Avoiding foods containing pesticides is not all that easy. Organic food, especially produce, is not something that is found in every supermarket, and when it is, it is usually more expensive than the common foods and produce offered there. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an organization that takes this issue to heart.
Hope for your budget
Having to pay a premium to keep chemicals away from our table is an unfair burden the market imposes on us, but there is a way to minimize chemicals on your food and have a more reasonable shopping budget. The good news is that the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit environmental research organization based in Washington, D.C. provides very useful information that can be used to help relieve the pressure on your budget.
Each year the EWG analyses data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on pesticide residue on produce, then they rank the food based on the amount of pesticide residue that is detected for each fruit or vegetable. Two very useful portions of the list are the “Dirty 12” and the “Clean 15.”
The Dirty 12
The Dirty 12 a.k.a. the “Dirty Dozen” list consists of the twelve most common fruits and vegetables found to have high levels of pesticides on them. This year there is a “plus” added to the list. Snap peas (imported), blueberries (domestic and imported, though of different rank), potatoes, lettuce, green beans, plums and pears follow the “Dirty 12” along with hot peppers and kale/collard greens. Potatoes, by the way, have the highest concentration of chemicals from pesticides and herbicides. These are fruits and vegetables that the EWG highly recommends that the consumer obtain the organic version of, in order to avoid exposure to worrisome levels of pesticides.
The Clean 15
The “Clean 15,” however, are the 15 most common fruits and vegetables with the least amount of pesticide contamination. The average levels of pesticide on the “Clean 15” is very low and are considered to be in the safe range according to the EWG. These Fruits and vegetables are safe to buy from the regular produce at much better prices. To be certain to avoid GMO’s, corn, papaya and summer squash should still be purchased from the organic section.Here is the full list from bad to good. Please donate to the Environmental Work Group to help them continue this valuable work.
Grow your own
Some “Dirty 12” vegetables might be cheapest when grown at home. You don’t have to have a piece of land to grow your own food. Many people grow vegetables in pots on their balcony or patio. You can save a lot of money by starting this simple hobby! Check out how to get started here.
Meat and milk
If you consume meat and milk products you should probably go organic with these foods also. Though lean meats like beef doesn’t retain pesticide chemicals, the fat of cattle, on the other hand, stores quite a bit of it when the animals are exposed through feed, etc. as does human fat. If antibiotics were used in the production of meat or dairy products, that’s one more thing to try to avoid. Low level and long term exposure to antibiotics in meats is believed to make you susceptible to “super bugs” or antibiotic resistant bacteria. This could be seriously dangerous so it’s best to avoid products for which antibiotics were used in its production. Hormones like rBST are another thing that might be used in the production of beef and also can show up in milk products and should be avoided.
Where to buy
- Farmers markets: Though there might be occasional deals offered at your supermarket for organic food, savings can be found at farmers markets, but you have to do a little work. You need to ask the vendors about their use of pesticides and herbicides, essentially, their farming practices. If you find one or more that follow organic practices, you would benefit from buying produce from them not only because of no harmful pesticides and herbicide on your produce, but also because you would be buying locally and you would be contributing to their support.
- Big box stores: In case you haven’t been to your local Costco or other big box store lately, they have gotten into providing organic products in a big way. And the good news is that the prices bring your average costs way down. You can even find deals on organic produce though you will probably have to purchase more than you would otherwise, If you could, perhaps, arrange with a friend or family member to split the purchase then you can share the savings and get a more manageable portion. Also, remember that some fruits and vegetables can be frozen. Canning is another way to manage excess produce. It might pay to learn how!
- Food Co-ops: Join your local food co-op. If you check into membership benefits of your local food co-op, you might find that the savings could be quite good. In addition to savings you will have a greater say in the operation of the co-op.