What does “organic” mean? The term “organic” refers to the way agricultural products, and animals that eat those products, are grown and/or processed. While the regulations vary from country to country, in the U.S., organic crops must be grown without the use of synthetic herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers, or bioengineered seeds (GMOs).
Organic livestock raised for meat, eggs, and dairy products must be raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (such as the ability to graze in pastures) and they must also be fed organic feed and forage. They may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal by-products.
Organic food may have a slightly higher sticker price than conventionally-grown food. But, if you change your view of the expense into an investment in your health it can help you to see it’s actually saving in the long run. Plus it may be possible to purchase organic food and stay within your food budget using the tips below:
•Read labels carefully.
•Purchase in-season produce using the Clean 15 guide at EWG.org •Buy directly from farmers via farmers’ markets.
•Shop at Organic-Budget-Friendly Stores.
Read Labels Carefully
Manufacturers use a variety of marketing terms to encourage sales, but words like “natural” are no guarantee that something is free of genetic engineering or synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Instead, look for the USDA Organic label to make smart spending decisions.
Stores like Publix and Harris Teeter have several Organic Sections or Labels to help identify easily the organic foods. Important note: USDA Organic simply means the food item must be at least 70% organic with its ingredients.
Do you know those little stickers on fruits and veggies? They’re called price look-up (PLU) codes and they contain numbers that cashiers use to ring you up. But you can also use them to make sure you’re getting what you paid for.
A five-digit number that starts with a 9 means the item is organic. Eating organically or better yet, biodynamically grown produce is paramount. This can be identified at the grocery store by a five-digit bar code starting with the number “9”.
Purchase In-Season Produce With Clean 15
The EWG.org website puts out a Clean 15 list every year – it’s the 15 foods you can technically save $ by going non-organic because they are not sprayed or are very unlikely to be sprayed at all. Another cost-saving strategy is to buy organic produce when it is in season. Produce that is out of season will be more expensive, and it would not be as environmentally friendly since it must travel farther to get to the consumer, adding to your overall costs.
Buy Directly from Farmers
Many communities offer farmer’s markets or community-supported agriculture programs, known as CSAs. Both give consumers the chance to buy direct from growers. While selecting organic food is one way to lessen exposure to pesticides, food that is grown locally and sustainably can be better for you and the environment.
Small farm operations may not have the resources to go through the USDA Organic certification process, but they may themselves be organic or use more natural techniques than larger commercial enterprises. Always ask what they use for pest/weed control. Just b/c they are at the farmer’s market doesn’t make them instantly healthy – some farms are conventional growers who also sell at the farmer’s markets!
Shop at Budget-Friendly Stores
Shopping at the right store is another way to save money when buying organic food. The budget grocery chain Aldi has become a favorite spot for shoppers to buy organic products at a discount, and their organic options, though limited, are slowly expanding. Trader Joe’s is also known for its affordable organic food prices. Those who don’t mind buying in bulk can find the great organic foods options at Costco. It’s only a $60 annual membership which most recoup on their first visit compared to shopping at WholeFoods or Fresh Market.