Whether you’re already a fan of organic foods or you just want to shop wisely and handle your food safely, consider these tips:
- Buy fruits and vegetables in season to ensure the highest quality.
Also, try to buy your produce the day it’s delivered to market to ensure that you’re buying the freshest food possible. Ask your grocer what day new produce arrives.
- Read food labels carefully.
Just because a product says it’s organic or contains organic ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthier alternative. Some organic products may still be high in sugar, salt, fat or calories.
- Don’t confuse natural foods with organic foods.
Only those products with the “USDA Organic” label have met USDA standards.
- Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly with running water to reduce the amount of dirt and bacteria.
If appropriate, use a small scrub brush — for example, before eating apples, potatoes, cucumbers or other produce in which you eat the outer skin.
- If you’re concerned about pesticides, peel your fruits and vegetables and trim outer leaves of leafy vegetables in addition to washing them thoroughly.
Keep in mind that peeling your fruits and vegetables may also reduce the amount of nutrients and fiber. Some pesticide residue also collects in fat, so remove fat from meat and the skin from poultry and fish.
- Buy organic food at farmer’s markets when you can.
Not only is this a great way to buy organic food that’s in season but you get to talk to the farmers directly about how the food is grown. Plus you support the farmers who have invested in organic growing processes.
- Buy in bulk.
Whether you’re shopping at a natural foods store, supermarket or co-op, buying in bulk is a great way to stretch your food dollar. For beans, grains, lentils and nuts, head straight for the bulk containers. Just make sure you have a cool, dry place in your kitchen to store your dry goods for a few months. Not every item you can buy in bulk is worth the bother. Do the math.
- Be flexible.
To nab the best deals on organic foods you need to be a focused, yet flexible, shopper. Always shop with a list but never be afraid to snap up a good bargain when you see one. Write “three vegetables” on your shopping list and then look around at store specials. Do the same for proteins and grains. Never ever buy an item that you don’t need just because it’s on sale or you have a coupon.
- Shop online.
Can’t find a local source for the organic food you want? Don’t give up. Hop online. You may be able to order the organic foods that you want online.The GreenPeople directory from the Organic Consumer Association is a good place to begin your online search for affordable organic foods. A roundup of additional organic directories is also available on the site. And be sure to check out this list of cyber-markets offering organic products from Organic Kitchen. Shop wisely.
- Grow your own.
If you’re really serious about garden-fresh organic produce, why not plant your own? Seeds are available from companies such as Seeds of Change. And Organic Kitchen has a big roundup of organic gardening tips. Start small. Carrots, radishes, and beets are easy to grow.