Organic or not?

I oftentimes find myself standing in front of the sink washing some non-organic produce wondering a few things:

  1. Is this veggie wash really doing anything?
  2. Will I someday end up  in a cancer ward taking care of my ailing husband or son? (for some reason I don’t imagine getting cancer myself)
  3. If I am in a cancer ward somewhere, will I be kicking myself, thinking “Why did I buy those non-organic grapes?!?”

Now that I put my stream of consciousness out there, it seems kind of ridiculous. But does anyone else get as stressed out at the grocery store as I do?

If I buy organic then I feel comforted that maybe my family is consuming something that’s generally better for their bodies, in the short and long term.  At least that’s what I hear organic does.  But if I buy organic, I practically hyperventilate at the end of the month when Jason attempts to balance the budget.  Money stresses me out.

Regardless of my decision (which really varies with how I’m feeling that day), I know it is 1) influenced by some level of fear and 2) a mostly ignorant one.

So, I would like to educate myself and develop some kind of generalized philosophy/strategy when it comes to organic vs. non-organic purchases.  For me, this looks like taking what I’ve learned, confidently making decisions at the grocery store, and trusting God with the rest.

Here are some questions I’ve come up with that I’m working on answering for myself:

  • What is considered organic? How is it produced?
  • Is organic really better or am I just buying into the trend?
  • What is non-organic?  Why do some people think it’s so evil?  Is it really that bad?
  • Is organic really more nutritious that non-organic?
  • Does produce wash really do anything?

I am also very interested in what this looks like for other families.  If you would, please comment on some or all of the questions below. I would love to hear what you do and how it works for you–no matter whether you are on one end of the spectrum, the other end, or somewhere in the middle.

I should also clarify–I am talking mainly about food when it comes to this issue, but also cleaning, baby, and hygiene products.

  • What (if any) do you buy organic and why?
  • What (if any) do you buy non-organic and why?
  • Have you found any good alternatives (ie, grass-fed or natural but not organic, produce wash).  What was your reasoning behind choosing these alternatives?
  • What resources were helpful to you in making your decisions?
  • If you buy some or all organic, how do you do so in a cost-effective manner (ie, where are the deals)?  If you have to make sacrifices in other areas, what does that look like for you?
  • Do you have creative ways you acquire healthy or organic foods or natural products besides purchasing in the store (bartering, gardening, co-op, etc.)?  What does that look like?

6 responses to “Organic or not?

  1. I don’t have a very well-thought out of researched answer, but just a few thoughts:
    I buy free range eggs and meat whenever possible (sometimes our grocery store doesn’t have them, but otherwise I buy them). To me this is the most important not only because of the proven health benefits, but because of the quality of life of the animals (and that’s something I never thought I would say).

    Secondly, if the budget allows, I buy organic milk and butter, because sometimes hormones are scarier to me than pesticides (unreasoned, just my gut).

    As for produce, we do garden, and we do participate in a CSA farm share to get some organic produce. I sometimes refer to this list ( of the most and least contaminated fruits and veggies.

    My favorite book on this topic is The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Anything by Michael Pollan is good.

    I’d love to hear what answers you come up with.

  2. hey E! first off, i’m so excited that you’re starting this journey and process. it’s amazingly liberating and scary at the same time. i actually just posted something similar to what we’re doing at that shares our similar journey that’s solely focused on food and the way we eat.

    regarding organic, there’s a great book, “how to pick a peach” that talks about fruits and veggies in season. I want to say they also note what fruits and veggies are worth buying organic and what is a waste of monies. the mantra i live by in purchasing organic produce is that if there’s a hard skin (ie- banana) its not worth it. if its a soft skin (ie- strawberry) that you’ll be eating, totally worth purchasing the organic version. here’s a helpful link we’ve used…

    like amy, we’re fans of michael pollan. he’s awesome. also, he’s featured both in the 2 documentaries i listed on my post, king corn and food inc. they’re eye-opening to say the least.

    we’re starting to eat 100% grass-fed meats…be careful though. just because it says ‘free-range’ or grass-fed doesn’t necessarily mean that they have been. shocking i know. they just demand a high mark-up. you need to look for messaging that says “100% grass-fed” or “100% pasturized.” is a great website for local meat and poultry farmers. you can also buy free-range eggs and milk from some of these farmers. local aso means that there’s also less impact on the environment. that’s always a plus 🙂

    also check out local farmers markets if you don’t have your own garden. it’s going to be the freshest, organic produce you’ll get that is in season. i want to say some meat farmers also sell their meat and poultry but it depends on the farmers market. here’s a website of the Seattle Farmers Markets Alliance…

    Best of luck…can’t wait to hear more about what you guys are doing!

