Monday, August 27, 2012

5 Ways to Save While Buying Organic

Although growing your own fruits and veggies is one way to save on organic produce, there are other ways to stay within your budget while buying organic.

Local berries for sale at the Pike Place Market.
Local berries for sale at the Pike Place Market.

If you buy organic produce, you’ve likely noticed that it often costs more than nonorganic, but do you know why?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, growing organic requires minimal uses of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, while maintaining and enhancing ecological harmony.

Although we cannot be sure that organic products are completely free of pesticides, methods are used to minimize pollution from air, soil and water. Because these methods require more time and labor, the extra cost of growing organic produce is then passed on to the consumer.

Organic practices and productions, according to the USDA, include:

  • Long-term soil health using crop rotations, animal manures, green manures and cover crops.
  • Manage weeds, insects and disease using biological control and crop rotations
  • Biodiversity of agriculture.
  • Livestock are allowed rotational grazing at pasture, with a focus on animal well-being.
  • Reduction of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, hormones and antibiotics.

The primary goal of growing organic is to optimize the health and productivity of the soil life, plants, animals and people. And although it comes at a higher price, there still are ways to save when buying organic:

  • Buy local: Larger quantities often are available, and the farmer will price them to sell. Plus, you’ll avoid mileage cost added when fruits and vegetables have to be shipped.
  • Buy seasonal: As with buying local, more availability means more savings.
  • Buy bulk: Just as the price is reduced with nonorganic produce in bulk, it’s also reduced when buying organic. This also is a good way to buy organic meat.
  • Grow your own: Oftentimes gardeners harvest so much that they are giving food away.
  • Shop at farmers markets: Talk to the farmers and ask if they have price comparisons to grocery stores.

Do your research! Eating organic is becoming a popular trend. To find out more, visit the Environmental Working Group, the Environmental Protection Agency and the USDA. Being informed will allow you to make the best decision for you and your family.

— Jessica Hoffman, MS, dietetic intern, and Debra Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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