Whenever I have mentioned that our family eats mostly organic foods, many of you have asked: Is it worth it to pay extra money for organic food? Is eating organic food really that important? Is non-organic food really so bad for you? And really…isn’t this whole “organic eating thing” just kind of trendy and gimmicky?
After much research and thought, my answers to those questions are: Sometimes, Sometimes, Sometimes and Sort Of But Not Necessarily.
Okay, so did that clear up any confusion? Good. Now what questions would you like me to answer?
Just kidding. I’ll elaborate. I’m definitely not an organic food expert, but our family has been trying to eat a whole foods and mostly organic diet for about six years now, and I really wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t feel like it was important. We also don’t have unlimited funds in our budget, so don’t assume we eat organic, whole foods because we’re rolling in dough. (Unless you’re talking about bread dough, because then occasionally I’m rolling in it.)
The fact that eating organic food is “trendy” in some areas was big news to me. Where I live, eating organic food is not very popular and pretty much not the norm. Therefore, my very uneducated and inexperienced opinion on why many see organic eating as a trend is that not everyone who buys and eats organic food “gets it”. They might just see it as “the thing to do” and feel like if the package says “natural” or “organic” is must be better for you.
I personally am not an advocate of eating organic, whole foods (or doing anything for that matter) simply because “everyone else is doing it”. What a silly reason for me to go out of my way to find healthy foods. I try to feed my family organic, whole foods because my extensive research tells me that this is best. For the record, there are many foods with an organic label that I do not recommend. (I’ll elaborate on that soon.)
When I mentioned in this post that I wasn’t sure I felt that eating a non-organic apple was better than eating no apples at all…I really am not convinced that it is as a general rule. Some suggested that they’d rather feed their kids a non-organic apple than a bag of chips. Well sure. But I wasn’t comparing apples to chips. I was suggesting that maybe I should skip the non-organic apple and just stick with in-season organic produce instead. I have my reasons. I’ll talk about them in the next few posts in this series.
And then there’s milk and meat and grains. Those subjects deserve to be talked about a little bit too.
Thus begins a little series inside a series. (Did this just get complicated?) I’ve been working slowly but surely through this Simple Steps Toward Healthy Eating series, and now within that series, I’ll be writing a few posts entitled, “Should I Eat Organic Food?”
See? It’s a series inside a series. While you wait for these posts, I’d appreciate it if you go back and read some of my other series, which means that this is a series inside of a series inside of a series.
By the way, did you know that the plural form of the word series is series? I find that funny. Not laugh-out-loud funny, but the kind of funny that makes a person shrug and say, “Huh, how ’bout that?”.
Yeah, okay, it’s really not that funny.
Anyway, you may want to read the following series: Feeding the Family, particularly these posts:
- Our Real Foods 2011 Grocery Budget
- No Grocery Budget Comparing Allowed!
- Very Limited Income for Real Food Purchases
- Do You NEED To Cut the Grocery Budget?
- Ways to Stretch the Real Foods Grocery Budget
You should also read this series: Our Healthy Eating Journey so that you know where I’m coming from.
Also, you need to be reminded that with all of my talk about healthy eating, sometimes our family throws out all the great organic, whole foods ideas and buys frozen pizza rolls with all the no-no ingredients in them. It’s called a compromise and I don’t freak out about it. (Nor, ultimately, do I freak out about the occasional non-organic apple, but again, I’ll get back to that within this series.)
Stay tuned for the following topics within this series of series:
- What does organic even mean anyway?
- Which foods should I focus on for eating organic?
- What if I can’t afford organic food or have any resources close by?
I’ll be posting the next post in this “organic food series” next Sunday night. Until then, I’ll leave you with this question: Do you eat mostly organic food, some organic food, no organic food?
Also, the particular word series that I printed in green above, is it singular or plural? Yeah, see? Very tricky. And a little bit funny. But not really.
[email protected] says
Mostly organic so we are sure to not consume genetically modified (cloned) foods. I’d pay any price to keep my family away from dangerous gmo’s.
I’m loving this series within a series already, Laura. I’ve been trying to get us to eat better and we can’t always afford/find organic but we’re working on it. I look forward to the next installment.
