Mom to Mom – Six Tips on How to Shop Wisely and Save Money when Buying Organic

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From Lisa Barnes

Some moms I’ve spoken with say they don’t or can’t buy organic foods due to cost and availability. Here are a few ways to make organics more affordable and easy to purchase:

1. Do not always assume organic is more expensive. Look at the prices of conventional and organic products and compare. You may be surprised that on some items, there is little or no difference in price, depending on where and when you buy.

2. Buy in season. These items will be the lowest priced, whether you’re shopping at a specialty market or local farmers’ market.

3. Grow your own. Even a small window box can yield some organic herbs or tomatoes. Larger areas can accommodate lettuce, strawberries, broccoli, carrots, and more. A garden is also a great classroom and hobby for children and adults alike.

4. Shop at one of the more than twenty-five hundred farmers’ markets in the United States. The produce here is as fresh as possible, because the food is usually picked within twenty-four hours of your purchase. This is a great place to check prices with little effort. Becoming a regular shopper and getting to know growers personally is a good way to get the best selection and price.

5. Join a food cooperative. A food co-op is a kind of buyers’ club for affordable, fresh, local organic and natural products. It is an actual store where members buy shares of the business to provide the capital necessary to run the store efficiently. You as a member directly influence the kind and variety of products and foods available and also receive a discount in the store. Many co-ops allow you to buy shares by volunteering several hours per week or month.

6. Visit a farm and pick your own produce. Children love to experience something new, especially when it involves dirt and food. According to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), “Parents had reported that their children started to eat more vegetables after visiting a farm on a school field trip, having experienced for the first time the process of gardening.”

Justifying Expense

Eating is an agricultural and political act, as well as a way to educate your senses. ~Alice Waters

Even though you’ve shopped wisely and used the tips above, sometimes organic is more expensive. The cost of converting land, growing methods, and raising practices from conventional to organic is expensive. Consider the cost of health and well-being, as well as a decision to support the environment, preserving water resources and preventing agriculture-related problems. The extra cost may outweigh the worry and concern you have of the possibility of harming your family and the environment.

I can’t be sure that organic foods are better for my family’s health. But to me the organic practices just make sense. Why wouldn’t I do my best to avoid feeding my son chemicals and pollutants? ~Two-Year-Old Derek’s mom

Reducing Health Risks

Buying organic reduces health risks that can be attributed to commercial pesticides and herbicides. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of all herbicides, 90 percent of all fungicides, and 30 percent of all insecticides as potentially cancer causing. No matter how well you wash certain fruits and vegetables there are still remaining traces of potentially harmful chemicals. A report released by the Environmental Working Group entitled Pesticides in Children’s Food concluded that the greatest contribution to a person’s lifetime risk of cancer from pesticide residues occurs during childhood. Babies’ bodies are much more vulnerable to pesticides because their brains and immune systems are still in a state of development. Also, pound for pound, babies eat two to four times more fruits and vegetables than adults, and thus are exposed to a higher percentage of possible contaminants if eating conventionally grown produce.

Increasing Health Benefits

A study at the University of California, Davis (my alma mater) shows that organically grown strawberries, corn, and blackberries are richer in cancer fighting antioxidants, sometimes 60 percent more, than the same conventionally grown crops. Other studies have proven the same for organically grown peaches and pears, too.

Researchers theorize that organically grown plants may produce more antioxidants because they have to work harder to fight off pests and disease otherwise killed by pesticides and chemicals.

Reducing Nitrites

Some fruits and vegetables you’ll want to introduce to your child have high levels of nitrites, due to the fertilized soils in which they grow. The nitrite levels also increase when these food items are stored in your refrigerator. Nitrites are difficult on a baby’s system because their stomach acidity is too low to properly break them down. Overexposure can cause anemia or encourage oxygen to be displaced into bloodstreams, resulting in rapid breathing and lethargy. High nitrite produce includes beets, cantaloupe, carrots, green beans, mustard, spinach, strawberries, and turnips. Buying these items grown organically and eaten fresh, without storing, will lessen exposure. If you choose to buy these foods commercially grown, wait until your baby is over eight months old so they can better process the nitrites. Or you can buy these foods in commercially prepared jars, since baby food companies can screen their produce for nitrites.
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Lisa Barnes
is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.

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