Thursday, March 31, 2011

dirty dozen

Although I am crunchy in many ways, it might surprise you to know that I rarely buy organic. You see, my values sometimes war against one another. While I want to make a statement to the powers that be by buying local/organic/non GMO foods, I also firmly believe in being frugal and really can't afford the food I would like to eat. I am trying to figure out a happy medium. Here are some guidelines I've come up with for our family:

DAIRY: First of all, I try to use minimal dairy. I think we have an overabundance of it in our American diets. But we still go through about a gallon of milk a week and about a bag of shredded cheese. On the weeks I shop at Trader Joe's or MyOrganicMarket(MOMs) for $5.50 a gallon, I purchase organic milk. When I'm at Costco on the alternate weeks, I buy their milk, which is just over $3. I figure organic half the time is a step in the right direction, and it winds up costing as much as buying milk at a regular store every week. But as money becomes available, I do intend to buy more organic dairy products. And even when money is tight, I only buy dairy products which state that the cows are not treated with rBGH. It is inhumane to use on the animals, and may have negative effects on humans who consume them. Cows treated with this hormone require lots of antibiotics(for mastitis) which many believe can lead to antibiotic resistance in humans. This is a great little fact sheet, if you'd like to read more:

MEAT: After realizing how badly animals are cared for, and how contaminated our meat is, I have become more determined to eat only organic meat. My ideal would be to buy from small local farms! But that is just not in the budget yet. So for now, I am cooking mostly vegetarian dishes, so that I can afford to buy organic chicken breasts. Again, cooking less expensive meals has allowed for the "splurge" of happier chickens. The taste is SO much better too! We almost never eat red meat or pork, and when we do, I buy "natural" but not organic. The only fish we eat right now is canned tuna, and that is not organic, but I'm not convinced that is as much of a problem.

PRODUCE: This year, I made huge efforts to buy only seasonal produce. That means for a large portion of the winter, we did not have fresh fruit. (I make an exception for bananas, cause really, when are they "in season"? and we can never by local for those either!) It was tough, but we saved money, didn't settle for eating something that tasted only slightly better than wax fruit would, and took better care of the planet. Raisins and applesauce saved the day! And I have to say, I've never been more excited about summer fruits and veggies! But back to the point, I always try to buy local (from farmers markets mostly), but not always organic. Even in the summer, organic produce is still pricey, so I need to be wise about what I purchase. Someone has come up with a list called the "dirty dozen", which recommends avoiding produce that is most potentially hazardous. So this summer, I intend to make an effort to buy this "dirty dozen" either organically, or from farmers who use minimal pesticides. I'm not going to buy any other organic produce, at least for now. Here's a cute little cheat sheet(made by Heidi Kenney) for you to tuck into your memory when you go shopping! (The left picture is the part you need to memorize if you're following my advice here)



Susan said...

Adorable graphic and reasonable advice. I like your idea of how the price between organic milk at mom's and the cheap stuff at costco avgs out. Smart move, that. Your approace is a good one esp for young moms we may feel so discouraged at the "all or nothing" mindset on these matters. Here in California we see the religious devotion given to these matters.

I also feel for the local farmers etc who cannot achieve the "organic" label but who do all they can to have "natural" produce, ie not adding any pesiticies etc, outside what already exists in their soil/environment etc. The stuff we grow in our backyards, would rarely qualify as "organic" because of road exposures, old soil contaminants etc but we'd feel mighty good growing our own!

Where folk can grow their own, this is such an excellent thing to do, esp. with young children, but not always possoble. I encourage folk to even consider outdoor pots of their own herbs. For the cost of a SINGLE bunch of picked herbs at the grocery store, you can usually get an herb plant (even organic) that will last you weeks beyond the already harvested stuff. I buy a live basil at TJ's here and manage to keep it alive (it Ain't pretty) in the window for a good 6 weeks of weekly use, a much better return on my money, and so yum.

Emily Minich said...

Hey Becca, boy do I feel bad for you! It seems that down here there are so many, many stores that carry natural/organic stuff for so much cheaper. We don't buy organic, but I do try to buy sensibly. I look at labels and I try to buy items that don't have tons of preservatives in them. Also... you don't have Braum's up there, do you. We get their amazing milk for 2.59 ish a gallon, and it is the next best thing to organic you can get. No joke, it's amazing. Even people down here who like to buy organic don't mind buying Braum's milk. It's cheaper than Walmart or Sam's, usually. There's an egg farm close to us, too, where you can get four dozen eggs for four dollars. We don't really use eggs, and we don't really use meat either, but if we did, I'd get the meat from Sprouts because it is all natural and they have fabulous sales. Sprouts is a farmers' market 10 minute from the house, and I love their produce, too.