Erin Turner says
We grow all our own veggies, raise chickens and turkeys for eggs and meat, we hunt wild game, and we raise hogs for meat. We do this all without chemicals or hormones. Fortunately there is not a whole lot of food we have to buy but when we do, I’m not overly concerned whether or not it is organic. We run a produce farm and we considered being certified organic until we saw the list of approved chemicals/fertilizers/pesticides. We opted to just promote our produce for what it is…totally chemical free! So, I always warn people who are die hard organic buyers to beware and make sure they know where their food is coming from and to try and find out HOW the food was grown. Looking forward to the series…or is it seri? :)
Abbigail Gutierrez says
Right now I am focusing on just eating healthier. Sometimes I buy organic. Financially I stretch my dollar a lot and when apples might cost 89 cents a pound non organic and 1.49 a pound organic I can not see myself paying that with every item of food we buy. Im not against it and when we have the extra money I like to.
Lisa @Retro Housewife Goes Green says
We eat almost all organic food. I view it as an investment in our families health. My health has changed so much since we switched, it’s amazing! I also lost over 30 lbs and I still bake all the time.
Theresa C says
Mostly-some organic. We also support out local farmer’s market which is awesome. Not all “organic” as in certified, but pesticide free and GMO free :) Plus, I belong to two co-ops. One I purchase grass-fed RAW milk and other goodies from and Azure Standard. We call our group of orderers a co-op since we work together toward our minimum $amount for the drop! I shop at Trader Joes for all other things. We do our best but yes $$$ is not growing on trees over here either! LOL
Over the past few months we’ve been transitioning to organic, whole foods. My last grocery shopping trip I only bought three non-organic items-local asparagus, yogurt salad dressing, and tortilla shells. Everything else was organic. The more I research food, the more I’m realizing how important eating organic is.
We’re just getting started on our whole foods journey. I’d say less than half of what I’m buying now is organic. But we’re trying to bump that up when feasible – based on price and availability. I appreciate the information it sounds like you’ll be providing in this series!
We eat some organic and are gradually moving closer to all organic foods. We have chickens, grow our own vegetables, and watch for sales to buy organic produce that we can’t grow. Since we have started ordering from Azure Standard, we are able to afford much more organic food. It makes me so happy to know that my children are not eatng harmful chemicals!
Nancy Puckett says
Having recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, I’ve had LOTS of questions about “is organic better.” Trying very hard NOT to wonder “what if my diet was organic–would I have not gotten cancer?” If there is something I can change, I’m going to, and eating more whole and organic foods is a start. Our family lives in Los Angeles, so while “organic” is available, it’s hard to grow/harvest/hunt our own. Doing the best we can with what we have. Loving hearing your perspective.
I am about to be one year cancer free on june 1st. I’ve had two different types and I’m only 26. I think it’s so easy to beat yourself up for choices you made when you didn’t know better. You did the best you could with the knowledge you had at the time. There are also a lot of reasons why people get cancer and many of them are out of our control. Give yourself some grace. Also, my reconstructive surgeon recommended raw honey on stiches/scars and 3000 of vitamin c a day to help heal the body for at least 6 months after surgery, it worked for me but you may want to mention it to your doctor to make sure it’s okay for you to take.
I found out about NH Lymphoma when I was 29 and I, too, struggled with questioning what I could have done differently. I grew up in front of a small blueberry field and often wonder if the chemilcals they sprayed were all hanging out in the backyard I played in as a child. Never know, I guess. I am doing the best I can now. :) I have been cancer free for 1 year now! YAY! Best of luck and prayer in your journey.
Congratulations to you both on being cancer free! I have some close friends who have cancer and have struggled with the same question of whether or not their diet and/or choices caused the cancer. Some semi-famous doctors seem to think that any choice that doesn’t line up with their regimen will lead to cancer, but I don’t think it is that simple. I’m not a doctor, but if bad choices equalled cancer and good ones meant cancer free, there are alot of people with some valid questions. Men who drink, smoke and eat junk all their life and live to be a 90 and some who make good choices and die at 40. God has a plan for us, and we need to trust in that plan. Making good choices is wise, but it will not save you. I appreciate Laura’s consistency and balanced approach. I hope you each live a long, healthy life!
Danielle B says
Congrats you two!! I agree w/Amy wholeheartedly! Everyone’s days are numbered. I believe, when you have fulfilled your purpose, you will go and be w/the Lord.
We do a mix, I suppose.
We raise our own eggs, chicken, and turkeys (and beef, but he’s 2 weeks old, so it’ll be awhile!), as ‘organic’ as we can – the layers free range, get table scraps, and (conventional) whole wheat (it’s not GM, nor soy). The meat birds get an organic starter, then conventional (soy based. ugh) ration, then I finish them with more organic (at $30/50lb, there’s only so much I can do!).
All corn products purchased are organic, to be certain we’re not eating GMO (popcorn is supposed to be ok, but we get ours from azure anyway) – whole corn for meal, corn tortillas, corn chips, corn starch, etc.
