In a word, the answer to this question is an emphatic, "yes!". But wait, before you gear up to buy all things organic, you may want to follow some rules of thumb to help save your wallet from the huge cost increase of these products. Organic products are usually marked up anywhere from $.50 to $1.50 from their non-organic counterparts. In most cases this money is well spent, while in others it isn't as necessary as you may think. This article will help lay out an overall smart shopping "game-plan" as well as educate you on critical choices versus personal preference when shopping for organic products.
To help you better understand why you should even be thinking of buying organic, try this visualization technique. Imagine your body as it would exist in the wilderness, amongst nature. Think of all of the things that you would require in order to maintain optimum health and survival potential. You would require fruit, vegetables, pure water, grains, and meat to keep your body at it's peak performance condition. The grains you would harvest would not be grown from genetically modified organisms created by a bio-engineering company. The meat that you consume would have been running freely through the forest prior to you catching and preparing it. In the organic world, this is called free-range meat. The fruits and vegetables that you would eat would contain no artifically sprayed colors of orange or yellow, or waxes to make them shinier. You would be consuming the purest forms of nutrition that nature intended. This is the key underlying thought process when buying your groceries as an organic consumer.
The first thing you should do is attempt to stick to the perimeter of the grocery store the best that you can. This is where the freshest, least processed, and least preserved products are located. Produce, Grain, Meat, and Dairy. When buying produce it is important to spend the extra money on the organic choice if you are buying items found in the Dirty Dozen listing of pesticide laden produce. This list consists of Celery, Strawberries, Peaches, Apples, Domestic Blueberries, Nectarines, Sweet Bell Peppers, Spinach/Kale/Collard Greens, Cherries, Potatoes, Imported Grapes, and Lettuce. These twelve items can easily dose you with 47 to 67 different pesticides per serving, and that is a pretty frightening reason to spend the extra dollar!
A great idea is to invest in a quality fruit and vegetable wash, typically $5.00 to $6.00, often sold at your local health food store. Get into the habit of washing all of your produce as soon as you get it home from the store. In cases where you cannot afford the organic choice, or there is no organic choice, the produce wash will definitely cut down on your exposure to these pesticides. If you run out of produce wash, then cut the outer layer from the fruit or veggie, and rinse it thoroughly before eating. If you have the opportunity to shop at your local farmer's market, do so! This will allow you to purchase the freshest of produce with a higher nutritional value, avoid high pesticide levels, and support your local farming community all while saving money. Local farm markets have the ability to keep costs down because there is little to no shipping involved.
Buying meat and dairy is another major concern when considering organic choices. Always purchase organic dairy products and eggs if at all possible. The reason being that dairy cows are pumped full of antibiotics, and the use of the harmful rBGH or rBST growth hormones in lactating cows is still 100% legal in the United States. Egg laying hens are typically given feed that contains antibiotics and pesticides which is residual in the eggs that we consume. In addition to these mind-boggling facts, take into consideration that most of the eggs not labeled "free-range, organic" are coming from hens kept in cages too small to even stand up and turn around in. Buying organic is not only taking a stand for your own health, but it also speaks volumes to the farming community about the humane conditions that we expect these animals to be raised in.
The cost of purchasing organic eggs and dairy products is minimal when compared to the health risks that may be encountered from life long exposure to these harmful residual chemicals. If you cannot afford to buy entirely organic dairy products, then at least commit to purchasing milk, yogurt, and eggs organically. Other items not consumed in large amounts can be considered personal preference items. Meat should be purchased free-range, organic when at all possible. Check locally to find farms that raise livestock free-range, organic for individual purchase. Most large grocery chains currently do not carry free-range, organic meat with the exception of some chicken and turkey.
When it comes to purchasing grains, which is typically everything from bread and pasta to cereal and crackers, choose organic based on the amount you consume. Organic pastas and breads can be purchased fairly inexpensively. These items make up a large portion of the American diet, so organic is usually the better way to go if the option is available. However, smart choices on buying organics really depends on the individual. If you eat three bowls of cereal a day, then you should opt for the organic cereal as well. You might eat graham crackers once a week, so this may be a purchase that doesn't have to be organic. Some grocery stores are beginning to carry their own brands of organics, which also can help cut the costs for you as the consumer.
Let's review these rules of thumb to follow when beginning your new organic shopping habits. Remember the dirty dozen, invest in produce wash, shop the perimeter, support your local markets, go organic for eggs and dairy, find a local free-range farm, and consider frequency in consumption when making organic over non-organic choices. Hopefully these tips will help save you money and get you started on your way to becoming a healthier, and better informed shopper in the organic marketplace.