How to Shop Organic on a Budget

             My cupboard/fridge at university primarily consisted of condiments, various packaged meats, more condiments & a lifetime supply of pasta courtesy of my grandparents’ frequent care packages. Why so unhealthy you ask? Two reasons: one, I knew absolutely squat about nutrition until I met my lovely health nut roomies who taught me how to count nutrients rather than calories & two, because I was BROKE! I could never afford the healthy organic stuff. Certified organic food is generally more expensive than its conventionally grown counterparts for a multitude of different reasons (supply is limited compared to demand, greater labour required etc), so today’s post is about how to shop organic on a budget (because prices be cray).

Why Go Organic?

Over the past couple of decades there’s been constant  debate as to whether or not organic produce is healthier than conventionally grown. Just type in “why buy organic” in a search engine & articles written by near fanatics from both ends of the spectrum will pop up, so it can be confusing for the everyday shopper to make an informed decision (heck, even the experts can’t). I have therefore attempted to draw a non-bias “final word” based on the information out there:

As per reports conducted by the Alternative Medicine Review, organic has substantially higher amounts of vitamin C, iron, magnesium, phosphorus & it’s significantly lower in nitrates and pesticide residues. However, in order to determine significant health differences between an organic & conventionally grown diet, there would have to be numerous studies conducted over several decades. Therefore we don’t know the difference simply because the necessary studies haven’t been done

Where Can You Save Your Money?

Skeptic or not the facts remain that certified organic food production prohibits the use of pesticides, antibiotics, colouring, artificial additives, ionizing radiation & genetically engineered plants/animals whereas conventional food production does not. The good news is that some conventionally grown produce contains very little pesticide contamination; these are called the Clean 15 & this is where you can save your money! If you’re on a tight budget but want to shop organic, learn how to prioritize your produce selection. Because Clean 15 foods contain little pesticide contamination, save your dollar & buy these foods conventionally grown while splurge on organic for heavier contaminated items; AKA the Dirty Dozen

Clean 15 (buy conventional): onion, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, cabbage, sweet peas, asparagus, mangos, egg plant, kiwi, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, watermelon, & mushrooms.

Dirty Dozen (buy organic): apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries, & potatoes. I would also add meat & dairy products to this list.

Additional Tips

Buy Seasonal: you’re going to be wasting a TON of money if you want organic produce out of season (freeze your organic produce or buy organic frozen fruits & veggies out of season).

Go Local: Summer is THE perfect time to spend a sunny Saturday at a farmer’s market so buy directly & save money! Farmer’s markets will often have numerous organic options. Fabulous date idea too.

Coupon Shop: check out websites for organic coupons. Take Whole Foods for example, on their website they’ll offer weekly coupon deals.

Final Note: Can you Trust the “Natural” Label?

Now that you’re a fancy shmancy organic thrift shopper, I want to make sure that you’re paying for the product you expect to receive. The sad reality is that there’s a lot of false advertising out there in respect to what’s organic & “natural”. The FDA has no definition for use of the term “natural” on food products, so companies are free to label packaging with promises of natural ingredients despite the fact that their food may be heavily processed. True story my friends, check it out on the official FDA website. If that’s not enough, my brother used to work for a certain grocery store that would replace out of stock organic produce with riper looking conventionally grown food, pawning it off as expensive organic. In order to avoid this “green wash” consumers need to pay special attention to labeling & ingredient lists. There are several logos from reputable & trusted organic certification bodies to look for on products including:

  • Canada Organic
  • Pro-Cert Organic Systems Ltd, Ecocert Canada
  • Organic Crop Imporvement Association Canada (OCIA)

These are just a few of the many regulatory bodies, so for more information visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency webpage.

Happy Shopping!!

PS. You have to check out this Youtube video on false advertising of “natural” ingredients, it’s hilarious!!


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