I buy raw milk when possible, and am looking into getting a milk cow (gulp!) so we can raise and make our own milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, etc
I’m more worried about the animal products being organic, also oils and grains, and the ‘dirty dozen’ in produce (i.e. I don’t buy conventionally grown strawberries). We buy regular bananas, cabbage, avocados, but organic celery and potatoes. If I buy conventional apples, for instance, I wash them in biokleen produce wash (though organic would still be preferred).
We buy mostly organic. For meat, it is ALWAYS organic. For produce, i buy all high pesticide produce organic and then buy as much of the rest organic as my budget allows. Also, I don’t freak out if we eat out and don’t eat organic foods. If I am at someones home and they serve me something that is not organic, I’ll still eat it. I just do my best to stick to as much real food as possible when dining out.
I’m really looking forward to reading this series within a series! And I will go back and read some of your other series. I really like your writing style, your humor is very similar to mine. I really appreciate how you write and the topics you write about. I have definitely learned from you and whether or not I have chosen to do what you have done, I’m grateful because it has at least made me rethink things and make a more knowledgeable decision. Now I’m looking forward to rethinking the organic or non-organic! Love your blog!
Some… Can’t wait for your insight!
Brit @MomAnswersWithBrit.com says
After reading your series on your healthy eating journey my husband and I have decided to give it a shot (we are ordering through Azure Standard for the first time this month!!) My husband has a lot of headached, and we both lack a lot of energy for being so young.
I’m so excited about this series because there is so much we still do not know! We know that we will probably feel better changing our eating habits, but why organic? We really don’t know a lot of details yet.
Oh, and I’ve also stated reading Nourishing Traditions! I’m so excited about this (although my family thinks I’m strange about wanting to make my own yogurt!). I need to have more knowledge to defend our family eating decisions. :)
VERY interested to read your series within a series. I live in very rural Indiana. Organic is not widely available, and I feel very strongly that our modern agricultural system – which is literally feeding the world – often gets a bum wrap. But, I want to eat well, feed my family the best…and I want to feel good, which doesn’t happen all that often when I’m eating the standard american diet. It’s a struggle – especially with family that isn’t on board! Write on, dear lady, I’m reading!!
Kathleen K says
We eat a combination of organic/nonorganic. Our emphasis is whole foods on a limited budget. We buy pasture-raised antibiotic-free beef and chicken and eggs, and raw milk without compromise. Cheese must be organic, preferably raw milk. Produce: leafy greens must be organic. We try to buy the “dirty dozen” organic, and we try to eat in season. For staples, such as grain, beans, and rice, I’ve discovered that organic from Azure standard is cheaper than conventional from the bulk bins at the store, so we make the obvious choice. I also rigorously avoid GMO whenever possible. We rarely eat out, which also helps the budget.
My suggestion is to eat whole foods first, then move to organic meats (and dairy), then organic produce, and finally organic staples. Taking one step at a time, in any direction is better than remaining frozen.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! Since having my 1st child(now 14 mo.) I have really been trying to eat more organic/whole food, but I still need lots of help in this area, I don’t want to buy blindly just because a product says “organic”. I want to be smart about this and we’re on a tight budget, my husband is a pastor and I choose to be a stay at home mom. I love your blog, and again thank you for writing about not only the “organic issue” but everything else you do!
We try VERY hard to eat the ‘dirty dozen’ organically. There are some things I do not bother to spend the money on, bananas, oranges, etc…
We eat mostly organic dairy and organic whole milk (cannot find non-homogenized around here! URGGG! And Raw is illegal :( )
And I also try to find natural pastured meat, but not necessarily organic.
I am looking forward to the rest of this series!
Some… over the past 1 1/2 or 2 years I’ve been buying more organic than I used to. I live in SoCal so it’s widely available, not all produce/foods, but many. It’s just not cheap unless there’s a great sale. Then YES!
Laura – one thing that I had seen in some program/video on the internet was that the Organic standards may be different when produce comes from other countries and are not necessarily monitored by the US. So, it may not be the organic that we think of or expect. I do my best to by USA grown when I can and where I shop, there’s not tons of organic USA grown all the time. Maybe if it were easier to drag 3 small kids around to local farmers markets that would be ideal :). Meat, I rarely buy organic. I would love to but it’s so stinken expensive and I can only do some much $$$ wise!
Laura, I’m exctied to see what you have to say. And I have a question for you since you’re across the country from me…. The avacados you buy, where are they grown? USA? I curious b/c I live just 20 or so miles south of what has appartently been labeled as the “Avacado Capital of Usa” (or something like that) but most of the avos in our stores come from Mexico. It’s really irritating.
