Many people ask, “why organic? Is it really that important to our health? How can I afford to pay for organic foods when they cost so much?”
The debate on organic versus conventional foods is multifaceted – and highly personal. For families, it depends on numerous factors, including budget, season and availability. As a holistic nutritionist, I’ll admit, I’m in favour of organic. However, it isn’t always possible to get and sometimes the selection is poor. To help you sort through this quandary, here are some tips on how to make organic work on a budget.
A four litre bag of organic milk costs WAY more than conventional and can range anywhere from $8 – $12. Now consider that children eat approximately four times the volume of an adult, based on their size and are therefore absorbing four times the amount of petrochemicals. If milk is their favorite go-to-food (especially with picky eaters), suddenly, the organic milk seems more of a necessity versus a luxury. If you choose nothing less, focus on your child’s favorite food.
Hold the Fat!
Next, prioritize organic livestock (meat, eggs), dairy and nuts/seeds. You see, pesticides and fertilizers are petroleum based (an oil/fat). Conventional livestock are given feed that is laden/treated with chemicals and hormones. The animals absorb these petrochemicals and concentrate them in their own fat – and this concentration becomes stronger as it moves up the foodchain, into your bellies.
If organic livestock isn’t an option, try to incorporate more organic legumes and beans into your diet. We’ve all heard of meatless Mondays! Organic vegetarian protein such as lentils or chickpeas is a fantastic way to increase your fibre count and decrease toxins.
Avoid the Dirty Dozen!
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a not-for-profit that offers a wealth of information on healthy living for Canadians. While most produce is water based, there are some that are commonly, heavily sprayed and others that are commonly GMO.
The EWG website provides a list of the most notorious produce items in this area, including: apples, celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, bell peppers, kale and summer squash (zucchini).
The web site also offers a list of the “Clean 15”, cosmetics, sunscreens and other helpful consumer guides for Canadians interested in reducing toxins in their homes and bodies. If you’re not already familiar, take a tour!
When organic is in season, consider buying produce in bulk and freezing them for future use in baking, smoothies, or soups and stews when the cool weather arrives.
You could also consider partnering with another family or two and purchasing organic or naturally raised livestock together (i.e., buy an entire cow). Not only will you have the complete history of where your meat comes from, but you will have food for many, many meals throughout the year.
When in season, conventionally grown produce is abundant and affordable! Reduce sprays and residues with a produce wash (purchased or homemade). Naturalnews.com offers this DIY recipe to help offset the costs of commercial sprays:
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- New spray bottle
Spray produce. Let sit 5-10 minutes and rinse thoroughly to wash away residue.
Meet Your Neighbours
Farmers are our friends. Visit your local farmer’s market and learn more about who’s growing what. The farm may not be certified organic, yet, they may be natural and employ almost all the same practices. You may be able to swing a deal or two and you can rest assured the quality and freshness will be unparalleled.
There are also many affordable home delivery programs whereby you can purchase a weekly box of produce. Items are selected based on season, availability, cost and quality. In short, these foody-do-gooders do the work for you! And who doesn’t enjoy a box of amazing produce delivered to the door?!?
Two Green Thumbs Up!
Children love to play in the dirt. Develop a small garden together – either in a small section in the yard or in terrace planters. A friend of mine does “edible planters” in her grass-free yard, complete with tomatoes, sweet peas, zucchini and herbs. It’s a delight to sit on her patio and take in the sights and aroma!
You can experiment with family favorite vegetables and give the children the responsibility to help grow their meals. Their excitement as the garden develops over the season will provide smiles from ear to ear – and you may even get an ear of GMO-free corn along the way!