How Do I Afford Organic Food to Help My Child’s Health?

You’ve likely heard that organic food is good for you and your family, but what exactly does organic mean?  You’ve also probably heard that it may cost more to buy organic items, but does the benefit of eating organically outweigh the cost?  The research and discussion pertaining to organic foods can be confusing and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.

What is organic food?

Organic food is grown in a manner that does not use pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce organic certified meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones. There are organizations that offer organic certifications, so that all food marked as organic meet the same set of standards.

Is organic food better?

Conventionally grown food may have higher concentrations of residual pesticides on them.  Nearly 75% of the 6,953 produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a 2014 study contained pesticide residues.  While thoroughly washing your produce will reduce pesticide residues, it will likely not eliminate them completely.  One study found that eating organic food contributed to a 94% reduction in health risk from pesticides.  Yet another report found that children eating an organic diet significantly lowered their exposure to organophosphorus pesticides.

So the short of it, yes, organic food is better at reducing your exposure to toxins.

Is organic food more expensive?

While organic produce tends to cost more than conventional product, the trend towards organic food has increased, in turn increasing access and driving prices down somewhat.  A 2015 Consumer Reports study found that on average, organic foods cost 13-47% more than conventional foods.

What should I buy if I can only afford a few organic items?

Most families are on a grocery budget and may wonder what to do if they’re not able to afford a 100% organic diet.  If you’re willing and able to incorporate some organic items into your budget, focus on the following list, as determined by the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” for 2016.

  1. Strawberries
  2. Apples
  3. Nectarines
  4. Peaches
  5. Celery
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Spinach
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Sweet bell peppers
  11. Cherry tomatoes
  12. Cucumbers

The above list is determined by an annual sampling of produce where items are tested for pesticide residues.  This list denotes the 12 items tested in 2016 that contained the highest amount of pesticide residues.  If you’re only able to afford a few organic items on your budget, your focus should be placed on purchasing the organic options for the above listed items.

Other budget friendly tips

Organic items go beyond produce.  Here are some tips and tricks to try when wanting to go organic on a budget.

  • Meal plan and make a grocery list. It helps save money if you go into a grocery store with a meal plan and grocery list in place.  This will also help ensure that you don’t waste any food during the week.
  • Keep your recipes and meals simple. You can save money by not buying specialty, one-off ingredients.  It’s also important to recognize that not every meal needs to have two side dishes, dessert, and be extravagant.  Cooking simple meals with simple ingredients will save you money and still taste great!
  • Buy in bulk. Many stores now sell popular items, including organic products, in bulk.  This cuts down the per unit cost, especially for items you routinely use.  With bulk items like meat and some dairy products, you may be able to freeze them for later use, reducing the pressure to cook everything all at once in the same week.

With a little understanding, planning, and time you’ll be able to navigate the organic aisles at your grocery store with ease and confidence, while staying on budget.  Placing an emphasis on organic food as your budget allows will keep your family healthy and happy.  If you need assistance with nutritional education and planning, Northwest Primary Care offers complete a complete support team.

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