Have you ever stood in the aisle of the grocery store and contemplated if it’s worth the extra dollar to spring for organic blueberries over the regular ones?
The rise in popularity of organic foods has led to another thing as well… the increase in mom guilt regarding the subject. There are so many expectations of moms these days! But should you feel pressured to buy organic food for your family?
Luckily we’ve done our research and debated the subject for you. Jo will tell you why buying organic is the right choice for her family and Rachel will give you some insight why she sticks to conventional options.
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Jo says | “Go Organic Where It Counts!”
I originally did my research about organic foods when I was pregnant with my first child. Since then I have been almost exclusively shopping in the organic section of the grocery store.
Yep, I’m kind of crunchy in that way.
I am fortunate to live in an area where organic groceries are readily available, but I know this isn’t necessarily the case for everyone.
Luckily, since Amazon bought Whole Foods Market last year they have really been expanding their AmazonFresh program. One of the areas this is most pronounced is with organic products.
With AmazonFresh you can go grocery shopping from the comfort of your living room. They’ve got all the normal stuff you’d find at a traditional store – fruits, veggies, dairy, packaged goods, meat, etc.
Ok let’s start talking about the fruits and veggies. To many, this is the most obvious area to buy organic since it reduces your exposure to pesticide residues.
Certified organic means that no synthetic herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers were used to cultivate the food. This means that any products used have to be naturally occurring.
This is important. Especially since studies on the safety of these synthetic products have yielded inconsistent results.
For instance, one of the most commonly used herbicides (Roundup) has concerns for being a carcinogen. They’re also doing studies to see if it’s linked to developmental delays in infants and reduced sperm quality in men. We need more research before I’m risking it on my family.
The good news is that if you’re on a budget, there are certain areas of the produce aisle that are more important to buy organic than others. Even better news – I’ve created a free printable for you that summarizes these!
The Environmental Working Group informs us that produce like strawberries, spinach, and nectarines carry lots of pesticides – therefore they are extremely important items to buy organic. Other items like cauliflower and avocados retain much less residue, so it’s a good area to buy conventional if you’re on a budget.
Check out this Comprehensive Mom’s Organic Shopping Guide:
Dairy (Especially Milk!)
Organic milk is one area I literally always buy organic.
The “real” reason you should buy organic dairy products: organic milk comes from cows that have not received any antibiotics or growth hormones. Their feed is also 100% organic (so with the pesticide and sustainability regulations we mentioned above).
My personal reason for buying organic milk: it has a super long shelf life!
Organic milk is pasteurized by a technique called ultrahigh temperature processing (UHT). They hold it at a super high temperature (think 280 degrees Fahrenheit) for a few seconds.
Compare this to traditional milk which is heated to 161 degrees for a longer amount of time (roughly 15 seconds). This process kills most bacteria.
UHT (the process used for organic milk) kills everything – this gives it a shelf life 3-5x longer than standard milk. Meaning I can stock up at Costco and buy the milk I need for the next 6-8 weeks.
Not only do I find this extremely convenient, but I save money and create less waste too. Milk never goes bad in my house and overall I make less trips to the grocery store.
Non-organic meats can contain hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides (from exposed feed).
Animals are given antibiotics to protect against illness. Many are concerned this encourages farmers to raise them in crowded and unsanitary conditions.
The USDA is concerned that the massive doses of antibiotics given to these livestock can increase the development of antibiotic resistance bacteria. Antibiotic resistance is a real problem and is something we should all be concerned about.
Conventional raised animals can also be injected with synthetic growth hormones. These are given so the animals will gain weight faster and, in the case of dairy animals, produce more milk.
Hormones given to farm animals (specifically the estrogen-like agents) have been linked to an increased prevalence of cancer in humans. Yikes! Of course we need more research, but I’m not a fan of those associations for my family.
Rachel says | “Don’t worry about Organic”
We try to be healthy and eat pretty well, but we do not buy organic.
Before I’m accused of feeding my kids poison, I have done my research too. For my family, the possible benefits don’t outweigh the literal costs.
The chorus of “we only eat organic” can make you feel like skipping the produce altogether. Why even bother will fruits and veggies that aren’t organic? Is there really that much difference? Maybe I should just order a pizza instead…
Don’t let organic pressure keep you from making healthy choices. And yes, conventionally grown products can also be healthy choices.
So for all of the other non-organic moms, it’s ok.
Here’s a few reasons to NOT buy organic:
#1 | Organic = More Expensive
This is the biggest reason I don’t buy organic foods.
Yes, there are sales and coupons, but overall organic options generally cost more than their conventionally farmed counterparts.
I stick to strict budget so I let my pocketbook guide my purchase. This means I go with the cheaper option. Occasionally this is organic, but usually it’s not.
One way I save tons of money is using Ibotta. This app gives you cash back for buying certain products. It is super easy to use and only takes a couple minutes, you just scan the barcodes and your receipt. I try to only use it for things that I would buy anyway, so I don’t spend more to save a little. Last year, I used my rebate for to help pay for Christmas gifts.
My budget goes further buying conventionally farmed products and we overall eat healthier since I can buy more fresh produce.
Also, our budget has been so tight at times that choosing organic foods would mean not paying other bills or debt. I certainly don’t think it is worth that.
#2 | Organic foods aren’t necessarily any healthier
It is a popular belief that organic foods are safer and healthier, but there’s not much support.
It is also a common misconception that organic produce is pesticide free.
There are pesticides that organic farmers can use. Most are natural pesticides, but a few synthetic pesticides are allowed too.
Just because something is natural does not mean it is healthy or non-toxic.
Pesticide fear seems to be a big thing with the “Dirty Dozen” list. But the pesticide residue on the “dirty” produce is still well below the allowed levels and is considered safe for consumption.
Conventional farmers have to follow strict rules about pesticide usage as well. And the benefits of eating fruits and veggies outweigh the possible pesticide risks.
#3 | Labels aren’t everything
Becoming “certified organic” can be an expensive and extensive process. There are so many regulations that must be followed and few consumers realize exactly what it means.
The term “organic” may bring to mind the image of a quaint family farm, however, that isn’t necessarily true and has nothing to do with certification. Organic farming is a big industry and the organic foods at the grocery store are shipped from around the world.
If you are really concerned about how your food is farmed, consider shopping at your local farmer’s market.
In my experience most sellers, are happy to answer any questions and explain their farming practices. Some follow organic standards, but don’t jump through the hoops for certification.
The prices at farmers markets can be variable, but if I am going to spend a little more, I’d rather support local business.
Before you go, be sure to download your FREE Mom Guide for Organic Shopping: