Friday, April 30, 2010

Organic vs. Affordable - could shopping get more complicated?

Shopping has become way more complicated for me and so I'm always looking for ways to simplify - like send my husband shopping instead :) I guess what I know and what I can afford and have time to research always stop me dead in my tracks. There is local, organic, local organic, imported organic, natural, whole, processed, low-fat, sugar free... oh, and then there are coupons, on sale, cheaper in bulk... ok, you get the picture. How can I shop and not feel completely frozen by my choices.

To top it off, we are now making food for our 6 month old and the topic of what to feed her has been on our minds. This month we wanted to try pears or apples and the question was where to get them, what type, organic or not, etc. I remembered something I learned about in a Northwest Environmental Institute (NWEI) discussion series titled menu for the future that I did with some friends last year (I highly recommend their courses but that could be a whole post in itself). There is a list out there distributed by the Environmental Working Group called the "dirty dozen" 12 top foods tested by the USDA and FDA for pesticides after washing Then today I came across this article on the dirty dozen at thedailygreen which covers more than just fruits and veggies and also has a link to the clean 15. These are great shopping resources.

I still think the easiest shopping trip is the one straight to the farm or farmers market. Organic or not I get to talk with supplier directly about their farming products and practices. This is exactly why we buy meat directly from "farmer Scott" at Abundant Life Farms through his buyers club right here in Portland. We visited his farm and we know how he cares for his animals. He isn't certified organic but the choice is easy for me. We are even investing in bulk purchase of a half a hog from his farm because it is cheaper and I feel much better about eating meat when I get this out of my freezer (there could have been a good pun about "freezing up" at the market in there somewhere).

After direct from the supplier, I use my pocket guide linked here and I try to stay in season first, even if I'm at the store. Organic frozen might be cheaper for some items then organic fresh, especially off season and then finally we of course try to grow some of our own. I have recently tried to get in to coupons, but find that most of them are not for fresh produce. Still, there are plenty for other eco-friendly products, toiletries, even gardening equipment, so I try to just watch for what we might actually buy - I still have a lot to learn about coupons and deal hunting though.

So now I want to know, what helps you make your food choices at the store and how do you prioritize? I would love your tips.

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