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by Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers

Most people would love to go "all organic" with their food choices. Who really wants the pesticides, hormones and preservatives in their food anyway?

But going organic can be a pricey proposition. If your family is like most, your budget cannot afford 100% organic, so why not consider buying organic for some foods?

Here is some simple advice on prioritizing your organic food purchases:

1. Eat organic at the top of the food chain: Purchasing organic dairy, egg and meat products is a great place to begin organic food purchases. Livestock eat pesticide-laden feed, are often dosed with antibiotics and hormones, and all of this ends up in the package at the super market. Even though produce is often associated with organic food, many of the residues on these foods can be eliminated or greatly reduced by properly cleaning and peeling them. There is no way to remove or reduce the contaminants in the meat, dairy and egg products.

2. Buying organic for produce with the highest levels of pesticides: Pesticides levels vary in produce. Foods that take a long time to grow have higher pesticides levels and foods that are high in sugar content tend to attract bugs and insects, and as result are sprayed more frequently.

The Environmental Workers Union analyzed a large number of foods and found that you can reduce risks of pesticide exposure by as much as 90 percent by avoiding the dirty dozen, or the top 12 produce items with the highest pesticide residues.

Here is the list:
Bell peppers
Grapes (imported)
Red Raspberries

On the flip side, these fruits and veggies have the lowest levels of pesticide residues:

Corn (sweet)
Peas (sweet)

3. Buying organic for children's favorite foods: Babies and toddlers are notorious for having some strange eating habits. One of them is eating the same foods day in and day out. This is a perfectly normal development step for your child. Buy organic foods for what your little one is eating the most of at meals.

4. Be flexible. Buy what is on sale: Organic foods are like all other foods products, there are always specials on foods that are in season and there are always coupons. Keep your menu-planning flexible to take advantage of supermarket deals and remember the savings from one coupon can often equal the price difference between organic and conventional.

5. Buy private label: If you think your family budget can't afford the prices at the fancy natural products stores, think again. Wild Oats, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's all offer a private-label brands of juices, soups, sauces and other processed edibles.

6. Explore the bulk aisles: If you thought the bulk bins were only for hard-core hippies, think again. Many common kitchen staples like pastas, cereals, nuts, and spices are offered in the bulk section. The foods are in large containers and are priced at a per pound rate. Bulk foods are more affordable than the pre-packaged foods. If you are intimidated by the bulk food aisle, ask for help. The people who work in the bulk food section are extremely helpful and very willing to support new customers.

Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters and founders of Fresh They are the creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit and Good Clean Fun Placemats, available at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target and Whole Foods Markets.

@ 9:44am ET on June 10, 2008
The regional chain where I'm at, Publix, has private label organics in a lot of areas and so far they are lower cost than a lot of national brands so that's been great. They are still very expensive with their meat though so we have been getting beef at Whole Foods. I'm still waiting for fresh produce organics to get to a reasonable price though and your suggestions on how to properly prepare them is helpful, thanks!

@ 10:51am ET on June 10, 2008
I have to agree with Moogiex about Publix. I just recently started to buy organic. Although, my Publix does not have a very large selection of organic veggies/fruits.

@ 12:07pm ET on June 10, 2008
Kroger's "Nature's Market" section is my best source for organic foods - including frozen foods. They also have a very good selection of organic produce, but yes it is pricey. I was also feeding my pets organic pet food after all those horrible pet food recalls where so many pets died, but it became cost prohibitive for me to do that.

@ 5:15pm ET on June 10, 2008
Thanks for the list! I love organic!


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