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Moms Council Talks Organic Foods

Is it better to buy organic or save the extra dollars and shop the generic brands? Is it worth to pay $6 for a gallon of milk? Are there certain foods you should purchase organic over others? Our Moms Council weighs in on the debate.

Welcome to Moms Talk Q&A. Each week in Moms Talk, our Moms Council of experts and smart moms take your questions, give advice and share solutions.

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Question: “Is it better to buy organic or save the extra dollars and shop the generic brands? Is it worth to pay $6 for a gallon of milk? Are there certain foods you should purchase organic over others?”

Lauren Brown

Nutrition has always been important to me when it comes to my son. When he first started on solids, I took the time to prepare all his foods, driving 40 minutes to the nearest to buy organic fruits and veggies. He has never had jarred baby food, and now at 16 months, I still continue to make sure he is eating as healthy as possible. I try to make the effort to  feed him organic foods and snacks, especially milk. It’s a shame that organic foods have such a high price tag. I imagine most people would be happy to fit organic foods into their diets — especially their children’s — if it was more affordable. Why are all the healthy foods expensive? I suggest determining the cost difference between the organic food and the conventional, and see which ones you could squeeze into your grocery budget.

Higher cost is a downside, however I will continue to feed my son mostly organic, because personally, I don’t like the idea of him ingesting antibiotics, pesticides and hormones, and would like to limit his exposure as much as possible.

Carla King

This is from my friend Gina Marie Drakos who I had to ask due to her experience.

“There are some foods that should always be bought organic, others that aren’t as important, but if you can afford it — do. Some crops are more heavily sprayed than others. Some crops are more naturally pest resistant. Some people do purchase only organic whenever possible based on principle. These are the two extremes (must vs. don’t bother).

“Organic Musts: apples, bell peppers, celery, cherries, imported grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, potatoes, red raspberries, spinach and strawberries. Meat, poultry, eggs and dairy.

“No Need: asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, kiwi, mangos, onions, papaya, pineapples and sweet peas.”

Michelle Gilliss

My kids have always eaten fruits and vegetables; we always tried to eat healthy. But then I watched Food Inc. (a documentary on the food industry). I was completely astounded to find out that most of the produce in the supermarket is genetically altered or has some kind of steroids in it. These are legitimate studies. I think people don’t know or don’t want to know the truth.

Just thinking, walking through the store, choosing broccoli and tomatoes and thinking those are healthy decisions — that’s not enough. And you can’t always just believe the label, organic or not. You have to do research.

It’s so difficult, because it’s really expensive to buy organic. The conventional food industry is so big in this country, it runs everything. The only way to counter it (and make healthy food more affordable) is for more people to increase the public demand by buying organic and supporting organic farmers. We can try to drive down prices more that way.

My advice is to introduce as many organic options as possible into your diet. It’s not easy, sometimes it’s hard to put food on the table — I have four kids — but it’s worth it. I try to put organic food there as much as possible.

Amanda Symmes

This something I grapple with every time I shop. I wish I could say “organic all the way!” but the fact of the matter is, price matters too. Bottom line. I must confess too that this really angers me. It frustrates me to no end that we live in a society where the most affordable food is always the least healthy. Fast food? It’s just not right...and yet, it is the sad reality.

I do my best to buy organic, which can be a manipulated label at times, and educate myself as much as possible, but it’s not easy. makes life so much easier. They are super affordable and provide a lot of great choices.  Also, we joined CSA last year and that was such a great opportunity for our family to get local, fresh (often organic) farm food every week (June to October). It’s nice planning health(ier) meals around what we get in our CSA bags each week!

This is a public health issue in my opinion. It’s time we start talking about this more, and working to make the healthier choices to be affordable for all!

Aimee Cary

When my children were under one, we did organic only baby food — the price difference was slight. After age one, we try to do a lot of organic or buy locally whenever possible. We cannot afford organic milk at the volume that the kids drink it, but try to buy Richardson’s as it is local and hormone free. We also try to stick to organic for the “dirty dozen”: celery, cherries, potatoes, grapes, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach and kale. All other produce we buy regular and just make sure to wash it well.

I love and find their quality of frozen vegetables to be higher than the typical grocery store and the value is good. All around, they have a lot of organic options for reasonable prices. Also I try to be mindful to feed my family more whole foods and less pre-packaged food that has a lot of preservatives, sugar and salt.

Lauren Brown March 23, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Like Aimee, we too love trader joes - they have a lot of options at affordable prices. We also buy a lot of our milk at Richardsons - which is priced much more reasonable than the organic milk you would find at the grocery store. I am far from a "tree hugger" but I do think its important to think - not only about the health benefits of buying organic - but also the environmental benefits! Most organic farms use methods that dont harm the environment or the land, and are also humane to animals.
OrganicTrade March 24, 2011 at 01:41 PM
The Organic Trade Association would like to remind consumers that, thanks to the growth of private label products, farmers’ markets, manufacturers’ coupons, and customer loyalty programs, buying organic is easier and more affordable than ever. One easy way to save is to consider choosing organic versions of the products you buy most. Whether that is milk, produce, or personal care products, buying organic will not only help reduce your exposure to harmful synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, but also support a system of agricultural management that is great for the planet. For more tips on how to stretch your organic dollars, visit http://www.organicitsworthit.org/get/buying-organic-easier-and-more-affordable-ever. Also check out the Organic Trade Association's Savvy Organic Shopper blog (http://www.organicitsworthit.org/blog), which offers price comparisons between organic and conventional products from retail outlets across the U.S. and illustrates the many reasons why choosing organic is the better bargain. Organic. It’s worth it.
Danielle March 31, 2011 at 12:55 PM
The "no need" list by Carla King suggests that papaya and sweet corn can be purchased non organic. Both of these crops have been genetically modified (especially corn). My opinion...add corn and papaya to the must list and steer clear of GMOs. Here are some great sites to check out. www.nongmoproject.org www.responsibletechnology.org www.organicconsumers.org
Lauren Brown April 06, 2011 at 03:40 PM
Very helpful, thank you!
Lauren Brown April 06, 2011 at 03:40 PM
I came across the following article this morning on Yahoo, and thought I would share. http://shine.yahoo.com/event/green/11-things-you-should-buy-organic-2467411/
Maria November 15, 2012 at 06:32 AM
I think it's important to remember that somebody somewhere had to grow the food, and we know that 250,000 people die every year from pesticides, most of them farm workers. Please google "boycott Dole" to read about bananas and pesticides. We might think it is ok to remove the peel and eat the banana, but someone had to grow that banana. . . .

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