Buying Organic 101

by Mollie McDonnell | November 1, 2016 3:42 pm

If you remember that most of the food you find at your local grocery store is tainted with pesticides, it’s easy to get motivated to start looking for organic foods. But where do you find them? Shopping organic can be a challenge, so here are some tips on finding good, cheap, organic foods.

How Is Organic different from natural?

Manufacturers can stick a “natural” label on anything they want to. There are no guidelines or laws regarding what’s considered natural. It’s a marketing phrase and has nothing to do with the food quality. Organic food refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. However, “organic” doesn’t mean no pesticides were used, just that they weren’t synthetic pesticides.

It also means the grower didn’t grow bio-engineered genes (GMOs), or use petroleum or sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Any animal raised for meat, eggs, and dairy products that is labeled “organic” must have access to the outdoors. They must be given organic feed and not given antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal-by-products.

How can I tell if it’s truly organic?

Look for the green-and-white “USDA Organic” seal. Any packaged organic food must be certified by a USDA-accredited certified agent. To be certified it must contain, excluding water and salt, at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients. Food with at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients may use the words “made with organic ingredients” but they cannot bear the green and white seal.
Look for the Price Look Up (PLU) sticker on loose fruits and vegetables. Organic produce has a five-digit code beginning with the number 9. Non-organic food has four digits. For example: organically grown bananas will show the number 94011, compared to 4011 for those treated with chemicals and pesticides. If the PLU is a five-digits, but begins with 8 instead of 9, that means the item is genetically modified.

Organic doesn’t have to cost more

If you’re fortunate enough to live near a food co-op organic foods can be even less expensive than your typical grocery store fare. Not sure if there’s a food co-op in your city? Check for a coop near you.

Frugal Shopping at Chain Grocers

Score a bargain, even where there’s a dearth of co-ops, or Whole Food stores:

Five Ways to Save Money When Buying Organic

Don’t buy 100% organic

If you can’t afford to go all organic, don’t worry. There are 10 things you don’t need to buy organic. Most of these include fruits and vegetables you peel, like:

If you’re concerned about your health due to chemicals and pesticides, you should be. There are some dangerous chemicals in many foods that most of us don’t even know about. We’re past the days of large family farms, but that doesn’t mean we have to eat just anything sold at the grocery store. Don’t be afraid of the organic label. It simply means that the produce was grown more naturally, without the aid of chemicals and pesticides. You know, the way our ancestors ate. Plus, you get more vitamins and nutrients with every bite.

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