Welcome to Green Boot Camp

Welcome to Green Boot Camp blog, a 52-week program to help you become a greener you in 2008. This is the companion blog to The Lean Green Family (formerly Suddenly Frugal).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Week Nine--Organics in the Supermarket Aisle

The first time I remember becoming aware of organic food was back when I was pregnant with my first daughter and this news broke about alar on apples. Alar is a common pesticide used on crops, and everyone was all a twitter that delicious apples might have well as come from Snow White's evil queen. That is, one bite will kill you.

As someone who ate apples daily, this news made my stomach more queasy than my morning sickness did. Nonetheless, I decided to stop buying apples at my local grocery store and pick up my produce instead at the local Wild Oats. Problem was apples (and everything else at Wild Oats) seemed to be so much more expensive than at Kroger, where I normally shopped. (We lived in Michigan at the time). While there was no way I could justify paying this kind of price for produce, I wasn't willing to risk my health (or my baby's) so I stopped eating apples all together for quite some time.

These days you don't have to make a special trip to a "natural" supermarket to find organic choices. I see them all the time in regular supermarkets. Also, these days you don't have to take out a second mortgage to afford to shop organic. Granted, organics still cost more but not by that much. For example, yesterday I went food shopping and could choose between regular bunches of celery and the organic kind. The organic bunch cost only 50 cents more so that's the one I bought.

If you want to live a greener life through how you food shop, choosing organics at the supermarket is a good way to start. I don't think that you have to put everything and anything organic in your shopping cart, especiallly if you want to stay on budget. But when organics are available and they don't cost that much more than the "regular" item, why not make that choice?

FYI, the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines something as being organic if it fits with certain definitions, as they appear in the USDA Organic Food Standards and Labels. Some of definitions include:

* Food that is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations.

* Meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products that come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.

* Food that is grown and produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.

* Food that comes from farms that
a Government-approved certifier inspects to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. (Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.)

Keep in mind that a product need only be 95% organic to pass muster with the USDA and call itself organic. When it comes to packaged goods, they need only be 70% organic to have the right to say "organic" on the box. And something that is said to be "natural" or "hormone free" or "free range" doesn't necessarily mean that it's organic.

I'm not trying to scare you or give you information overload about organics. I would like to see you adding a few affordable organic items to your shopping cart from time to time, but I just want you to be knowledgeable and informed when you make that choice.

Let me know your thoughts on organics and tricks or tips you may have found to make buying organic food affordable.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

Some foods are more important to buy organic than others, because some foods absorb more pesticides during their growth period than others - I've heard that peaches, apples, strawberries, and potatoes are particularly concentrated in pesticides and are best to buy organic, do you know a way to find out which foods you should prioritize buying organic?