Shopping for Organics: Dos and Don’ts

by in Grocery Shopping, Healthy Tips, February 13, 2009

The demand for organic food rises every year, but everything organic might not be worth it. With organic foods sporting higher price tags, it’s important to weigh their value against your grocery budget. Here are some simple rules.

DON’T: Buy everything labeled organic
DO: Know your labels!
There is an entire language to organic food labeling – read up here before your next shopping trip. One quick tip: when buying fruits and vegetables, look at their numbered produce stickers for any that start with a “9” — that means they’re organic.

DON’T: Buy organic produce instead of local produce
DO: Buy local produce when in season
Local farms run smaller operations and often don’t use the same chemicals that larger farms need. It’s also very expensive for local farms to purchase the “organic farm” title, so many of them don’t. Talk to your local farmer about their efforts to grow safe fruits and vegetables. Find a market near you at

DON’T: Waste money buying produce that have thick skins that you don’t eat (bananas, avocados, onions and pineapple)
DO: Choose organic apples, strawberries, bell peppers, lettuce and potatoes
You eat the skins of these foods and they tend to be grown using more harmful pesticides.

DON’T: Assume that everything organic is better for you
DO: Check the nutrition facts — cookies are high in calories whether they are organic or not.

DON’T: Skimp on your milk
DO: Buy organic milk
Someone I trust once told me that if they could only buy one organic thing, it would be milk. Organic dairy cows are treated more humanely, and their milk may contain more nutrients according to recent research –- it’s worth the extra money, especially when you’re giving it to your kids.

DON’T: Think you can’t make a difference
DO: Be more green
When you do choose to buy organic products, you are supporting a system that is more eco-friendly.

DON’T: Throw away foods or skip favorites because of this article
DO: What’s important to you!
Consider your budget, family needs and lifestyle and make choices that are best for you.

Plus, check out the Environmental Working Group’s new “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides,” which has downloadable wallet and cell phone guides listing some of the cleanest and dirtiest produce.

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Comments (18)

  1. Michelle says:

    This was such a helpful article! I want to buy organic foods, but sometimes it just seems like too much money. I am so happy you wrote about this! I feel much more informed.

  2. Robert Viets says:

    I have always wanted to eat more organic products and after reading this article are am far more inclined to eat healthy. Thank you for this interesting article!

  3. Julie Rogers says:

    “DON’T: Assume that everything organic is better for you”
    Every organic item purchases encourages a system with less pesticides that creep into our water. And that’s good for better for everyone on the planet!
    Perhaps this would be more accurate: “DON’T: Assume that everything organic is nutritionally better for you”

  4. Madelyn says:

    I started with organic milk but now I buy as much organic foods as possible. Cookies may not be nutritionally good for you, but if I my kids are going to have one I prefer an organic compared to one loaded with chemicals and preservatives. I also agree with supporting the planet on less pesticides. Today is Earth Day and if we poison mother Earth, we are only poisoning ourselves.

  5. Elizabeth Levy says:

    It would have been good to point out that strawberries (and ALL berries) as well as grapes are sprayed the heck out of, and it’s ALWAYS a good idea to get those CERTIFIED organic. So often (even at farmer’s markets) people post “organic” or “no spray”, but they are not certified, and it insults all the people who have actually worked so hard to become certified organic.

  6. Elizabeth Levy says:

    Buying organic foods certified by California and Oregon Tilth are far more stringent than the USDA.

  7. betty says:

    i have encouraged all my family and friends to buy organic. not only are you being good to yourself but the planet too. if more people would support the organic farmer by buying organic products and not those prepared by big incustry, maybe it might have an impact on the way commercial food and products are made.

  8. Linda says:

    I feel your article would have gone a step further if it had included buying a vegetable rinse to get rid of pesticides. These are available at Trader Joe's as well as health food stores.This way, you don't have to peel.

    • beckythis says:

      but rinsing fruits or veggies doesn't change that it was grown from or in soil that is treated with harmful pesticides, so rinsing isn't going to take that away…

  9. Linda Calderon says:

    One important thing your article didn’t mention is about vegetable washes which one can buy. I believe they are quite potent as almost immediately when you put it on the apple, at least if full strength, the label starts to peel off which it doesn’t with just water. How about including that instead of thinking of just rinsing the vegetables or peeling which, as you said, takes the vitamins and minerals with the peel.??

  10. Kimberly says:

    Good article. My kids roll their eyes sometimes when we buy organic. But they should do love going to the farmers markets…They love kids! My friends and co-workers assume I spend a fortune on groceries, but going to the farmers market helps…

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