By Charlie Fletcher
In difficult financial seasons, we have to be mindful of our spending. While this is a good idea, too often we cut back on items that protect our health. For example, eating organic seems like a luxury.
However, for people with serious health conditions, switching to organics can support both healing and treatment. Even if you are healthy, that extra investment will help you to maintain fitness and well-being. How can you go organic without breaking the bank?
What Does Organic Mean?
Only certified organic foods follow a standard that ensures you are eating crops that are raised safely. To receive the USDA Organic logo on their products, farmers must follow certain guidelines including:
- Avoiding synthetic fertilizers and most synthetic pesticides.
- Avoiding antibiotics or growth hormones for livestock.
- Ensuring that soil and water are of high quality.
These standards are also better for the environment, which is another great reason to go organic.
When you are shopping, it’s important to know the different organic labels that the USDA allows brands to use. Here’s what they mean:
- 100% organic is generally for single-ingredient items like organically grown produce. The package may have the USDA Organic seal.
- Organic means at least 95% of a product’s ingredients are certified organic. These foods can also have the USDA seal.
- When “made with organic [up to three ingredients or ingredient categories]” is designated on a food label, 70% or more of the ingredients are certified organic. No USDA seal is allowed.
- If a food item has less than 70% organic ingredients, it may be labeled with “organic ingredients” but cannot have a USDA seal.
Why You Should Consider Going Organic
What’s so important about eating organic? Organic foods and produce are grown or made without any pesticides which have been linked to food allergies. This is a growing health issue as one in 13 children in the U.S. is currently affected by food allergies. Food allergy symptoms can include itchy skin or rash, a dry cough, or a runny nose.
Pesticides may also contribute to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. Recent research from Denmark showed that mothers with high levels of pesticides in their bodies before childbirth had children who were more likely to show the symptoms of ADHD than mothers with lower levels. It’s a good idea to eat organic if you are expecting!
Pesticides are not the only problem. Food that is grown without organic techniques may contain higher levels of cadmium, a dangerous heavy metal that can accumulate in your body. A buildup of cadmium can lead to kidney disease, fragile bones, and cancer. Switching to organic food and organic products as part of a healthy lifestyle may protect your body from these toxins.
How to Save Money When Buying Organic
Preserving your health is always a good investment but when you switch to an organic lifestyle, you may be worried about the cost. There are some simple ways to save money when you buy organic.
First, you should rethink your shopping habits. If you simply switch your pre-packaged foods to organic, your costs will be high. One of the myths about organic food is that it is always healthy. Even if it’s organic, processed food is not as healthy as whole food.
Create a meal plan for the week that contains more whole foods and less processed products. Slow cooker meals, vegetable-rich omelets, and stir-fry dinners with proteins and veggies over rice are filling, affordable, and nutritious. Instead of packaged meal maker ingredients, keep plenty of seasoning and some cooking sauces on hand to create simple dishes.
Where to Shop for the Best Deals
Once you have your grocery list together, it’s time to shop. A great place to start is with local butchers, farmer’s markets, and community-supported agriculture (CSAs). When you shop local, you not only get fresh food, you also get to know your local farmer. Some of them farm or raise livestock with organic methods but do not yet have the certification and that can save you money.
If you are shopping at a local farmer’s market, visit the organic produce stands just before they close. When farmers have a lot of fruits and vegetables left, they will often sell them at a discounted price.
Health food stores are also a great place to save money. They often carry fruits, vegetables, and other fresh items for less than your grocery store. Their selection may be small but it will be fresh and in season! Finally, shopping clubs that carry organic products in bulk will help you save money as you stock up.
More Ways To Save
Switching to an organic diet does not mean that you have to abandon your local grocery store. Here are three ways you can save money there:
- Get coupons from the brand.
- Watch your store flyer for organic sales.
- Shop the store’s certified organic brand for a lower price.
Another option is to buy safer conventional fruits and vegetables. Every year, the Environmental Working Group publishes the “Clean 15,” which lists non-organic produce with the least amount of pesticides as an affordable option.
Switching to organic is a great way to make a healthy lifestyle change this year. It can protect you and your family from allergies, illness, chronic conditions, and anyone struggling with autoimmune disease or other health issues. And while it is investment in the short term, it can save you on medical expenses in the future!