thoughts on groceries: buying organic

I first began buying organic food about four years ago. I had read enough about pesticides at that point to be convinced that there were a few produce items we really should be purchasing sans pesticides. At that time, Keith and I were college students who spent about $125 a month on groceries, and it was only with Keith’s encouragement that it was okay to go ahead and spend a little more to buy organic apples that I was able to begin making the switch.

As I have continued to do more research, it has become more and more worth it to us to buy more items organic. Today, I’d say about 70-80% of our food is certified organic. For the most part, each item has been a specific choice, and many are now a matter of conscience. The hormones injected into commercially produced livestock, not to mention the many tumors that must be cut from beef in order to make it fit for consumption, are something we feel are hazardous to our health and to that of our developing children, so we buy beef that has been raised without hormones and preferably pasture-fed. The hormones given to dairy cows are similarly frightening, so we opt for organic yogurt, cheese, and milk whenever possible. Free-range eggs have been shown to be far more nutritious than those laid by constantly-caged chickens who are fed only grain, so we feel the additional nutritional value more than makes up for the extra cost.

Genetically modified foods are not good for the human body, so we buy organic corn and soy products. Commercially-grown fruits and vegetables have been doused in varying amounts of chemical-laden pesticides, so we buy most of these organic. The list goes on. Some products, like bananas and avocados, have very low amounts of pesticides and thus we buy the standard varieties unless the organic ones are on sale.

I mentioned that our standard grocery bill during college, before we began to buy organic food, was about $125 per month. We had shot an elk, been given half a cow, and received bread products for free, so those factors contributed a lot to keeping our costs low. Today, we spend about $270 per month on groceries, not including vitamins. Obviously, our costs have gone up a bit, but we are ingesting a much better quality of food.

Although our food bill has increased, there aren’t a lot of items that we spend more money on than we would if we bought the regular version. It’s taken a while to work out a good system, but I have found that our local Fred Meyer has a great organic section, and unlike the organic section in many other stores or even the local organic foods store, there are truly cost-saving bargains to be found in the organic section. Organic cereal is normally $4.50/box, and organic soup is normally $4.00/box, but because of sales, I always get the cereal for $2.50/box and the soup for $2.00/box, sometimes less. I spend the same price – or less! – on organic oranges, apples, carrots, and so on as a person would spend buying the standard variety. I buy sprouted grain bread for $2.25/loaf, and although I can’t get it on sale, I feel that the quality of the bread and the additional nutrition it provides more than makes up for the extra price.

I toss these numbers out there not because I want to bore you to death, but because I am trying to get across the point that it really is possible to buy organic food without doubling your food bill. Sales, coupons, hitting the right stores, and knowing which items are most important to buy organic are all part of this. Organic dairy will probably always cost a bit more, but hitting it on sale can bring it a lot closer to the range of normal dairy products. Organic meat is priced astronomically if you buy it from a grocery store, but arranging a deal through a source like can bring the prices as low or lower than grocery store costs.

One of the best resources I have found in my quest to lower my family’s exposure to harmful pesticides is the pocket guide provided by the Environmental Working Group: This group has done a tremendous amount of testing on fruits and vegetables, and it gives me great peace of mind to know which produce is imperative to buy organic and which foods I can get away with buying in the regular produce section.

Another reference, one that I believe is crucial for anyone interested in buying safer seafood, is the pocket guide provided by the Monterey Bay Aquarium: I’ve read a good bit of solid research about why our seafood is so contaminated with mercury, and as a pregnant and nursing mother, it’s a matter of conscience for me to avoid contaminating my children with mercury as much as I can. This guide also shows which waters are overfished, and thus it is a small but important way for me to vote with my dollars and support ethical fishing practices only.

Although the information in this blog post certainly doesn’t fall under the “save as much money as possible” category, I share it because there are things that are far more important than money. I feel that it is foolish to pursue any sort of material goods if we aren’t first taking care of the most important material good that has been entrusted to each one of us – our bodies! I believe that it is worth the time and effort to consider the ways in which we care for ourselves, and that in turn has led Keith and me to the conclusion that it is also worthwhile to avoid genetically modified foods and pesticide chemicals whenever possible.

Published in: on March 2, 2010 at 11:25 am  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ah!! I only wish that we could get sales on things like organic milk! Over 7 dollars for a 2 litre jug and that is the best that there ever is. The selection and prices on organic veggies is getting better which makes me really happy but the organics way of shopping has a long ways to go in our little section of the world.
    But on an exciting note, we just found out that we are able to get half of a pasture fed beef for a decent price!

  2. I’ve found that even if I eat healthily (is that a word?), my body feels lethargic and unhealthy without regular, strenuous exercise. I’ve definitely chosen to pursue that angle of my personal “triangle” – healthy food, exercise, and rest.
    Still working on that rest part. 🙂

  3. In reply to Morgan’s comment, my personal triangle is only a dot: healthy eating…sometimes. 🙂

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