Spring is here and I can totally tell by going to the farmers market and grocery stores. When it’s warmer outside I definitely eat even more fresh raw produce than I do during the winter. Being vegetarians the majority of what we buy when shopping is produce. It’s the main ingredient of any dish we make. We buy A LOT of fruits and veggies and of course when buying produce I would love and wish I could buy 100% organic but due to our budget and sometimes availability of items that is not always possible. This might be the case for you too. I thought it would be helpful to share how and when I make the decision to buy organic produce and when I do not.
To be sure we are all on the same page, organic produces is produce that has not been sprayed/treated with chemical pesticides or herbicides and does not use chemical fertilizers when growing. Organic produces is not only healthier and safer for you to eat but it’s also safer and better for the environment and the farm workers. When organic produces is being grown there are no harmful chemicals being leached into our water and ecosystems, negatively impacting the wildlife and air quality. Conventional farm workers, sadly, are highly exposed to toxic carcinogen chemicals. Everyday at work they are breathing them in and having them come in contact with their skin. When I buy organic produce I like to think up the whole chain and see how that one buying decision really does affect much more than just my personal health.
Also remember that when it comes to buying organic produce at a grocery store look for the USDA Certified Organic label this is the only way to make sure your produce is truly organic. You might come across some packaged carrots in the refrigerator section that have the word “organic” on the packaging without the USDA label but don’t spend more on them thinking it’s organic because it’s not. Now with that said when you’re cruising around your local farmers market if you don’t see the USDA logo on that farmers banner be sure to talk with them and ask; “Your produce looks great what are your growing practices?”. They could very well be farming organically and have not gone through the USDA certification process yet because it is quite costly and lengthy. So make friends with your local farmers and ask them how they farm. You could score organically grown produce at a great price.
Alright now that we are on the same page about what organic produce is and why it’s important, we can talk about some great guides lines to make deciding when to buy organic easier. I’ve been using the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen as my benchmark for years now and they are so helpful. If you’ve never heard of these ways of classifying produce you’re in for a treat. I’m going to blow your mind with how easy it is to know when to buy organic and when you can pass if you need to. These two lists are tested and updated every year but I’m here to tell ya that with these lists as your shopping buddies you will begin to memorize them and see repeat offenders on the list year after year. I’m sure there’s apps for these to make it easy for you when you’re still getting use to what’s on each list that way you can reference them easily.
The Dirty Dozen are items of produce that you should always buy organic because they are the most highly contaminated and are sprayed the most heavily with pesticides. A few of the dozen are apples, peaches, strawberries, sweet bell peppers and spinach, click here to get the full list. You will get the biggest bang for your buck if you just start with shopping organic for these items. I’ve been eating organic apples for so many years now I can’t stand the taste of conventionally grown apples and frankly just won’t eat them. I don’t notice a difference in taste with all organic foods but apples is one I don’t budge on.
Clean Fifteen has not been around as long as the Dirty Dozen list but I’m sure glad that it has been made and is here to stay. This lists the fifteen conventionally grown produce items that when tested were found to have the lowest amounts of pesticides and chemicals on and in the produce. Some of the clean fifteen include avocados, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and grapefruit. These are items where you can save your money and skip on buying organic if you need to. Just remember that there were pesticides used when growing these items just not as many.
What are your habits when it comes to buying produce? Do you already use these lists to help you shop? I’d love to know what tips you have for enjoying lots of produce while not breaking the bank.
Photo credit: Sweet Roots Farm