Organic Foods -How to balance cost and prioritise

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The levels of chemicals, pesticides and hormones which are added to the food chain really disturbs me.  Not only do these chemicals enter our bodies, they build up the toxic load along with the constant steam of chemicals from other sources which the modern world exposes us to.  Not only damaging to our own health, they are damaging to the environment.  Of particular concern is the fact that there are also massive health and well being implications for farm workers being constantly exposed to these chemicals, particularly in developing countries where most of the spraying is done by hand and there is little regulation and health and safety support for the workers.  Generally, but not always, what is organic, will also be fair trade.  Because of these concerns I always buy organic where possible, and try to eat what is locally grown and seasonal for the majority of my foods.
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To make this more convenient, I have signed up to receive an organic vegetable and fruit box each week, containing a variety of 8-10 vegetables and 3-4 fruits each week.  Buying all organic does raise the cost compared to buying cheaper supermarket varieties but I currently have the means to afford it at the moment so in the spirit of the phrase ‘food as medicine’ I am viewing this as a health and well being investment rather than a luxury.   I am counting the benefits to be gained with the increase of price rather than viewing the extra cost as a ‘waste’.
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I actually find the box I am purchasing is very good value.  Buying food which is in season means that the cost will be cheaper as the supply is more abundant.   Vegetables and fruits constitute the vast majority of my diet because I cook entirely with plant based foods, so by stocking the cupboard with the additional (organic!) lentils, beans, rice etc cheaply in bulk, I do not have to spend much more additional money on food each week so the maths seems to work out well!  Luckily I am also only buying for one, and not a whole family!
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Buying everything organic is not always feasible, so I try to follow these general tips for choosing which foods to prioritise as organic.  Fruits and vegetables that are often very heavily sprayed are thin skinned, and as such the chemicals can leach in to the food.  Even with thorough washing, it is difficult to remove the residues of these chemicals on these foods, and by removing the skins, you are removing the bulk of the nutrients.  By buying organic only of these types of foods you can dramatically reduce the levels of food chemicals which you are exposed to.  The worst sprayed foods of this type are peaches, cucumbers, apples, pears, celery, nectarines, berries, leafy greens, grapes, carrots, pears, potatoes, coffee and tomatoes.
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Those with a thicker skin are generally sprayed less with pesticides and even if some of these do need to be sprayed more, the food will be able to withstand the spraying more than thin skinned varieties.   Therefore if you can’t buy organic of these types of fruit and vegetables you could give them a good scrub before eating, or peel where appropriate.   Examples of these are onions, avocado, pineapple, mango, asparagus, sweet pea, kiwi, cabbage, aubergine, winter squash, melons, broccoli, and cauliflower.  Corn and bananas are often on these lists but due to the high levels of GMO varieties of both of these foods, particularly outside of Europe, in America, I would avoid buying non-organic varieties.
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My first organic fruit and vegetable box came yesterday and I was so excited to see what was in it!  It will be a nice surprise to see what is delivered each week and I am sure it will introduce me to a few vegetables which I don’t often use myself.  In terms of blogging and new recipes, it will be like a ‘can’t cook, won’t cook’ challenge where I am presented with mystery ingredients to be turned in to a meal!  This week my box contained potatoes, onions, carrots, garlic, sweet potato, beetroot, apples, avocado, broccoli, lettuce, banana, pepper, tomato, lemon, orange, and courgette.

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4 thoughts on “Organic Foods -How to balance cost and prioritise

  1. Pingback: Roasted Beetroot and Carrot with Coconut & Cumin Seeds | Natural Fuel

  2. Great tips! I am on a taught budget, so I have to be picky when it comes to choosing organic produce but I find it’s easier when I stick to local produce that uses organic methods but isn’t certifiably organic. I actually buy fair trade but not necessarily organic bananas – the skin is thick and I eat so many (in smoothies) that it’s more important to me to support the farmers!

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