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Organic on a Budget: Scoring Cheap Fruits and Veggies

If you’re making the switch to more wholesome foods like my family has been doing, you may have realized a change in your budget. If you were buying tons of processed foods and take out, you might have seen that you’re spending less. But, more than likely, if you’ve been doing “pretty well” before, using coupons, and now you’re dabbling in the land of organics, you’ve noticed an increase.

Well, I’ve been shopping this way for about a year now, and I’ve learned a few tricks during that time. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that it can be a challenge, and that organic foods are generally more expensive, but with a little discipline and a few tips and tricks, you CAN stay within your budget.

This week I’m sharing a few tips for how to score your fruits and veggies on the cheap.

First, download the EWG’s dirty dozen/clean fifteen lists. You can print a wallet sized PDF for your purse so you’ll always have it, or if you have an iPhone – there’s an app for that. =) The dirty dozen list shows you which 12 fruits and veggies have the highest pesticide load (either by frequent doses during the growing season or from multiple kinds of pesticides being used on the same plant). The clean fifteen is the opposite – the fruits and veggies that get the fewest pesticides and are thus, “the cleanest.”

Now, with that knowledge you can determine what to buy organic and what is safer to buy conventionally. My only other piece of advice is, if the fruit or veggie you would like to pick up this week isn’t on the dirty dozen or the clean fifteen list, think about how much of it you {or your children} will consume. For example, my son loves green beans. They aren’t on either list. I buy them organic 95% of the time because I know he eats a lot of them and thus HIS pesticide consumption would be high because he would be eating a lot of whatever chemical concoction they are using on the green bean plants. If your child is a picky eater and only eats a few kinds of fruits or veggies it might be wise to start there when determining where to spend your dollars on organic foods.

Next, buy what is in season. You’ll get the best prices on fruits and vegetables that are in season because they’ve traveled a shorter distance and they are in abundance.

If you find a REALLY good deal, stock up. How can you stock up on fresh fruits and veggies? Freeze them or can them! Last week I got a super deal on gorgeous strawberries. I bought about three gallons. I left some in the fridge to eat right away, and I flash froze the rest for later!

Buy local. If the items you would like to buy are cheaper at the farmers market, and they likely are, don’t hesitate if the items aren’t on the dirty dozen list. And, if they are in the dirty dozen list, just ask the seller if he/she can tell you about their farming practices. A lot of farmers use sustainable and healthy practices but aren’t certified organic. Being certified costs a lot of money and your small town local guy probably can’t afford to go that route.

Join a CSA. I haven’t had a lot of luck with this option – but I certainly know people who have! It can be a very cost effective solution. The basic idea is that you pay a set amount to the grower up front and then for a set number of weeks you get a box of fresh produce in return. My only advice is to shop around to make sure your getting a good price. Ask for references, and find out what kind of produce you can expect. You’ll want to be sure what your getting and what your family is willing to eat/try match or you’ll have wasted produce and wasted money.

Lastly, frozen and canned are always options too, so keep your eyes peeled for good sales. Reports have shown that canned fruits and veggies have a lower pesticide load than conventionally grown fresh-probably because they don’t have to worry so much about turning out a beautiful product or shipping long distances.  But, remember, when buying canned foods you run into another enemy…BPA lined cans. There are a few companies that don’t use BPA, Native Forest and Eden Foods.

Of course, growing your own is always an option, but if you can’t grow enough to keep your family satisfied there are lots of ways here to help you get your bellies full without emptying your wallet!

How do you keep you budget low while still keeping your fridge full?

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  1. B. Dubois says:

    Going green on a budget is a HUGE issue in our house. May I share the word about a great and inexpensive vacation idea that includes a sweepstakes? Tennessee promises to be beautiful this summer and I found something called the Pigeon Forge Family Challenge. It’s a sweepstakes to win a $10,000 prize and be one of five families to compete for a chance to become “Pigeon Forge’s first reality stars.” Here’s a link for more info: http://bit.ly/dXvvNL
    Thanks, all!

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