“So is it worth buying organic foods?”
This is a question I’m asked fairly often since organic foods can cost significantly more than conventionally grown/raised food. If you’re asking about organic Oreos then I can confidently say the answer is no, but what about produce or meat or eggs? Hopefully these points I lay out will help you decide if it’s worth it to spend your hard-earned dollars on organic foods.
To clarify, here are definitions for the three different levels of organic claims (from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics):
“The term organic has specific guidelines defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program.
It states that organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic plant foods are produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bio-engineering or ionizing radiation. A government-approved certifier must inspect the farm to ensure these standards are met. In addition to organic farming, there are USDA standards for organic handling and processing.
100-percent Organic. Products that are completely organic or made of only organic ingredients qualify for this claim and a USDA Organic seal.
Organic. Products in which at least 95 percent of its ingredients are organic qualify for this claim and a USDA Organic seal.
Made with Organic Ingredients. These are food products in which at least 70 percent of ingredients are certified organic. The USDA organic seal cannot be used but “made with organic ingredients” may appear on its packaging.”
Which foods should I buy organic?
For a brief overview on specific produce and foods that are worth buying organic (example- the Dirty Dozen) you can watch a brief video from a fellow dietitian I highly respect, Cassie Bjork, who shares her opinion on her local news. Like I said, don’t waste your money on organic Oreos (or any junk food); put your money toward real food with real ingredients you can pronounce.
How can I afford to buy organic?
Before I became more educated about organic foods I thought it was silly thing to waste money on, especially since the people I saw spending big bucks on organic meat and produce also had highly processed Lean Cuisines and pop/soda in their shopping carts and were carrying a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks (I worked at Starbucks while we lived in Canada for 6 months and was baffled by the amount of sugar they put in the drinks! Organic or not, sugar is still sugar!). You’ll learn in Cassie’s video that there are items that are actually worth buying organic but with this knowledge comes a new challenge: how do you compensate for the premium you pay for organic products? The last thing I want you to do is go into debt because you started buying organic!
First, a quick assessment of your budget can tell you where you may be able to save a few extra dollars on something not as healthy or beneficial. Do you buy a coffee every morning on your way to work? How often does your dinner come through your car window? How about your cable package? With Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streaming options, you may not need to dish out all that extra money each month for cable. Not only will you be reducing the amount of pesticide residue consumed, you’ll make a healthy change for your waist and wallet from cutting down elsewhere in your budget. It seems backwards that our culture doesn’t hesitate to spend over $100 on a phone plan and another $100 on cable but we are floored by the cost of food when the average grocery bill in the US only takes up 6-11% of total monthly expenses.
Some Residue is Better Than Not Eating Produce
I’ll be honest- it’s really hard to pass up a good deal on non-organic produce in the dirty dozen list when I can see the price tags of both organic and conventionally grown right next to each other. The wholesale produce market I love doesn’t always have the organic produce I’d want but how am I supposed to pass up peaches when they are only 39 cents per pound! I recently bought a 25-pound case, peeled the skin off and froze them in slices so we can enjoy fresh peaches all winter in our yogurt and smoothies. I wouldn’t encourage you to buy organic if it means you’re only going to eat one salad a week. I’d rather you eat a lot of produce that may have a little pesticide residue on them (wash them first, of course) than only eating a few servings of organic produce each week. I’m all for saving money but there’s a balance to pursue when it comes to food, fitness, and finance. If you skimp on one category you might pay for it in the other categories.
Do you purchase organic products? Why or why not?
This post has been written by Jessica from BudgetForHealth.com.
My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.