Apr
08

Good, Better, Best: When and How to Choose Organic on a Budget

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I’ve had a lot of questions come in based off of the beginnings of the Good, Better, Best series.  Lots of people are asking how I apply what I am writing, and how I make my own choices, since I haven’t been very explicit in telling you where my own lines are.  So I decided to give a quick write-up on where our lines are, and then pick back up on the series. Here’s what I do for my household. They are in order of importance

Fats

Animal fats are critical to buy organic, pastured and grass-fed, as fats are where toxins are stored. Animals raised without chemicals and on their natural diet will have the lowest levels of toxins. For vegetable based fats, like olive and coconut oil, I decide based on price. I buy organic or organic-practice tallow, butter and lard and non-organic coconut oil.

Meat, Organ Meat and Eggs

Due to antibiotic usage, hormones, and the ethical stewardship of animals, I consume organic and 100% pastured (biologically appropriate food and environment) meats from a farmer I can verify and personally speak to as much as I possibly can. I avoid buying factory farmed, organic meat unless that is all that is available to me.

If you find a local farmer, often this meat will be the same price or even less than the organic meat at the local health food store. That is certainly my case, as the prices I pay for the pastured and organic meat is the same or less (and sometimes much less) that what I pay for organic but not pastured at the local HFS. Sometimes, it will be much less if you buy a large amount at one time. I do not buy conventional, factory farmed meat if I can help it.

Liver

The liver doesn’t store toxins, it processes them. So livers from pastured animals do not pose a toxin threat as many people assume.  I do not consume conventional organ meats.  The liver should be pink and healthy looking, not pale and yellowish.

Dairy

When I was able to consume dairy, I only consumed organic, raw and pastured dairy for the same reasons listed above with the meat. I do not buy pasteurized dairy in any form for any reason, as its consumption led to repeated sickness and sinus problems in my family, aside from the allergy issues I experience.  If you can not find raw, I highly recommend you avoid homogenized.  You can replace some of the properties lost in pasteurization through kefiring, but there’s nothing you can do to make up for the homogenization.

Veggies and Fruits

Food News did a good study on pesticide usage rates and levels. I use their findings to decide for my family which produce I will only buy organic, which I will buy conventional, and which I will decide based off of price. Personally, based on their ranking, I will only buy the worst 20 items organic and best 15 as conventional (except the corn, due to GMO). I was buying organic asparagus and yellow onions at a double price over conventional when I saw this article, so I’m glad that I found it.

I decide on the middle fourteen based off of price breaks and sales, and how often we consume the item. For example, we typically only consume cranberries four or five times a year so I don’t buy organic unless the price is almost the same as conventional. We consume cantaloupes regularly throughout the summer, so I buy it conventional if the price drops to $1.50 each.

Grains

For grains, we decide based off of how often we consume them. We consume rice, sorghum and buckwheat most often.  I haven’t been able to find organic sorghum, so I have no choice.  I buy whole grain from Twin Valley Mills and grind my own.  I buy organic rice if the price isn’t more than 150% of the conventional price, and that has been quite doable for me to find.

For corn, I only buy non-GMO and often times that means it is organic. We consume corn two or more days a week and I am not comfortable consuming any GMO products.  If I can’t find non-GMO, I avoid corn.

I haven’t been able to find non-organic quinoa at a price that can beat what I get my organic quinoa for locally. For other grains, we consume them once a week or less, so I do not buy them organic unless that’s the only way I can find them. For those of you who consume wheat, I bought organic wheat berries in bulk and ground my own flour before going gluten-free. That made the price per pound of flour cheaper than white flour at the grocery store at that time. Investing in a grain mill is a good way to afford organic over conventional when you grind your own flour, whether you are gluten-free or not.

Beans

We consume beans twice a week. I buy dried beans to maximize my savings, so I buy organic if the price is not more than double conventional. Organic dried beans are still cheaper than buying conventional canned beans as a convenience

Spices

For spices that we consume only once or twice a year, I go ahead and buy conventional. For spices that we use regularly I buy from a company that does not irradiate their spices, such as Frontier Herb. Whether or not I buy organic depends on the price and how often we use the spice. For salt, Real Salt or grey celtic sea salt are the best options.

Condiments

For rarely used condiments, we buy conventional. For items we use daily or weekly, we buy organic when we can’t make our own. My kids love ketchup and eat it regularly, so I always use our organic practice, home-grown tomatoes to make it.

Drinks

Corn syrup is unhealthy whether it’s organic or not. :) So we avoid drinking anything but water, milk, herbal teas or lactofermented drinks. If you buy juice, follow the same guidelines as for produce.  If you insist on purchasing soft drinks, buy one made with real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, such as Sierra Mist.  You are still consuming massive amounts of refined carbs by drinking it, but at least you’re not being exposed to the extra dangers of the GMO HFCS.  Better to take that money and put it into pastured meats instead.  :)

The Bottom Line

Animal products and produce are your two most critical areas for organic. Do the others if you have access to it and the funds for it. If not, you can cut your exposure to many problematic things by going pastured, organic and grass-fed for animal products and organic for the most pesticide exposed types of produce.

KerryAnn Foster runs Cooking Traditional Foods, the longest running Traditional Foods Menu Mailer on the internet. KerryAnn has over nine years of traditional foods experience and is a former Weston A. Price Foundation chapter leader. Founded in 2005, CTF helps you feed your family nourishing foods they will love. Each mailer contains one soup, five dinners, one breakfast, on dessert and extras. You can learn more about our Menu Mailers at the CTF website. For a free sample Menu Mailer, join our mailing list. You can also join our forum to chat with other traditional foodists and learn more.

This post is part of Fresh Bites Friday and Works for Me Wednesday.

Comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for this. We have been steadly searching out sources and prioritizing what we buy organic and what we don’t. We are forunate enough to have a milk source but still searcing for a local meat source. We grow a lot of produce during gardening season to put some ease on the budget.

    • KerryAnn says:

      Jennifer, I’m finding a garden is critical to keeping our food bill acceptable. We used as much salvaged materials as we could to build it, but once you have that initial expense over with, it really helps financially, even if you go for the fancy and rare organic seeds. We get a lot of our seeds from FedCo and last year they had seed packs as low as seventy cents a pack. Talk about a savings!

      Check the Good, Better, Best series on meats to find some websites that might help you find a local source. We have had the most luck with Craig’s List, interestingly enough.

  2. Dana says:

    Thank you for this post! This is very helpful information for getting a handle on how to prioritize grocery purchases.

  3. Sarah says:

    Excellent post! Thanks so much for filling us in on where you draw the line. It really is a helpful addition to your good, better, best categories, to see how you apply it. As always, thanks for all you do!

  4. Mike says:

    Hi KerryAnn,
    This post is a fantastic resource for those of us just starting out on traditional foods (we got Nourishing Traditions just a week ago and it already feels like it changed my life!). So thank you.

    For the Coconut Oil, do you worry about buying Virgin/Extra-Virgin? I’ve been buying some non-virgin that’s labelled “expeller-pressed”, which I think is okay, but I’m not sure. I know the coconut flavour is virtually gone from it, so maybe that’s not a good sign?

  5. Lola says:

    Excellent post! However, I do believe the liver can store toxins: iron can build up in certain diseases. Additionally, fat cells build up in liver with poor diet and thus, toxins are stored there. Thus, the message is still as you stated: only eat organ meats from pastured animals!

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Intentionally Domestic (formerly Cooking Traditional Foods) is a blog about nutrient-dense foods. We provide recipes for a variety of family-friendly, kid-approved meals, snacks and desserts. We follow in the tradition of Dr. Weston A Price.

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