Organic or Not -by Stephanie

Straight out of college I decided to change the way I ate. I gave up the fast food/ microwave meal student diet and started a journey towards health. One of my biggest hurdles was the grocery budget. Fast forward twelve years, a husband and three kids later, and the grocery budget is still always an issue. I pride myself in the fact that I am a bargain shopper and not the crazy couponing type that goes from store to store but the super busy mom who just wants to get what I need to keep my family healthy, full and happy and still have money for a dinner out, a girls shopping day or a movie with the family at the end of the month.  So I decided to dedicate a series of blogs on eating healthy on a budget.  The first in this series will consider the issue of whether organic produce is worth the extra cost.

I feel really great about buying organic. I know it is good for me, my family, and the environment, but since organic produce is usually more expensive, I have to prioritize. Of course, I would buy all organic produce if I had an unlimited budget.  So when I have to pick and choose, you may wonder how I decide. There are two cheat sheets that help me make decisions at the store.  First, there is the “The Dirty Dozen”, a list of produce that has been tested to have the highest amounts of pesticides. There is a new report every year, but most of the contenders stay the same. I always try to buy these items organic.  Here is the “dirty dozen” for 2011:
1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Nectarines- especially imported
7. Grapes- especially imported
8. Sweet Bell Peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Blueberries
11. Lettuce
12. Kale
13. Collard Greens (Kale and Collard Greens tie making this the dirty thirteen list)

There is also a “Clean Fifteen” list (produce with the least amount of pesticides). I feel confident buying either organic or conventional of these products but again would always prefer organic. The list includes:
1. Onions
2. Sweet Corn
3. Pineapple
4. Avocado
5. Sweet Peas
6. Mango
7. Eggplant
8. Cantaloupe
9. Watermelon
10. Sweet Potatoes
11. Grapefruit
12. Mushrooms
13. Asparagus
14. Kiwi
15. Cabbage

I happily buy local produce that is not organic if I can talk to the farmers about their growing practices.  Obtaining organic certification is not only costly, but guidelines are extremely rigid; it just isn’t realistic for some farmers to get the licensing.  I have been happy to find that most small local farms have great growing practices with little pesticide usage.  However, that isn’t always the case, so get to know your local farmers and their growing practices.  Remember no matter what produce you buy, always wash it with a great veggie/fruit wash unless it is already washed and bagged.

On a side note, if you do use meat, dairy or eggs in your diet, please buy organic or local.  If you need to be convinced of this, just watch the documentary Food Inc.

So when it comes to organic, know that sometimes the price is worth it.  Remember shopping for food is no different than shopping for anything else.  It isn’t always just about the price; you must also look at the value.  With organic food the value comes from a pesticide-free product that is dense in nutrients.  Feel good about buying organic produce, and make up the difference in your budget by eliminating foods with no nutritional value like soda and cookies.  That way you can stay on budget and still feed you and your family the clean healthy food they deserve.



  1. Anne Coffman
    April 25, 2012

    Stephanie, what a great article. I am wondering if this applies to frozen as well….like frozen spinach?

    • The Kitchen Remix
      April 26, 2012

      Anne, Yep, go organic on frozen as well. Remember organic is ideal but conventional spinach is still better than no spinach at all:)

  2. Linda
    May 8, 2012

    Loving the article, contains such interesting info, thanks!

  3. Threse Armstrong
    May 25, 2012

    Thanks for the lists, Steph. Since being part of the local farmers’ market, we strive to plant seeds in soil that is unadulterated with chemicals and most of us tend to not use chemicals of any sort on the produce as we eat our own. We just love to garden and produce extra to sell. We have found over the years we tend to shop the market rather than shopping Walmart.

    Nice website, Steph. Saving up for a Vitamix Blender so I can begin using my veggies and making the smoothies.

  4. here
    May 30, 2012

    Amazing article, cheers, I will visit again later.


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