October 22, 2007

When do You Buy Organic?

Do you buy organic every time you shop for produce?

Some people do, and that's awesome. But Crabby tends to be a bit hit or miss about it. It's easier when she's at the Farmer's Market, buying local organic produce that was picked that day and looks and smells fresh and lovely. (Or even the farmer's market stuff that's not officially certified organic but is nonetheless grown without pesticides. Crabby doesn't think her kindly neighborhood vendors are lying to her about that).

Buying organic, however, can be tougher at the Big Chain Grocery stores. Sometimes the offerings are limited. Often what they do have is very expensive and old and wilty and scraggly because so few shoppers frequent that section. It's always tempting to stick with the big bright pyramids of perky-looking and attractively priced fruit and vegetables in the regular section, bypassing entirely the sad little clumps of pricey organic fare off in the corner.

But who wants to eat pesticides?

Crabby really doesn't. Even if sometimes she manages to "forget" that the regular produce she's throwing in her cart could be contaminated with all kinds of evil chemicals that no amount of scrubbing will remove.

Help is here, however! If you can't buy organic all the time, there's a handy guide available that rates the best and worst produce in terms of pesticide content. You can apparently reduce your pesticide exposure by about 90% by going organic on the 12 worst items.

And here's an additional important tip: Print that sucker out and put it on your refrigerator! Seriously. Crabby has seen these sorts of lists before and always thinks she will remember which foods are really bad, but when she gets to the store she never does. Take that info from your fridge when you're making a shopping list and put a little "O" by the high priority organic stuff--because that's where you want to spend your organic budget.

Who knows, perhaps if we all stop buying non-organic versions of the Worst Offenders, produce suppliers and supermarkets will get the message and offer more and cheaper organic produce!

(OK, Crabby won't hold her breath on that one. The readership of Cranky Fitness is not that big. It will be quite a while before we can influence the selections on offer at your favorite grocery store. But hell, we're working' on it.)

So, enough with the yapping, lets bring on the list!

Note: a much more attractive, suitable-for-refrigerator-display PDF file is available for free from the Environmental Working Group; also they have a way bigger compilation of pesticide data at their site too. But in the meantime...

Pesticide-Laden Fruits and Vegetables to Avoid:
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Lettuce
  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Pears
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes

The "Good" (Less Contaminated) Produce:
  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn - Frozen
  • Pineapples
  • Mango
  • Sweet Peas - Frozen
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwi
  • Bananas
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Eggplant

So how often do you folks buy organic produce?


  1. I do tend to buy organic produce more often then not, but I also live a couple miles from both a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe's. If I had to travel a ways, that might change.

  2. We grow most of our veggies so they are organic.
    But, when it comes to Buying From A Store, we rarely get organic because it usually Looks Like Hell.
    I believe the locally grown tomatoes and cukes are organic, however, and they are available in the store.

  3. It's hard to get up here without paying through the nose for it, but I try to when I can. All my family seems to have huge gardens so we inherit stuff from all of them in the fall...I'm set with potatoes, carrots and onions for the entire winter I think!

  4. Gardening, what a concept! You'd think, living in California, the idea of growing my own organic veggies would have occurred to me.

    Oh wait, but that involves chores... never mind! I need more friends and relatives with gardens.

    Thank goodness for the Farmer's Markets.

  5. Has anyone stopped to consider that without those pesticides and fertilizers, produce would become MORE expensive, more scarce, and more of it would look like those scraggly, wrinkly, picked-over, wormy offerings that are available in the organic section now?

    We SHOULD be lobbying for more testing and studies to find SAFER pesticides and fertilizers.

    Without pesticides and fertilizers, there would be more crop failures and less food to sustain the rapidly expanding human race. Anyone out there care to go to work every day to pick bugs off fruit by hand? Anyone want to stand by and watch cattle die by the hundreds from blackleg or any number of other easily prevented diseases because we don't want chemicals in our meat and dairy products?
    (Oops, looks like you hit a nerve here, Crabby! Sorry for the mini-rant!)

  6. The Bag Lady is SO thankful she has a garden, and can eat meat that she KNOWS has no chemicals in it...
    Crabby, just send me your address and I can unload some of this bumper crop of potatoes on you!

  7. I figure I am doing well just to buy produce! When I do, I try first to buy Canada grown. When I am flush I will go to the farmers market though.

  8. Hi Anonymous,
    Mini-rants are welcome! And yep, there are trade-offs with organic, which is why I don't buy it all the time.

    But increasingly, I feel more willing to forgo the products with a lot of pesticides for the wiltier, wormier more expensive organic alternatives, or (even better) the locally grown organic stuff that's in great shape--I frankly no longer completely trust our government to watch out for the safety of what we eat!

  9. I shop pretty exclusively at Whole Foods and Central Market. I don't worry on the occasions when I eat something that isn't organically grown, though. I figure a little won't hurt, and the aggravation of trying to do anything 100% just isn't worth it.

    Stress, coritsol levels... you know.

