Go organic without going broke

Go organic without going broke

You don’t have to be a sandals-wearing, Prius-driving, Left Coast hippie to want the benefits of organic food——but you do need a shopping cart full of cash to pay for it all.

But you don’t have to choose between eating poorly and going broke. You can get MOST of the benefits of organics by only switching SOME of your food——as long as you know which ones to buy organic and which ones to skip.

And that’s where I come in. Consider me your personal shopper for the day:

Meats: Unless you want a mouthful of hormones, antibiotics, fecal matter, and God only knows what else with each bite, get all your meats organic——not to mention free-range and grass-fed. In addition to being cleaner and safer (as if that’s not enough) animals given a natural diet instead of the junk that passes for “feed” have more essential vitamins and higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Eggs: Think goats will eat anything? You should see chickens. They’ll peck at whatever’s thrown in front of them, including feed laced with arsenic. Even worse, they’re fed soy. I won’t say this means they produce worthless eggs, since there’s no such thing as a worthless egg——but organic free-range chickens that get to eat grass, worms, and bugs produce high-quality nutrient-dense eggs richer in omega-3 fatty acids, beta-carotene, and vitamins A, D, and E than conventional eggs.

Milk: Ever wonder why the dates on organic milk are often so much better than the dates on regular milk? It’s not because it’s fresher. It’s just the opposite——organic milk is often “ultra” pasteurized at an even higher temperature than regular milk. This allows the milk to last longer on store shelves. The longer it lasts, the greater the odds some sucker will come along and pay top dollar for it. In other words, it’s just another way to milk you for every last cent.

But pasteurization (ultra or regular) kills everything in the milk that’s worth drinking. Instead, stick to the original organic milk——fresh, raw milk straight from the farm——or you may as well not even bother with moo juice at all.

Apples: You can buy apples all year around because the fruit can last practically forever in cold storage——provided you bathe them in pesticides and other chemicals to prevent mold, funguses, pests, blight, spots, and everything else. In tests by the Environmental Working Group, 98 percent of apples contained pesticides and 92 percent had two or more even after they were washed and peeled. As a result, apples have topped the group’s list of “dirty dozen” fruits and vegetables for two years running.

Celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, imported nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries and potatoes round out the list. If you want to eat any of these things, buy organic (but skip the potatoes either way).

And if you want to save some cash, EWG also has a “clean 15” list of non-organic fruits and vegetables with the lowest levels of pesticides and chemicals: onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, cabbage, sweet peas, asparagus, mangos, eggplant, kiwi, domestic cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, and mushrooms.

Everything Else: As the market for organic foods has grown, so has the number of organic products lining store shelves. And it’s getting pretty ridiculous, too——organic candy bars, cereals, processed frozen meals, and more.

But if you’re eating processed junk, what’s a few extra chemicals? Organic or not, it’s garbage——so either skip it altogether, or stop pretending it’s good for you and just buy the cheaper conventional versions.

One more thing to watch out for when you buy organics is the country of origin. An increasing number of “organic” foods are imported, with many of them (especially “organic” frozen vegetables) coming straight from Red China.

And if you think the feds have little to no oversight over U.S. farms, how much control do you think they have over farms in the Land of Mao? Do I even need to answer? I can’t read Chinese, but I wouldn’t really be surprised if the Little Red Book has a chapter or two on how to poison Americans.

On the other hand, you don’t have to buy Chinese “organics” to get cheated out of your hard-earned grocery money. There are plenty of American crooks at your local farmer’s market who’ll gladly do the same...just buying food at a nearby warehouse and then re-selling it at a huge markup.

Obviously, you’re not going to hire a private detective to find out where your food’s coming from (although that’s not a bad idea). But do your homework and learn which real farms are in your area, and where they sell their produce.

If you can, buy direct——or better yet, grow your own. Sadly, it’s the only way to be absolutely certain of what you’re eating these days.