Organic Food Is Not Expensive


In a previous article I talked about small steps to eat healthier.

Well, a study is out showing a possible link between certain pesticides and ADHD.  The survey studied over 1,100 children between the ages of 8 and 15.  Interviews with the parents determined which children had ADHD.

The findings then found that for those kids with the most frequent pesticide found in their urine samples, 20% had ADHD as opposed to 10% in kids with no trace amounts.

So I ask you this: Is eating organic food really expensive?


I say it’s not.

Sure, buying organic food will eat up more of your wallet than non-organic at the cash register.  Food shopping can eat up a large portion of a family’s budget, especially larger families.

But when you buy foods that are non-organic, that could be subject to pesticides, you are paying a cost that doesn’t show up in the price tag – your future health!

What does it cost in health care to deal with ADHD in a child?

What do the medications, doctor appointments, and the overall well-being of a child cost?  What does falling behind in school because of concentration issues cost for a child?

And this doesn’t include any other harmful side affects pesticides may have.

Want to lower health care costs for the country?

organic food not expensive

When you take everything into account, eating organic isn't expensive.

Rather than focus on an all-inclusive health plan we could focus on preventive health which includes healthy eating and organic foods.

We tend to be a society that reacts to disease rather than work to prevent disease.  (Note: I’m not against an all-inclusive health plan.  I just think there is a lot we can do to help prevent the need for health care in the first place).

When I first took computer courses long ago (remember the Commodore PET?) we learned the concept of GIGO: Garbage In Garbage Out.  A computer is just a machine and will only produce as well as the input we give it.  Why is this a valid concept for computers but for people we ignore it?!?

I’ve seen people not go to some gas stations because they weren’t one of the big name companies, thinking that the gas at the lesser station was cheap.  The same people would go for fast food later on.

They have more concern for the fuel of their car than the fuel for themselves!

I’ve eaten my share of junk.

I still do.

I grew up at a time where we really didn’t know as much about food and didn’t focus on eating healthy like we do now.

Tang was a valid juice and margarine was thought to be so much better than butter.  Bread was white bread or it was no bread.

My habits aren’t perfect now, but I’m constantly working to make my diet better as well as the diet of my family!  Its not always easy to find the best foods but we do what we can because our health is important.

Check out Dr Weil’s list of foods you should always buy organic: celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries (domestic), nectarines, sweet bell peppers, spinach, collard greens/kale, cherries, potatoes, grapes (imported).

Consider this as well from the Dr. Weil article:

Also keep in mind that maintaining your family’s health is not the only reason to choose organic food. Pesticide and herbicide use contaminates groundwater, ruins soil structures and promotes erosion, and may be a contributor to “colony collapse disorder,” the sudden and mysterious die-off of pollinating honeybees that threatens the American food supply. Buying or growing organic food is good for the health of the planet.

Are the price tags higher on organic food?  Yes.  But organic food is not expensive when you take into account all of the risks of non-organic food.

Do you eat organic?  What do you buy organic?

This turned out to be a bit more of a rant than I meant it to be.  It just bothers me that there are chemicals out there in food that could be doing harm to my family.  Even many ingredients can be causing damage and I don’t think there is enough education out there to get most people to change their habits.

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Published or updated May 1, 2013.

Comments

  1. Personally, it’s more important for me to put free range meat and cage free eggs in my body than organic foods.

    There are not strict enough regulations on organic labels and organic farming in general. There are pesticides used in organic foods, just less than otherwise. Already there have been cases of the FDA finding an organic farming company using more than the allowed amount of pesticides.

    Aside from that, done organic farms are right next to commercial farms. Run-off and spray residue just can’t be controlled.

    • Good points. Organic on its own isn’t the complete answer yet and we still need stricter standards. From what I understand the term “Natural” is essentially meaningless in food packaging.

