When to Buy Organic Food (Updated)


Organic fruit.

Remember the organic food post I wrote, “The Privilege of Prioritizing Organic Food“? It was about a jarring experience I had at a local New Year’s retreat, after another attendee asked for advice about eating nutritiously on a budget, only to be rebuffed.

That post generated a lot of discussion; many of you were hungry (heh) for more information, especially practical tips like the ones we didn’t get at the retreat that inspired my essay. Well, get out your grocery lists–I just found a handy chart at LearnVest that may help you choose how and when to go organic. Additionally, there are these two useful suggestions:

* Think Skin: When in doubt, organic is the safer bet for produce with edible skins (like apples and grapes). Most exceptions in the chart above are for produce that has fewer natural pests and therefore tends to be farmed with fewer pesticides.

* Meat: If you have to prioritize your organic budget anywhere, animal and animal products are the best investment, because of the higher risk of contamination in cooking. Antibiotic-free is the most important designation to look for in meats, though ideally you want it all–free range and pasture fed. A huge percentage of the contaminants are found in the fat, so if you must go non-organic, keep it lean (i.e. chicken breasts rather than thighs).

If you know of similar charts, links or resources, please share them!


One DCentric reader sent me a Facebook message with the following, helpful advice:

One useful tip is that many local farmers follow organic practices but aren’t officially organic. This is because the rules for organic certification favor large producers and make it all but impossible for small producers to meet the qualifications. Buying from small producers through a farmer’s market can mean getting organic produce without the organic markup. Or if you can afford to put up a few hundred bucks ahead of time (say, with your tax refund), join a CSA and enjoy months of paid-for organic goodies.

In D.C., FRESHFARM Markets accept Food Stamps and in some cases, double them:

It’s important to FRESHFARM Markets that local and fresh produce is available to all people, regardless of income. …At FRESHFARM Markets that accept EBT/Food Stamps/SNAP (H Street NE, Health and Human Services, By the White House, Silver Spring and Annapolis) we offer a Double Dollars incentive to Food Stamp, WIC “Get Fresh” and Senior FMNP customers to increase their buying power.

Oh…and about Facebook: please feel free to share these tips on our wall! We’d love to hear from you.

  • Debbie E.

    Thanks for the link to buying organic tips!

  • http://DCentric.org Anna John

    Happy to be of service. :)