There are lots of great reasons to buy organic, but it can also get expensive. Here's what to prioritize if you're on a budget.
Millennials, in general, have proven to be more health-conscious when compared to past generations, especially in terms of eating right and being physically active. A 2016 survey by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) showed that 52 percent of United States households purchasing organic food are headed by millennials (ages 18 to 34), making this age group the largest of the country's organic food buyers. Almost 60 percent of people surveyed reported that they have a "strong connection" with the organic label and stated that whether a food is organic is an important factor in their shopping choices.
Thinking of buying organic but worried about your budget? These tips will help you make good choices without breaking the bank.
Tune In to Your Goals
Aim for better, not perfect, and know that you can always start small and scale up as your budget allows.
The easiest rule of thumb when deciding whether or not to buy organic: "I do a simple 'skin test,'" says Emily Kyle, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Emily Kyle Nutrition. "If I eat the flesh of the fruit or vegetable, I'll buy organic." As in, we eat the skin of berries and vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers, so they may be more susceptible to pesticide use. "But if I'm not eating the flesh, think oranges or bananas, I don't buy organic."
Many experts agree that eating fruits and vegetables, even if they're not organic, is still better than not eating fruits and veggies at all. If replacing your usual amount of conventional meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy with organic versions is not an option, consider purchasing them organic but fewer of these foods overall. Incorporate more plant-based protein sources to stretch your dollars further. You could also pick one or a few to prioritize. (Relevant: Here are eight kitchen hacks to make healthy foods last longer.)
Get Familiar with the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen"
When it comes to produce, scope out the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists. They are arranged based on levels of pesticides in various types of produce and updated every year. Here are the most recent recommendations:
The Dirty Dozen: Buy these organic.
- Sweet Bell Peppers*
- Cherry Tomatoes
*The group also recommends purchasing organic hot peppers as well as kale and collard greens.
The Clean Fifteen: It's okay to buy these nonorganic.
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet Peas (frozen)
- Honeydew Melon
Regardless of what you purchase organic, you may want to use a fruit and vegetable wash before consuming food. Look for a natural product. You can even make your own using white vinegar, water, and lemon juice.
Shop the Frozen Produce Section
If the fresh varieties seem out of your budget, consider frozen. While canned produce loses a lot of nutrients, frozen actually retains important vitamins and minerals, as the foods are flash-frozen at peak freshness. Saving yourself the sad, expensive letdown of winter berries? Priceless. Bonus: You also don't have to worry about your food spoiling as quickly. (See: 6 Ways to Save Money and Stop Wasting Groceries)