    • Have you looked at the conditions of so-called “free range” meat and “cage free” eggs? It’s still despicable, especially for the chickens. And they all end up at the same slaughter-houses (except the boy chicks that usually end up in the trash as soon as they’re sexed soon after hatching). You can find the info here: http://humanemyth.org/

      Save the money by giving up the meat and eggs (or at the absolute very least decreasing your consumption). That will do FAR more for the animals and also be healthier for you and the environment. There are LOTS of yummy vegan dishes, including substitutions you can include in just about any recipe. Plus, you’ll have extra money for organic produce from whatever farms you trust.

      • Personally, I only buy that type of stuff local. Anything mass produced is going to be created under not-the-best conditions, that’s the nature of mass production.

        • I’m very familiar with local options. I used to think that was doing something good, too. But they’re far from cruelty-free. They still end up, more likely than not, at the same slaughterhouses. And even the best treated backyard hens usually had their brothers killed as little chicks. If that’s ok with you, then go ahead, but you still make a much better difference in animals’ lives by not eating or using them or their products.

          • We’re vegetarian here. But its a personal decision and I understand that many still want to eat meat. Still, I think people should understand the treatment of the animals and the preparation of the meats.

  2. We buy locally grown organic when we can. We’ve also started an organic garden to grow our own veggies. And we buy locally raised grass-fed beef.

    Great article!

  3. I actually agree with Leslie. I am very careful about the meat and eggs I buy, but I am less likely to buy organic produce. Especially things like avocados. I do vigorously wash all my produce (including cantaloupe) and I guess I just hope for the best. I love fresh spinach but I am very hesitant to eat it anymore, organic or not.

    • I’ve heard spinach is a big pesticide food. Washing helps but the soil the food was grown with could still have pesticides in it.

  4. Expensive is relative and depends on one’s situation. I try to buy organic when I can, especially when it comes to things that tend to have a higher pesticide load.

    There are many benefits to buying organic produce, especially when it’s grown in the true spirit of organic farming and not just by the letter of it. However, I think the greatest health benefit comes — for many reasons — from eating a plant-based diet, organic or not, especially when it contains a lot of whole foods. And, for those concerned about pesticides, the lower one eats on the food chain, the fewer pesticides you’ll end up eating (consider how mercury accumulates more in certain high-on-the-food-chain fish, the same thing happens with pesticides).

  5. i heard about this 2 nights ago on the nightly news with Brian Williams. they were talking about how this “might” effect young children as their brains are still developing.

    i don’t buy organic – it cost more and doesn’t have enough evidence to say that it is better or not yet. in my mind its a fad.

    • We already know that the pesticides and herbicides being used on conventional produce are bad news. There is PLENTY of evidence for that. Even if you don’t ingest a lot of them, they are still going into the environment on this planet that we all share and that future generations will inherit. These dangerous chemicals are already showing up in the water we drink, the air we breathe, the food we eat, and even in the blood of newborns.

      Now, there are some problems with organic labeling, I’ll admit. But, as much as we can, we should all be trying to limit the amount of the worst of these substances from being unleashed because, frankly, we can’t just put them back where they came from.

    • I believe there was a study that said nutritionally there wasn’t much of a difference but you still have the issue of pesticides and such. I don’t think its a fad. Uggs are a fad. I think the market for organic foods has been growing steadily for years now.

  6. We don’t buy organic or free range to my knowledge…we buy based on price and move on. There are so many things that can hurt you, kill you, and maim you in life. I refuse to worry about all of them and food worries are way down on my list…I think my fears center around driving and my asthma getting worse from air pollution or pollen outbreaks.

    Prioritization…obviously Meg cares about the food animals, so she prioritizes avoiding that more than me…that’s what makes everything interesting, right?

    • Yes, prioritizing is important and everyone has different priorities.

      For the record, I care about ALL animals, not just what some people call “food” animals (I definitely don’t look at animals and see “food”). I care about animals exploited for everything from soap to shoes and then some, plus also fellow human animals and myself. Because, let’s face it, our choices DO affect others. I might pay a bit extra for marshmallows that aren’t made from the bones of dead animals, but it’s not like I have to buy them at all. If I want them, I just work them into the budget like everything else.

