Hi everyone! We’ve been very busy over at the lil’ white trailer getting ready to paint the house inside and out. We also got a huge rainstorm this last weekend that, although was well needed, did impede our progress a bit. I’ll update ya’ll with pictures of the finished project when we finish. When that will be…who knows!? But today I’m here to address a topic that was requested I discuss a while back from one of my readers: Organics. I like to look at everything I do here at the trailer in a realistic and practical sense. I’m no Gwyneth. I’m on a budget and I know most of you are too, but this doesn’t mean we can’t address health and nutrition by eating organic selectively. Let’s start with some basics.
What is Organic?
The word organic has such a broad definition. It could mean simply obtained from living things or more specifically a fruit or vegetable grown without the use of chemicals of any kind. We often see organic to be synonymous with “natural” but they are not the same. We know today that when it comes to something in our food system being organic, we can look for an organic certification to prove it to be true. Without the organic seal, there isn’t much proof that item was not produced with pesticides, hormones or other chemicals.
The USDA defines organic as food that, “is produced using sustainable agricultural production practices. Not permitted are most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients, or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Organic meat, poultry eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. The USDA National Organic Program website has more information including inspection and certification information.”
Quality Assurance International (QAI) explains “Certified Organic” to mean, “that a nonprofit, state or private certification organization, accredited by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), has verified that products labeled as “organic” meet strictly defined organic standards.”
Why Eat Organic?
With all of the developments in pesticides, genetic modifications, fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, etc, we have seen a major change in our food system over time. When these developments were made, the goal in mind was to produce food quicker and easier to feed the masses. However, the lasting effects of these changes were not considered on a wide scale until fairly recently. Now we have seen the growth in “Organic” food since we realized what kind of repercussions these modern day styles of production were having on our population.
Conventional farming practices can be detrimental not only to our health but to the health of our world. Pesticides and other additives used today accumulate over time in our bodies as well as in the soil and water. Then the overuse of antibiotics in conventional animal farming methods has created more drug resistant bacteria. There’s also the issue of pesticides interfering with our honey bee population and therefore natural pollination. There are so many reasons to buy and eat organic, these are just a few of the most pertinent I think of on a regular basis.
So buying organic is good for our health as well as the world around us. And when we buy and request organic food, we are letting it be known that we care about what we eat. I believe that if the scale tips enough from our requests, we could start to get the food system to work more like it did before the days of pesticides and GMOs.
So How Do We Shop?
Obviously in a perfect world, I would buy (or grow) everything organic. But when it comes to our monthly budget, and general availability, it’s not reasonable or necessarily possible. So let’s look at what is the most important to buy organic. When thinking about organic foods, I think about the individual item and how it was produced. Was it difficult to grow and therefore likely sprayed with pesticides? Will I eat the peel or throw it away? Is it an item that is often genetically modified like corn or soy?
The dirty dozen is a list of 12 articles of produce to be wary of. They are best consumed organic. This is because these items are most often sprayed with pesticides and we consume them whole, skin and all. If you must eat conventional, wash them well but if organic is available and you are able to afford it, it’s better to buy these items organic.
- Spinach, Collard greens, Kale
- Domestic Blueberries
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Imported Grapes
The Clean 15 is a list of items that have little to no pesticides, they are safe in non-organic form. you can buy these conventionally without too much worry. Either pests aren’t a big issue for these items, maybe they grow underground or are peeled before eating, whatever the reason, buying these conventionally grown is pretty safe.
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas
- Kiwi fruit
- Sweet potatoes
- Sweet onions
I also recommend avoiding the most commonly genetically modified crops in their conventional form like corn, soy, papaya, summer squash/zucchini, and things made with sugar beets. Corn and soy are really the biggest things on this list that are in so many shelf stable and pre-made items. Check labels for soy and corn based ingredients, and think twice the next time you buy your soy milk or corn oil. Maybe an organic option is on sale or there’s a small enough price difference to justify buying it instead. For items we eat often, I really prefer to know it’s GMO free like corn tortillas and chips.
Another thing I highly recommend when it comes to controlling cost of organic food is grow what you can yourself! This goes for things like tomatoes in the warmer months or strawberries on your porch or balcony. Maybe you have room for a summer garden in your backyard, take advantage of that and grow your own organic heirloom tomatoes! The easiest things to grow yourself are kitchen herbs if you use them. You can grow them in a window sill or on your apartment balcony. Never pay 2 dollars for a small bunch of herbs again. Even if you live in a deer prone area like me, rosemary and lavender are deer safe and easy to grow.
To take away from this discussion, here are my tips for shopping organic realistically.
Tips for shopping Organic
- Pay attention to the clean 15 and dirty dozen
- Watch for sales and stock up if you can, don’t be afraid to freeze things like organic greens for smoothies!
- Buy in season, those are most easily grown organically, locally and affordably!
- Don’t snub frozen veggies, they are often cheaper and actually hold more nutrients when flash frozen
- Grow what you can, whether a pot of cilantro on your window sill or an apple tree in the backyard
- Try to buy organic when looking for: papaya, soy, sugar beet, summer squash/zucchini, and corn products as these are most likely to be genetically modified.
If you’re already shopping organic, it’s good to see some new ideas on how to go about it. If you’re completely new to organics, I hope this gave some insight into what it’s all about and how to do it. I love questions and comments, so if you have any, shoot ‘em my way!