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Buying Organic Food on a Budget

There are plenty of studies in scientific journals about the damaging effects of chemicals in our food, but it is also true that finding organic produce on a budget is quite difficult. The reality is that currently most organic products come at a premium cost because the number of farmers who grow organic is low. Organic products are grown without any chemical fertilizers or pesticides, which can cause yields to reduce for farmers converting for the first time. For those hoping to go organic, there is no reason to despair, though – for where there is a will, there is a budget.

Shifting to organic requires a change in priorities while buying food. The first step is to take an inventory of stores in the area selling organic products. The steadily growing market for organic produce means that all you need is some research and smart planning to find retailers of organic processed products, grains and pulses, fresh produce, medicine, and even beauty products, at prices that can fit within your monthly budget. A simple online search will show organic stores and their locations.

Within the organic market there is a range of prices and products. Some stores focus on dry, non-perishable goods, and others only sell fresh fruits and vegetables. Some stores may sell cheaper products but are limited in terms of variety or require pick-up from a particular location. Others may be more expensive but also offer benefits like free home delivery. Doing research is integral to finding organic goods that will fit both budget and lifestyle.

The second step is to make a priority list of products. Generally speaking, fresh fruits and vegetables have the highest chemicals residues and are also consumed in the highest quantity. On average, fruits and vegetables are sprayed with up to 50–70 different types of chemicals linked to cancer and other illnesses. To start with, then, it makes sense to prioritize fruits and vegetables that are normally eaten raw, like carrots, beets, radishes, grapes and apples, and other produce that have thin peels. Leafy vegetables like spinach, fenugreek (methi) and lettuce are also heavily sprayed with chemicals. Vegetables and fruits with thick peels, like citrus fruit and watermelon, tend to be less susceptible to chemicals. However, these are also known to be artificially ripened.

So, with a little bit of (leg)work and research, eating organic on a budget is possible. As customers, you must decide which retailer best fits your budget and your lifestyle. You can also stay within your current budget by prioritizing to buy organic for foods eaten in the highest quantities, like fruits and vegetables. To eat organic and making a healthy choice does require a shift in overall spending. Luckily, as more farmers choose to enter the organic market, prices will decrease.

This article is courtesy I Say Organic, which is a Delhi-based social enterprise that believes safe food should be easily accessible, and that those growing it should be rewarded and recognized. They promote organic farming as a holistic solution that addresses environmental, socioeconomic, and health issues associated with industrial agriculture.

Clean 15 & Dirty Dozen

Prioritize fruits and vegetables that are normally eaten raw, like carrots, beets, radishes, grapes and apples, and other produce that have thin peels.

PESTICIDE ALERT

US-based nonprofit advocacy organization Environmental Working Group (EWG) in their 8th annual shopper"s guide (released in 2012) listed produce with the most (Dirty Dozen) and the least (Clean 15) amounts of pesticides, based on analyses of the pesticide loads of 45 common fruits and vegetables. The samples were first washed or peeled prior to being tested so that the rankings would reflect the amounts of the crop chemicals likely present on the food when it was eaten.

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