Why eat organic? People do it for many reasons. Some want to avoid pesticides in produce, antibiotics in livestock or genetically modified foods. Others believe organic farming and ranching is easier on the environment. And some people think that organic foods are more nutritious — and more delicious.
No matter your reason, eating organic has never been easier. You no longer have to go to a health food store to find organic foods. Many major grocery store chains now offer a wide variety.
Still, because organic farming and ranching can be more labor-intensive and expensive, you’re likely to pay a bit more to eat organically. And, it takes a little effort and education. Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Know the lingo
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets the standards in the U.S. To be called “organic,” produce must grow in soil that is certified to have no “prohibited substances” (most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides) applied for at least three years prior to harvest. Organic meat must come from livestock that graze on certified organic land, are fed only organic feed and are not given antibiotics or hormones. Processed food labeled organic must contain only organic ingredients with minor exceptions, such as enzymes in yogurt or baking soda in baked goods. If the label says “processed with organic ingredients,” the food must contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. The word “natural” on a label has no set standards, so it doesn’t mean much.
2. Consider community-supported agriculture (CSA)
In CSA, a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. You purchase a share (also called a membership or subscription) and in return, you’ll get a box, bag or basket of fresh seasonal produce at agreed-upon intervals (usually every week) throughout the farming season. You get fresh, seasonal produce, and the farmer gets money early in the season to help with cash flow. CSA also gives farmers and consumers a chance to meet and get to know each other. To find a CSA in your area, search for “community-supported agriculture” and the name of your town or state.
3. Save at the grocery store
Buy organic frozen instead of fresh. It’s usually cheaper and just as nutritious. You can also clip coupons for organic foods or find coupons online. Check out All Natural Savings and other online sources. Then plan your meals based on what’s in season or what you have coupons for.
4. Grow your own
By growing your own produce, you can control what’s used on it, and get some fresh air and exercise at the same time! Don’t own land? Consider container gardening.
Looking for recipes to use your new organic goodies in? Check out the healthy options we have here!