Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I am an Organic Food Snob

It's true, much to the chagrin of my dear husband. He has every right to complain about my loyalty to buying organic food. Our credit card bills bare the unpleasant fact that buying organic may just put our family out onto the streets not too far into the future. Not only has the price of food increased in general, but organic food can cost 10%-200% higher than even the already inflated prices at the supermarket.

But I just can't help myself. My German background and extensive travel experience in Europe has made me an organic fanatic. The Europeans offer so many more organic and natural choices than we do here in the United States, and the vast majority of the population there can't imagine it any other way. When my now 4-year old son was 6 months old and we started to feed him solid foods after 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, we were in Austria at the time. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the only baby food available in jars there was organic. When I mentioned my surprise to our Austrian friends with whom we were staying, they were shocked and rather horrified to hear that mostly non-organic jarred baby food would be found on American store shelves.

Ever since then, I've been convinced that buying organic is the way to go. I've done some research, too. I'm well aware that there are conflicting reports about the health benefits of organic versus conventional foods. However, recent studies do seem to suggest that there are indeed higher nutritional levels in organic foods, especially antioxidant phenolics but also various vitamins and minerals.

And the FDA's confidence that pesticide-laden conventional foods are safe provides me with little assurance, to be honest. My family is already a haven for cancer, sadly. My mom had breast cancer at age 40 (and beat it, thank goodness), and my brother had melanoma that spread to his lymph nodes at age 27 (he, too, is fine). I don't want my son, my husband or myself to go the same route, so I'm doing as much as I can to cut off cancer at the pass before it makes itself at home in this household, too.

I try to buy organic alternatives of those produce items considered part of the "dirty dozen," foods that absorb higher levels of pesticides and chemicals. They include: peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, grapes, pears, spinach, and potatoes. If there is an organic option available for these foods at the supermarket, I'll buy it.

I'm wondering how other people squeeze organic food into their budgets without being kicked to the curb. A recent study of spending habits in Australia and the UK revealed that people spend five times more money on junk food, take-out, alcohol, and tobacco than they do on fruits and vegetables. No wonder we're all overweight and our health is deteriorating. In thinking about my family's own lifestyle habits, we probably spend a bit too much on junk food (but we usually stick to healthier choices like pretzels and baked potato chips - we're not a Doritos or Cheetos kind of family) and my husband does smoke (don't even get me started on that one!), but we don't spend very much money at all on take-out (we rarely go out to eat at that; I figure if I'm spending all of this money on organic food, I might as use every bit of it and cook like crazy, which I do), and my husband does not drink alcohol, so that is never on my grocery list. I guess I see a few possibilities to cut back on these items so that buying organic is more affordable. (Can anyone help me to get my husband to stop smoking?? I've tried I can't tell you how many times!) But, realistically, I don't really foresee much more cash flow coming out of the above cuts. I need more options. Any suggestions??


  1. Do you have any farmer's markets, or something like that, in Houston? I would think with the warm weather you'd probably have a year round selection of healthy fruits and produce available to you. It would probably cost you less, and provide in-season organic options.

    I found this link to some co-ops on-line:

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  3. I would think farmer's markets would be a great option. Or see if you have a local health food co-op you could join (up here in WI, we have Outpost foods). You have to pay a membership fee (sometimes annual, sometimes it's a one-time fee) then you get a discount on all food purchased through the co-op.