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Organic on a budget

Organic Produce

Organic, Organic, Organic… We hear this constantly when it comes to selecting the best, nutritious food items, but eating 100% organic produce can really break the bank.  

What does “organic” actually mean?

“Organic” is a term used to certify food that was produced without synthetic chemicals or fertilizers, genetic engineering, radiation or sewage sludge as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program

So, does it really even matter if we buy an organic apple compared to a conventional one? An apple is an apple, right? Not exactly.  Let’s first hit the highlights on some of the major benefits of organic vs. conventional produce.  

Organic produce :

  1. Grown with natural fertilizers like manure and compost 
  2. Weeds are handled by crop rotation, mulching, and hand weeding
  3. Pests are controlled mainly by birds, insects, traps and other natural pesticides               

Conventionally- grown produce:

  1. Grown with synthetic and/or chemical fertilizers
  2. Weeds are killed with chemical herbicides
  3. Pests are controlled with synthetic pesticides


In a perfect world with money trees, who wouldn’t buy all organic everything because lets be real, the words “chemical” and “synthetic” don’t necessarily sound appealing when talking about the foods we are consuming.  We all want to fuel our bodies with the best of the best.  The reality is we can’t always afford to fuel our bodies with the best of the best.  There has to be compromise. So if we can’t buy everything organic, we can at least try to buy the most important items organic. 

The good news is- it doesn’t really matter with certain produce if it is organic or not.  Yes, you read that right.. you can still get high quality organic produce without the high price point.  How could this be when we are always told to buy everything organic?  Well, all conventional produce have some degree of synthetic pesticides and chemicals used on them .  The amount of these pesticides and chemicals is dependent on the type of produce and the country where it is grown.

When talking about the pesticides and chemicals in relation to our health and longevity, let’s try to prevent health conditions by making more educated food choices.  Long term exposure pesticides have been linked to numerous increased health risks including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, certain types of cancers, respiratory problems, and depression. WHAT!? Sounds like a chemical cocktail that doesn’t end in a good time, no thank you!

The EWG(Environmental Working Group) devised a list to better help consumers know which produce is best to be bought organic and which is safe to eat conventional, to ensure you are taking in minimal amount of pesticides and chemicals.  Keep in mind this list changes from time to time, based on where produce is coming from.

Dirty Dozen (highest in pesticides) Clean 15(lowest degree of pesticides)
strawberries avocados
apples sweet corn
nectarines pineapples
peaches cabbage
celery sweet peas
grapes onions
cherries asparagus
spinach mangos
tomatoes papayas
sweet bell peppers kiwi
cucumbers eggplant
snap peas-imported honeydew melon

We can make healthy, yet cost-effective choices by purchasing organic for the high degree pesticide produce and conventional for the items with a low degree of pesticides and chemicals.  Now THAT is organic on a budget.

So, think of your next trip to the grocery store not as a way to overspend on groceries, but as a way to save money while purchasing healthy, high quality organic produce. 

 In health,

Lindsey Morrison RN

Nutrition Consultant for PNC