens.

Avoid the omega-3 chicken eggs, as they typically tend to be oxidized and go bad FAR sooner than non-omega -3 eggs.  Besides, you were NOT designed to get your omega-3 fats from chickens that were fed flax or some other grain. Ideally, it is best to get your omega-3’s from marine sources.

Organic produce, on the other hand, has actually been shown to have higher nutrient-content than conventional fresh produce, which should be a pretty good motivator in and of itself. On average, conventional produce has only 83 percent of the nutrients of organic produce. For example, studies have found significantly higher levels of nutrients such as vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus, and significantly less nitrates (a toxin) in organic crops.

Essentially, although you may spend more money on organic food, your payoff of good health should more than make up for it – and reduce your health care costs in the future.

Sure makes more sense to me to invest a little bit more for my food so I can avoid paying LARGE hospital bills later on, but more importantly, I can avoid the disability and dysfunction from not being healthy. (If you don’t believe me on this one you simply must see the recent video of Michael J. Fox to show you what is possible if you consistently violate this principle.)

As more and more people are getting concerned about the quality of their food, supermarkets have jumped on the organic bandwagon, adding organics to their own private labels, including:  

  • Meijer – Meijer Organics
  • Giant Eagle – Nature’s Basket
  • Publix – GreenWise Market
  • Safeway – O Organics

Unfortunately, there’s still no real oversight when it comes to organics, so there are no guarantees that these supermarket brands (or any organic brand, for that matter) actually adhere to totally organic practices and ingredients. Doing your own homework is key.

In many chain grocery stores, the organic label plastered everywhere may be little more than a corporate symbol. Most fruits and vegetables travel as far as 2,500 miles just to reach your grocery store. Just consider the impact that has on their freshness, and your environment.

More Important Than Organic

I can’t tell you how many times people purchase organic just because it’s organic, but the vegetables are old and wilted, and nearly all the vitality is gone from them. Believe me, a healthy vibrant locally grown vegetable is FAR healthier than one that has travelled thousands of miles and is wilted way past its prime.

So, make sure your vegetable is healthy when you choose it. Pick it up, feel it, and smell it. Examine it very carefully. Start to understand just how hard or soft that vegetable should be and what a healthy vegetable is like. All it takes is a few weeks practice and you will be a pro and can start to teach others.

Also, I am currently examining some VERY interesting technology that can destroy all the pesticide residue in less than a second. It is really amazing, relatively inexpensive and may become a virtual necessity for all of us. I hope to report on this by the end of the year.

Making GREAT Choices

Also your healthiest -- AND most environmentally-friendly -- food choice is not just organic, but grown locally.

A serious reevaluation of the entire perception and value of "organic" is needed, with the recognition that the organic label is often misused and is not to be considered the certification of health that it used to be. That honor has now shifted to locally grown produce, grown organically. Not only is it fresher and healthier for you, but it is far more environmentally friendly, as large amounts of fuel are not wasted in transporting it to you.

Another good reason for buying locally is that it can also help protect you from large-scale food disasters, caused by industrialized farming practices. One such example would be the 2006 E. coli spinach scare.

These nationwide catastrophes are frequently caused because massive amounts of food is being grown, slaughtered, washed, or packaged all in one place, meaning an infection or toxic substance that comes from one source can rapidly spread across the food supply. Smaller, local farms are isolated from this dangerous system, and are therefore not affected to the same degree.

To assist you on your way to Total Health, here are some great resources to help you obtain wholesome food that supports not only you, but the environment as well. Combined with the money-saving tips mentioned in the article above, these resources can help you to put the very best food money can buy on your table.

Farmers’ Markets

  • Farmers' Markets
    A national listing of farmers' markets.

  • Local Harvest
    Find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area.

  • Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals
    The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.

  • Chicago's Green City Market
    Chicago's only sustainable market with the highest quality locally farmed products. May through October. (Wednesdays and Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.)

Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSA’s)

  • Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, Community  Supported Agriculture (CSA)

  • Weston A. Price Foundation

  • FoodRoutes
    The FoodRoutes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSA's, and markets near you.

  • Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)

Additionally, you won’t want to miss my resource page Promoting Sustainable Agriculture, which includes even MORE links to cool organizations like “Slow Food,” and the “National Farm to School Program,” just to mention a couple.


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