How to save money on organic food with the “Clean 15”

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.”

Dirty 12Clean 15b

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.

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4 thoughts on “How to save money on organic food with the “Clean 15”

  1. I had no idea that there’s such a thing as clean 15. I was surprised, because I thought that everything going organic would be the way to go. I didn’t know that certain foods will have safely low levels of pesticides. Maybe it’s because these crops attracts less bugs. It’s kind of like peanuts I guess. They have a shell so it’s a bit easier to grow them. I agree with growing your own food. It’s nice to be able to just “pick” your cherries off your pot at your convenience. Thank you for the information.

    1. I appreciate your kind comment. If you would examine the information provided on the Environmental Work Group (EWG) website, you will find that they can provide quite a bit of information about certain fruits and vegetables. Bare in mind, however, that they only evaluate non-organic varieties (I think). You will also find that some fruits or vegetables will have a separate evaluation for domestic and imported. They even break down what pesticides are more commonly found on each variety. This information can be useful for discovering the corresponding health risks since they are different depending on the chemical.

      Some varieties, such as avocados, tend to have no detectable pesticides so, when it comes to these, it’s worry free!

      Thanks again.

  2. It is amazing how expensive organic foods can be. I know that these foods are good for you but supermarkets and other places are trying o make a killing with these type of foods. Thanks for sharing these tips on how to save a few bucks while still be able to enjoy these foods. This is good information and I am sure that you readers will be much educated by what you have to share.

    1. Thank you for your kind comments. If you would like, download a handy pdf that the Environmental Working Group provides on their website it is a list of both the Dirty 12 and the Clean 15 which you could print out and take with you while shopping. At the time that I am writing this, however, their website seems to be down, otherwise I would provide you a link because I don’t have that one saved and would have to locate it on their website first. But feel free to copy the images of my version of the lists in this article to print out and take with you!

      Thank you again.

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