  3. Hey Elisabeth! Still want to do coffee with you sometime…let me know.

    On the organic front we are moving that way as well but but are committed to doing it frugally ie without increasing our grocery budget AT ALL. :-).
    Your comic made me laugh but in general I find the processed organic foods are expensive, whole foods in their natural state are comparable to non-organic but you pay for the convenience in your time 🙂

    Like is mentioned above we do purchase organic only the “dirty dozen” 🙂 and we do so from local farmers IN SEASON IN BULK…the prices are cheaper then purchasing non-organic off season. Then I CAN AND PRESERVE. I don’t know why I’m into caps tonight. 🙂 Today I canned 6 pints of organic pear jam with no refined sugar or preservatives, and 12 quarts of organic pears with no sugar added at all. I got the fruit free from a local farmer who wanted help harvesting and picking the fruit, the cost to me for all this was the cost of electricity and lids for my jars (call around you’d be surprised!) I have to date enough organic pears, peaches, jams, beans, beets and pickles to last through the winter. I have enough frozen strawberries blueberries, blackberries and raspberries (also all organic) to last until next season.
    Growing most of your veggies is another plus and it is possible here with a bit of creativity…Jon is actually in process of building us a greenhouse out of free glass (email he can tell you where to find it) so we can grown our produce year round.
    I make all my own cleaners, bake my own bread and own crackers (organic red kernels that I grind into flour is comparable to store bought flour).
    I also do lots of trades, I exchange my bread to a local gal at our church for honey each week from her farm, I also exchange bread to another gal for produce from her co-op.
    This fall I contacted several produce and home co-ops and told the managers that I would like to purchase the fruit and veggies that were “past their prime” for half price…I then just processed and canned or froze them for the winter. I purchase most of my organic supplies online and usually put out a call (via facebook) for others to place their order at the same time, they then pick up at my home and we all save on shipping. This makes organic sugars, wheat, and grains comparable to store purchase items (usually 3 cents more expensive/lb)
    Organic milk is not too expensive and I use it to make organic yogurt at $3 for a gallon of yogurt.
    We have been starting small and building up. For example one of the first changes I wanted to make was to remove all HFCS, refined sugars and preservatives from our diet. As I changed my cooking and buying criteria to meet those needs while staying in budget I found myself getting creative :-)…we ar e now in process of removing all processed flour for wheat and spelt and doing alot of grain soaking 🙂
    We are also very committed to only buying organic grass fed beef and we buy it locally (I just had the butcher call me today actually and ask for my cuts) we purchase 1/4 of a cow each year from a local farmer and freeze it :-). I have started making my own cheese (mozzarella and ricotta) so it is also organic and tasty and is comparable to store bought processed blocks in flavor.
    We also are enjoying are egg chickens…we have five which means 5 farm fresh eggs a day, enough for us and to sell which offsets our cost…I know it doesn’t work for everyone but it’s working for us (we have a light out there so they lay during these winter fall months too).
    I am in the kitchen alot more then I used to be, but I enjoy it alot more as well. I love producing sustainable whole foods for our family and the ownership I feel in our health and budget is empowering….and the kids love doing it with me, all three of them help stir the wheat and honey in when we are making homemade pretzels, or spread the granola out on the sheets. Thier favorite activity is whole wheat cinnamon roll creations with agave, honey, and dried plums from our yard…mmm 🙂 it is what is working for our lifestyle right now…we cannot do everything organic and natural but we do what we can and let the rest go as we rest in our sovereign God and praise him for the talents and time he has given us.
    The thing to pull away from this novel though is that I did not do any of this all at once, I did it one small goal at a time 🙂 I’m not where I’d like us to be yet but we are getting there and I am finding that I am really enjoying the process 🙂
    Miss you cannot wait to hear your creative ideas!
    Call me if you want to come can 🙂

  4. Hi friend!

    Finally got to reading this, I go through the same anxieties you mentioned and find it’s based on my mood and also based on how much more is organic, sometimes it’s a matter of change so I “upgrade”. I also tend to be more fearful with meat/hormones as opposed to pesticides whether it’s legit or not, I don’t know.

    I do know two things for sure having lived outside Seattle as an adult.

    1. New Roots Organic is amazing and cheap organic food that you will likely never find anywhere outside of Seattle. The second best would be the farmers market.

    2. Your Costco in south Seattle is the most amazing one ever. You won’t find any organic products, meat-dairy-produce-eggs at another one. That’s where we bought a lot of stuff while there.

    There’s this site that I love to follow, that says at minimum if you have to skimp on some groceries, these are the ones to make sure are organic. Let us know how it goes 🙂

    I follow the Environmental working group, but this is the link for the download.

  5. Love the comic! Made me smile 🙂

  6. Pingback: Movin’ to the country . . . « Bliss and the Battlefield

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