In the midst of a recession, people are always looking for ways to save money, and the luxuries are the first thing to go. Crossing organics off your grocery list may seem like the easy way to save money, but it’s not necessary.
While a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed organics don’t offer superior nutrition, there are other health benefits to an organic diet.
Eating organic means you will be ingesting fewer pesticides, and it is also the only way you can ensure your family is not eating genetically modified foods (often called genetically modified organisms or GMOs). Equally important is the simple fact that, organic farming protects farm workers who would otherwise be exposed to toxic and potentially lethal pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides. Supporting organic farming also means there are fewer chemicals ending up in our waterways, a source of drinking water for many Americans.
So how can cash-strapped consumers afford organics?
Buying Organic on a Budget
The first step is to avoid purchasing too much of a perishable food item. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away more than 25 percent of the food they purchase. That’s like throwing away 25 percent of your food budget, which could largely make up for the increased cost of most organics.
One of the simplest ways to stretch your dollar is to purchase produce at a local farmer’s market, where prices are often cheaper and food is at its freshest-so everything will last longer once you get it home.
As temperatures grow cooler and the grocery store becomes your only option, there are lots of other ways to keep your grocery bill in check. Coupons are easy money saved, and lots of stores are highlighting sales as a good-will effort to help out their customers. Make the most of these bonuses and be willing to adjust your meal plans to accommodate big sales you find when you’re grocery shopping.
There’s no time like a recession to cut out the junk and heavily processed foods. You may cling to a piece of cheesecake as your one indulgence, but you’re better off without it. Junk and highly processed foods offer little or no nutritional value, and they won’t help your body cope with the stress of the times. Skip the sugar, pre-packaged lunches, and those ready-in-five-minutes side dishes, and you’ll have more money for healthy organic foods rich in antioxidants and vitamins.
If your budget simply won’t allow a fully organic diet, there are some options. The Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists identify which fruits and vegetables carry the most and least pesticide residues. The Organic Center has also created lists of fruits and vegetables that have the highest pesticide risk per serving, with separate lists for domestically grown produce and imports. If you can only afford some organics, consult both of these lists and create your own must-buy organics list to tuck in your wallet or store on your cell phone.
When it comes to organic beef, grass fed is the only way to go-otherwise, it’s not really worth the increased cost. It is more expensive, but grass fed beef contains higher levels of nutrients and vitamins, including betacarotene, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and conjugated linoleic acid, a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that may reduce rates of cancer, thickening of the artery wall, type 2 diabetes, and accumulation of body fat.
While grass fed beef is nutritionally superior, organic dairy is preferred for its lack of hormones and antibiotics. Most cows treated with hormones are also heavily treated with antibiotics to manage infections caused by their milk-heavy udders dragging on the ground. As a cheaper alternative to organics, an increasing number of non-organic but hormone-free dairies are labeling their products “hormone-free” or “rBST-free” to appeal to consumers who want to avoid hormones but not spend the extra money for organic.
Whether you manage to eke out a full organic diet or just focus on key organic foods throughout this recession, eating organics supports an industry that is healthier for your family, your fellow Americans, and the wildlife that is often harmed by the agricultural chemicals that enter their ecosystems.