Down & Dirty in the Produce Aisle
The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) yearly list of the most pesticide-tainted fruits and vegetables is here, and it once again underscores the importance of organic eating. The only real question is how to do it on a budget.
The 2013 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen feature some new additions and for the second year running a "Plus" category for a couple of foods that didn't meet worst-offender criteria but were commonly contaminated with pesticides exceptionally toxic to the nervous system. Here's the EWG list of the Dirty Dozen, the 12 fruits and veggies on your grocer's shelf most contaminated by pesticide residue:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Hot Peppers
- Imported Nectarines
- Sweet bell peppers
- Kale/Collard Greens (Plus)
- Summer Squash (Plus)
The least pesticidally problematic Clean Fifteen are:
- Sweet corn
- Frozen sweet peas
- Sweet potatoes
Visit http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/ to download a phone app or printable PDF of the guide. These lists give us an idea about what produce we should always try to eat organically, but their contents can change from year to year. That tells us that the best way to dodge pesticides on our plate is to simply choose organics when and wherever possible. That’s not always simple on a budget, but it’s quite possible with strategies like these:
- Practice triage. Use the EWG lists to prioritize your organic purchases when pennies count.
- Let coupons and sales guide your menu planning. This organic coupon resource dishes out the deals.
- Buy foods "in season" when they’re cheapest. This guide will tell you what's generally plentiful when. Here's a state-by-state version.
- Shop farmer's markets, which can save you money when the local harvest is in. Or get a local Community Supported Agriculture subscription for bulk weekly deliveries of whatever's freshest.
- Stockpile in season or when you see a special. Freeze or can the excess. If you don’t have much freezer space consider a standalone freezer, which will quickly pay for itself in food savings.
- Buy in bulk. Many supermarkets and natural food stores have a bulk department where you can bag your own organic grains, pastas, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, flour, and more at a discount.
- Don't forget frozen, canned, or dried varieties. They're less expensive but just as organic and equally nutritious and delicious.
- Shy away from processed organic foods and stick to whole foods you prepare yourself. Remember: "value-added" items are price-added, too!
- Shop at grocery stores that offer their own organic brand. These "generic" organics are cheaper.
- Eat less meat. On a per serving basis, organic meat is usually significantly more expensive than organic fruits and vegetables. You'll get bigger nutritional bang for your organic buck in the produce department
- Join or start a buying club. Get together with like-minded friends and neighbors, pool your purchasing power, and buy in large quantities from a local wholesaler.
- Maximize your organic investment. Don't let food go to waste. Buy only what you can actually use or preserve before it spoils. Make today's leftovers tomorrow's lunch. Freeze larger leftover quantities for future meals. Use scraps for organic soups and sauces.
Finally, don't forget the best budget advice of all: grow your own! Even small container gardens can save big money in the kitchen and stretch your organic dollars even further.
What tips can you share for eating organic on a budget?