  10. We decided to home grow our tomatoes this year! Inside a screened area, no pesticides, etc. The plants were fabulous! They were almost 7 feet high and filled half the porch! The tomato harvest consisted of TWO TOMATOES the size of a US Half dollar! They were the two best bites we've ever tasted :-)
    DR. J
    PS Oh yeah, we learned more about growing tomatoes than we ever wanted to know, and next year, we'll be ready HaHa!!

  11. Ah...anonymous - I am cynical at your idea, although I do agree with it in part. You see, having worked in the plant science genetic industry out of university on a project where we just found a way to genetically modify plants to survive MORE pesticides - I can't see it happening. I thought it was to make *better crops*, but no, just hardier ones. The plant/pesticide companies are looking for most crop with least work for most profit. I'm not saying all the projects are like that - just lucky old me for one, so there had to be others...
    Let's just say I couldn't handle it ethically and I now do human cancer research.
    My issues with organic stuff is do they know what their fertilizers will do to us? I've nothing against some pesticides and fertilisers. They serve their purpose. People need to actually care for their plants and water and weed them to get good plants - not just dump fertilizer and pesticides on them. I love local garden stuff and free range farmed goodness. I'm more on the ranting for getting local produce from small sustainable farms that aren't huge overgrown factory farms....but that's for another rant some day...

  12. geosamin, I agree with you about local produce from small, sustainable farms...and could also rant on and on about the huge factory farms. The problem with living in the snow belt is that there isn't a lot of local produce when it's 40 below, so we do have to rely on stuff shipped in from other places for pseudo-fresh produce.
    The average person on the street has no idea what goes on in all those labs - thanks for the insight.
    The genetic modification subject is good for yet another rant!

  13. We just moved to six acres, so next year, we'll be growing our own! :))

    However, I DO have this list (it's actually in my planner, where I make my grocery lists) and I use that little "O" technique even, when I go shopping! (Crabby stole my idea! LOL)

    Of course, with local farms around now, we can get fresh produce whenever... and neighbors are generous.

    What I want to know is, how do you keep onions, potatoes and carrots from rotting through the winter, geosomin?

  14. I'm ruled by price. Sometimes organic is cheaper (less often, but sometimes...) but mostly it's the other stuff. But of course my favorite is when my neighbors bring over big bags of tomatoes and squash. :)

  15. The vast majority of the produce I buy is organic (certified or not), but I also have easy access to a year round farmer's market, plus more than one grocery store with an organic selection that's decent in both selection and turnover.

    That said, a year ago I had a lot less money, and I bought whatever kind of produce I could afford. Mainly a lot of cabbage. I think in large part buying organic is a class issue.

  16. I buy organic once in awhile - but it's just to expensive and time consuming to do for everything.

  17. Some things, I ONLY buy organic. Some I ONLY buy locally. The rest, I do my best.

    Yes, if we all try to go more organic, the stores will eventually give us ... well, more store brands. At least that's the case with the organic milk at our local grocery. You can pay a buck more a half-gallon (which is already a buck or more over the price of a non-organic half-gallon) for one of the big names, or you can buy the store brand.


    And they wonder why even cheap gas isn't making me spend more there?

  18. Country Dawn, you need a cold storage room. Onions get hung, potatoes and carrots must be dry, but can just be tumbled loosely into bins.

  19. Country Dawn: To add a little to Reb's answer, potatoes do best in a cool, dry, dark place - put them in burlap sacks if you can, and keep them at a temp. just above freezing (+4C - my conversion table just went completely out of my head, which is sad, 'cause I was raised on Fahrenheit) I've never had much luck keeping carrots for the whole winter, so I blanch and freeze some of them. Onions also must be kept cool and dry. After you have had anything in cold storage for awhile, you should check all of it and discard any that are rotting so the rot doesn't spread.

  20. I spend most weekends in VT and try to buy whatever is in season at the local farm.

    The organic stuff at my local market in the city is very expensive and not very appetizing to look at but I always check it out and pick the best of the best.

    If nothing looks good I usually end up in the frozen foods section.

  21. Most of my fruits and veggies are organic. We use bostonorganics.com, who delivers a wonderful box to our front door for a reasonable price. Love it. And I barely have to go shopping now.

  22. I think I'm going to die of pesticide poisioning soon...actually, I read at another blog that you can wash the produce using water and vinegar and it will drastically reduce the amount of pesticides left on the food...just food for though HAHA!

  23. I've read that the vast majority of pesticides in a person's diet (something like 90%) comes from meat from animals fed huge amounts of pesticide saturated grains. I'm not certain if that's true, but if so, meat would be a good place to spend one's organic dollars, if the farmer assured that the animal was fed only organic grains.

  24. So all you guys have such great information, thanks for passing it along!

  25. I don't worry about farmer's market stuff, so I don't ask. It costs an arm and a leg to become a certified organic grower. I rather a local farmer put that money towards their crops.

    I do use the list the the EWP produced. Got the thing memorized :D


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