Sincerely Carolina

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Green Spot: Part One – Organic on a Budget

by caroline

I feel like my “green” roots have been a little lackluster lately, and I’m about to change that. I’m not talking about going all out here, people. Instead, I just want to remind myself why I feel better when my energy is focused toward keeping this Earth healthy, and why paying attention to my eco-roots is a benefit to not only me, but everyone on this planet.

Therefore, I’m launching a mini Green Spot (so clever, right?) series where we’ll talk a bit about our Earth-friendly options. Sound good? Great! Let’s get started with Part One: Choosing Organic Produce (While Keeping Your Budget Intact). Enjoy!


I adore summer food. Watermelon and grilled veggies. Lentil burgers and corn on the cob. Iced green tea and frozen fruit bars. It’s all just so fresh and cool and … well, summer-y.

One of my favorite places to look at and buy gorgeous food is farmers’ markets. For some reason, all of the produce really seems to bring it’s A-game and just shine as it sits perkily on various farmers’ stands.

The other bonus farmers’ markets bring? Accessible, local, organic produce that we can’t always find in our grocery stores — especially, when it comes to considering the price of the food. Sure, there are options in stores, but buying organic all the time can be tough on the wallet.

I would love to be able to consistently eat organic and keep it on the cheap side. I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s better for you, it’s better for the earth — it’s a good deal all the way around.

But, unfortunately, organic food can be pricey and I don’t have the dough to always be buying produce of the luxurious kind. Sometimes, even my beloved farmers’ markets carry organic produce with a price tag that makes me wince. That’s why I like to never approach produce buying with an all-or-nothing mentality. The truth is, I might not be able to always spring for everything organic. But there are a few items that should be a priority, and foodies and environmental groups alike call these the Dirty Dozen.

According to the Environmental Working Group, the Top 12 Most Contaminated Fruits and Vegetables are as follows (click to make larger):

Want some of the gory details? Peaches have been treated with more pesticides than any other produce, registering combinations of up to 57 different chemicals. Lettuce is contaminated with what are considered the most powerful pesticides used on food. Highly contaminated, celery tested positive for 57 different pesticides. A grape’s skin is so thin that even washing and peeling will not eliminate the pesticides that seep into grapes. There are up to five hundred pounds of pesticides (according to this article) used per acre of strawberries — need I say more?!

Every time I let this list slip by the wayside, I am disgusted when I review it again and think about all of the chemicals I may or may not have been ingesting by choosing to buy the conventional versions of these produce items.

Remember: If you are looking to save money on organic produce, then the goal is not perfection. Instead, focus on being aware and choosing as many healthy choices as you can afford.

Want the good news? There are 15 “Clean” Produce Items that the EWG had deemed the lowest in pesticides. Here they are (click to make larger):

Print this EWG guide for easy shopping. Want the full list of produce and their rankings? Get it here.

These lists always make me think, and make me feel better knowing there is a middle road for a gal on a budget to take. At this point in my life, everything I put into my body is not going to be organic, but if I can eliminate from my diet some of the very obvious sources of chemicals and not break the bank, then I will be happy with that for now.

QUESTION FOR YOU: What organic items are “musts” on your shopping list?