I am so excited to see what you say about this topic. We are just starting to go organic for most of our food, grass fed for our beef and gmo free for our poultry.
We buy a lot of our food at Costco, they have a great selection of organic foods! And a few items from Whole Foods. We recently found a co-op of Amish farmers that provide organic produce, grass fed beef and gmo free poultry.
We are not all or nothing though. If our kids want a special treat that is not organic or we feel like eating out then we do and don’t worry about it.
If we can’t find organic then we try to at least buy locally grown/raised food.
I agree with the sentiment that it is a good idea to learn about where and how your food is raised/grown.
Andrea L. says
Well, in our area commercial organic produce is not abundantly available. But when it is available, it is always my first choice! I’m not apposed to buying non-organic when we need it. From what I understand (and in my opion), if people are eating enough produce, the fiber content along with nutrients help flush out some of those toxins anyway. A person is better off eating non-organic produce, than processed, packaged food.
Oddly, there are proven results that produce and grains grown with the use of pesticides are much richer in anti-oxidants, vitamins, and phytochemicals. I sometimes don’t care for how orgain produce looks in stores. Ever seen a bag of non-organic cherries next to organic cherries? The non-organic cherries are much prettier and more stout. They last longer once I get them home…..
Now that I’v written a chapter… My final thought is: Use both, buy organic when it’s available, and run far, far, far away from processed and restaurant food!!! As far as you can, though some now and then is OK.
Looking forward to your series, Laura.
Beth @ Living Simply says
We have a VERY limited budget ($1700/month for a family of 4–that’s everything, not just food!). I focus on whole foods and buy organic when I can. I’ve recently started ordering through Azure Standard and can get some organic foods for the same price or cheaper than buying the same (non-organic) thing from the local grocery store (oatmeal, flour, beans, rice, in season produce, cheese). I spend money on things I feel are important (coconut oil, sucanat, etc) and ask around for deals — I’ve found pastured eggs for $1/dozen! I’m still looking for a raw milk source and an affordable pastured meat source but even little things make a big difference!
I see you are from MN…a few tips for saving money in “our neck of the woods!” I am also from MN and order from Country Life Natural Foods (if you call them they will steer you to the nearest drop) and no shipping or handling if you order for delivery at an established drop site, also the ShareWI.org has grass fed meats and OG produce for very reasonable. We also live on a very limited income–about the same as yours for a family of 5 and we have been fortunate to fnd these venues for healthy eating (and saving money)! There are also Azure standard Drops in MN too!
Also for raw milk–it is legal for any farmer to sell their milk at the farm. Literally stop in at your nearest farm and ask if they sell their milk– most likely they do, or they know a farmer nearby who does. Thats how we found our raw milk source.. a beautiful drive into the country!
Beth @ Living Simply says
Thanks for the tips! I’ll have to look into ShareWI.org.
Niki Nowell says
When we became friends all those years ago, I had no idea how you would affect my families dietary habits and what I would teach my kids. :) The journey to eating whole foods has been a slow one for us, and we are still taking baby steps with buying organic. I have the luxury of lots of “health food stores” and farmer’s markets in Denver, but I don’t always take advantage of them. You inspire me to put in the extra effort and to start over again when we fall out of the habit of healthy eating. Thanks, Laura! :)
We are slowing working towards eating healthier. It’s been a bit of challenge, wanting to buy ALL organic and grass-fed and local, etc. – but not having the funds to do it all. While I do agree that it is important to eat the most organic, local, and pesticide (and other junk) free food we can, it’s just not doable in every instance. I do try to buy the ‘dirty dozen’ organic only. Some of the ‘clean fifteen’ I don’t bother buying organic in order to save a little money. I have been working on adding more money to our food budget by making other products myself (like lotion bars, simple household cleaners, laundry detergent, etc.). Hopefully this will free up a little more money to spend on good quality food!
I’m really looking forward to the rest of your series (within a series). I, personally, have made the switch (as much as humanly possible) to organic produce (from the Dirty Dozen list) and as much grass fed, humanely raised meat as possible. I also am very careful about which personal products I use in our home. VERY rarely do I consume anything that I haven’t made from scratch or am comfortable with the origins of the food. I have had such an amazing increase in energy and I always feel good. My children still eat lunch at school but other than that they really have come to enjoy natural, homemade foods. We all feel much better.
My question though, is what do I do when no one else seems to care or respect my decisions to feed my family HEALTHY food. Friends, in-laws, ex’s. They all scoff and roll their eyes whenever we talk about how bad NutraSweet is for you. Or preservatives. I don’t know how to ‘politely’ ask them to respect my decision when and leave the snide comments at the door (“I eat hot dogs all the time and I turned out all right.”, “Cars are dangerous, too. You gonna walk everywhere you go so you don’t get in a wreck?” etc.)
