We are all on a budget and food can get quite expensive. So how do we shop smart — for healthy and tasty food — without breaking the bank? Luckily, with a few tricks, we can make smart choices at the store by choosing organic produce when it is really necessary and opting for conventional produce when it is safe to eat.

While it is a little more expensive, organic food is healthier for us and better for the environment. It is grown without harmful chemicals and pesticides, which may be linked to cancers and other diseases. Since farmers cannot rely on chemicals to repel insects, they focus on creating healthy and vibrant plants that are too strong to get infected. Healthy plants live in healthy soil. And a soil that is rich in vitamins, minerals and other healthy organisms creates plants that are packed with nutrients. Studies, such as the ones done at WSU, have compared the nutritional content of organic and conventional produce and the difference is significant, especially in greens and berries. Get your fill of vitamins and minerals by eating organic food.

Here is a list you can print and take with you to the store. The rule of thumb is food grown above ground, especially berries, apples and greens are worth paying a little more for whenever possible. Save money on conventional food with peels and produce grown underground, such as onions. The exception is potatoes, which are often GMO unless they are organic. The peels on food such as avocados, citrus, or bananas protect the edible part and make it safer to eat, even if non organic.

organic chart

A great way to save money on tasty, ripe, seasonal and local produce is by going to your local farmers market. You will save money and you can feel good about supporting the famers directly. Farmers markets are a community event and can be a free source of entertainment!  Many have live music and vendors with crafts, raw local honey, and other goodies. Ride your bike to your local market, sample fresh apple cider, chat with local farmers and make a day of it!

If you want to go straight to the source, consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and you will get a weekly box of fresh, ripe, locally grown produce from a farmer. By paying in advance for the season, you are supporting a local farm and in exchange, you receive a portion of the bounty. You will discover produce you may not otherwise buy, and it is always fresh, ripe and delivered to your door!

shapeimage_1

Are you part of CSA? Where do you get your produce from? Do you have a garden? We would love to hear from you about your experience with organic and conventional food.

Sources: John P. Reganold, “Fruit and Soil Quality of Organic and Conventional Strawberry Agroecosystems,” Plos ONE, Sept 2010, Vol 5, Issue 9; Denis Larion, Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 2009