Today we're joined by Debra from A Frugal Friend. She'll be sharing about shopping for and saving on organic foods. In this first part, learn the basics of organics and how to get started.
There are so many questions when it comes to organic food. It sounds like a good thing, but what does “organic” really mean? What about the labels on the packaging? Can I even afford it?
The Basics: Organic food is produced with:
-No hormones, antiobiotics, artificial ingredients or trans fats
-No synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fumigants
-No fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge
-No genetically modified organisms (GMO's)
I am sure you have seen “organic” sections popping up in your local grocery stores over the last few years including mass retailers such as Walmart, Target and Kroger. This has made organic food more accessible and at times more affordable.
While there may be “organic” sections within a grocery store, that does not mean that everything in that section is 100% organic. There are labels……and the labeling can be very confusing.
You might see these labels in the grocery stores:
“100% Organic” – those foods bearing this label are made with 100% organic ingredients
“Organic” – those foods bearing this label are made with 95-99% organic ingredients. This is a confusing label because those who are unfamiliar with the USDA label might assume that this means its 100% organic.
“Made with Organic Ingredients” – those foods bearing this label are made with 70-94% organic ingredients. They do not have a seal on the packaging but may list up to 3 organic ingredients on the front of the packaging.
“Other” – those foods bearing this label are made with less than 70% organic ingredients. They do not have a seal on the packaging and may only list any organic ingredients on the information panel of the packaging.
Not all food has labels of course, especially when sold at local farmer's markets. So when you are shopping at these locations, just ask how the produce was grown.
Bottom line–don't confuse natural for organic…..and this can play a big role in your grocery budgeting.
Organic Doesn't Necessarily Equal Healthy: There are all types of organically-labeled foods out there. Just because they make organic cookies, doesn't automatically mean its healthy for you personally. It just means you can make a comparison to non-organic cookies.
Can I Afford Organic? For some of us, it is not economically feasible to buy all organic foods all of the time. In our house, we've chosen just a few categories to buy organic so that our budget isn't broken:
1. Dairy (milk, eggs, butter): With a young child in the house and cancer in my family, I try to avoid as much as possible anything with added hormones. This is just a decision that our family has made especially with a child that has recently transitioned to cows' milk. Since she can drink up to 24 oz of milk per day, it's a big part of her diet. Dairy is a good place to start if you want to begin putting some organic in your diet.
2. Produce: There are certain fruits and vegetables that are considered the most contaminated with pesticide residues. These are typically fruits and veggies where you eat the skin (like various types of berries where pesticides aren't easily washed off). There are 12 that are considered “most contaminated” and 12 that are the “least contaminated.” I make my purchases based on this. Here is a printable pocket guide from Earthbound Farms that you can take shopping with you. It lists, and has pictures of, the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables. I keep a copy of it with me in the grocery store at all times.
Babies and toddlers eat more fruits and vegetables in their diet than most adults. I know they made up 95% of my child's diet when she first started eating solid foods. Even now, they easily make up 80% off her diet. Studies show that children who eat non-organic produce show traces of pesticides in their bodies, which disappear within 36 hours of switching to organic produce. So, while as adults, we try to eat organic produce, I feel its much more important for my daughter to eat organic since it's a primary source of her nutrition.
3. Meat (chicken, beef): This can be the most expensive area of a budget and not always entirely feasible to buy organic. But there are ways to get good deals here, too, and that is when I stock up. One alternative is to purchase the No-Hormone Added poultry and meats. While not “organic,” these are a less expensive alternative.
I'll be back again soon to share more details about how to save money while buying organic foods. In the meantime, visit your local grocery store and get familiar with the organic sections and brands. Print out the pocket guide of the 12 most contaminated produce items, and start keeping an eye out for coupons on organic products. See you again soon!
Debra traded in high-powered suits and high-heeled shoes for a new role as mommy–crayon enthusiast, storyteller, and kisser of boo-boo's. You'll find her helping families at A Frugal Friend, where she teaches others how to reduce their expenses through coupons, rebates, freebies and deals.