Organic foods aren't the food chain outlier they used to be. These days, they're easy to find though they're still often hard to afford. And that's kept an age-old question alive: Are they really worth it? The short answer is yes, but they don't have to be budget breakers. Here's why and here's how.
We've all heard lots of delicious things about organic food over the years, most significantly that they put far fewer pesticide residues on our plates and notably more antioxidants and other nutrients compared to conventional foods. For many of us, that's enough. But if you're still on the fence, here's more food for thought: Switching to an organic diet helps sow a harvest of health faster than you can say, "please pass the chemical-free casserole."
New research from Australia finds that switching to a diet of at least 80% organic foods for just a single week can reduce the amounts of common organophosphate pesticides in our bodies by almost 90%. That's right: almost as soon as we start eating organic foods, much of our bodily pesticide burden virtually vaporizes.
Of course there's still that price issue hovering over our grocery budgets like a crop duster full of chlorpyrifos. But here's a secret: eating organic needn't involve a home equity loan or meals minus family favorites. We can have our cake and eat it organically, too. Here's how:
- First, shop strategically using these lists of the most and least contaminated foods. Go organic when it comes to the "dirtiest" foods but buy conventional varieties of the cleanest foods.
- Buy in season. Organic strawberries, for example, can bankrupt you in January. But during strawberry season they're a lot cheaper so that's when to eat them.
- Freeze it! A freezer filled with foods bought in-season or on-sale lets you eat organically year-round at the lowest possible price.
- Watch for sales and coupons and let those deals guide your menu planning. When organic spinach is 50% off, for example, put a serious salad or two on the table. Websites like Organic Deals can help you find the bargains.
- Fear no frozen or canned food (preferably BPA-free!). In many cases, these forms of organic food are less expensive yet pack a nutritional punch roughly equal to fresh varieties.
- Buy in bulk wherever possible. Trading pre-packaged, brand-name foods for those in the bulk bins lets you affordably stock your larder with organic grains and other dried foods.
- Grow your own. Even if it's just a single back-porch container of organic tomatoes, you'll be that much more ahead of the gastronomic game. And a full garden can fill a freezer in a single summer!
- Add your own value. It's infinitely more affordable to make your own organic granola, smoothies, veggie burgers, kale chips and more from raw ingredients than buy them pre-made.
There are other tricks - meat served, for example, as more of a side dish, and being a dedicated leftover "recycler" - but it's really just about mindful shopping and conscious eating. If you can add that to your menu, you'll fill your family up on organics without emptying your savings account.