This post was timed perfectly because I was just stewing over this today when I pulled up your site. Anyway, I would love to hear eveyone’s thoughts on this as I just don’t know what to do.
Thanks in advance :)
I kindly tell my family and friends that “each of us makes very personal choices about many things each and every day. This is a choice that I make based on my own personal beliefs and I choose to respect your choices and I expect you to do the same for me” I agree to disagree with most of my family. My own mother believes that the cheapest nasty hot dogs in the store are “quality protien” for young children–uughh!!! It may not be the most polite way of dealing with it–but it is true–I do the best I can with what I have and my beliefs about healthy organic food has evolved greatly over the last few years. I figure if I don’t judge tham for what they are eating (or not eating) then they have no right to judge me! I just wish they would think of organic as more than jus a scam. It is hard but so worth it to eat healthy, and I am blessed to have a husband who is on board with me (that’s all that counts to me!!). I hope that your road to healthy eating gets easier or at least for family gives up on trying to “mainstream” you…eventually they will see it as a futile effort and just deal.(speaking from experience!!)Wishing you luck and much patience :)
Thanks…it’s good to hear that I am not the only one who has to put up with this stuff. Hot dogs…….yuck!
Maria Guevara says
Eating organic is a choice that I made for our family over a year ago. My husband was very resistant on this as it meant more money in the begining for our food budget. But with time and discovers in the world of organic eating, we are not spending any more money than usual. We have a coop for our fruits and vegetables. I buy from Azure and I visit the farmer’s market with my kids anytime I need anything else. I very rarely visit the grocery store anymore. The hardest part has been getting my kids to eat more vegetables, but that has become a bit easier with time. Your blog has been a useful tool to help with my choice of organic eating.
Stacy Myers says
I’m really excited about this series! :-) Thank you!!!
I can’t wait to read more about this post! We eat about 98% organic. The remanding percentage is when we eat out or other’s treat us! I’ve been so inspired by your blog!
Cammie M says
If you get a chance in your series within a series within a series =) – could you share your thoughts on:
1) Is organic milk worth it if you can’t get raw or grass-fed milk? Should we skip drinking milk altogether?
2) How great is the difference between organic meat and organic grass-fed meat? I’ve been able to afford organic meat, but haven’t been able to afford the grass-fed kind yet.
I’m excited to read your series – I’ve been trying to weigh all the options lately and I’m going in circles feeling like my head will explode.
From the research I have done, even organic store bought milk is not that great! Bbasically wour bodies can’t absorb the added vitamins and calcium that the companies have added back into the milk once it has been processed. From my research, it is about as nutritional as drinking water. I’m no expert and would like to hear what others have to say on the topic.
Laura--The Sushi Snob says
Mainly when we can afford it. My husband is a student and we’re low income. If we have to buy conventional, I make sure to wash it very well before using it.
I recently joined a local food co-op so I can hopefully get more local produce, and support the local economy, and get more fruits and veggies in my diet. We also try to keep the processed food consumption to a minimum, so I hope and pray that we’re eating healthier than the average American.
Series within a series.
Jen B says
We eat organic dairy, meats and produce. As for the snacks, I try to find organic most of the time. If not, atleast no HFCS. It has really helped my daughter and her sore tummy. SHe used to have one everyday, until we started eating organically. So we won’t be goin back. :)
We eat some organic fruits and veggies…two things I know I want to know more about, regarding whole foods healthy eating and organic stuff. First, which boxed things labeled organic–for instance, butter–are okay? How do you tell? (Cause I know organic fruit bites doesn’t make them healthy!)
Second, for those of us who (a) don’t have a garden, and (b) don’t live on a farm where they grow fruits and veggies…where can I find a good resource for what is in season? I am going to try to start shopping at farmer’s markets, which should help…but other than oranges are best in fall/winter and melons are summer…I’m pretty lost when it comes to picking in-season fruit. Help?
From what I understand, if it’s from your local farmers market it is probably “in season”. I think the whole taboo about “out of season” produce is the amount of chemicals that are added in order for the fruits and veggies to grow out of their natural time-frame. Plus, they are more expensive also. Farmer’s markets aren’t ALWAYS a sure fire way to go organic, but its a pretty safe bet. Plus the growers are right there for you to ask about their farming practices. Our farmer’s market is pretty small but I feel good about what I do get (supporting local ag) when I go. Oh…..and we have a supplier of the BEST Raspberry-Jalepeno Jelly! YUM!