      Living a non-violent life, the best I can, is definitely worth paying a little more and giving up a little convenience.

    • I hear what you are saying. But think of it this way – What if the foods you are eating are affecting your immune system or are causing allergies that you are unaware of? It could be that eating organic could help your allergies. Just saying.

      • Okay, not to be flippant, but following that logic, doing almost anything different could help my allergies, lol. In my case, the allergies are from pollen and cats – known because I only have asthma problems during heavy pollen seasons and around cats – but I do get your point.

        I understand wanting to avoid additives just in case, especially if you’ve felt a difference, but the organic foods I have had didn’t seem to really have an effect one way or the other. I would think it would be more important to concentrate on getting the correct amount of servings a day of fruit and veggies than whether those servings are organic or not, right?

        Meg, I didn’t mean to leave out all the other animals, I was just trying to point out differences in personal priorities. But in response, humans seem to be anatomically made to be meat and plant eaters…I’m not sure if I can ever buy into the idea that by not being a vegan, I’m into a violent lifestyle, but maybe. I’d consider it way less violent than the way cows would die if they were left to their own devices…have you ever seen a cow that could take care of itself? Wouldn’t chickens just reach a violent end by some other predator?

        • Humans definitely can and do eat meat (and other animal products) and have for millenia, especially when other food sources were not as available, but we do not have to in order to be healthy. We are true omnivores, not obligate carnivores. Therefore, it is a choice so long as we have access to other foods (which most of us do). And because it *is* a choice for most people, and all our choices have consequences, it is our responsibility to consider the effect of our choices.

          Domesticated animals would not be here if it weren’t for us. And that would be preferable. No animal should be bred into domestication where he/she must depend on us for food, shelter, etc. I would not want to be bred into captivity to be someone’s meal or part of their soap, so why would I choose to do that to another animal?

          And yes, of course if we just let animals into the wild they’d probably be killed (not that I think we should just dump domesticated animals into the wild as there are better options). Nature is NOT the moral standard. Animals don’t live forever. Animals kill other animals. But does that make it moral for US to be violent towards animals unnecessarily and intentionally? I certainly don’t believe so! If that were the case, then why not say it’s o.k. to kill humans because we’re sometimes killed by other animals (even other humans)?

          Is it any less violent to have others intentionally and unnecessarily kill for your direct benefit? I don’t think so. I don’t see a moral distinction between someone who goes out and kills a chicken or someone who buys it wrapped in plastic.

          Bottom line, I don’t believe it’s right to hurt others for my pleasure, or even just to save a few bucks. So, I do my very best not to.

          • Meg, I never said that buying it was any better than killing it. I said that I don’t think that eating domesticated animals means you are a violent person. Look, I will never be a vegan and you will not eat meat…this is an unwinnable conversation. I wish you sounded less judgy with your personal choices.

          • @Budgeting in the Fun Stuff

            “this is an unwinnable conversation”

            I didn’t know this was a competition. I was merely explaining my views. I don’t believe I ever expressed a judgement of you personally, only choices that people make. And obviously I disagree with some choices, otherwise why would I bother make different ones? If simply believing that certain things are right and others are wrong are judgy, then I hope everyone would be “judgy”.

          • Meg, do you think less of people who eat meat? If so, that’s judgy. That is the impression you give.

          • @Budgeting in the Fun Stuff

            No, I don’t. I believe they are making a bad decision, but I do not think less of them as people. I don’t know anyone who makes only good decisions, self-included. That doesn’t stop me from loving them, but that doesn’t mean that I agree with their choices, either.

            As I have never indicated that I believe otherwise, who is being the judgmental one? If you are going to judge me, please judge me by what I have actually said and not by your “impressions” which seem to be nothing more than assumptions based on you trying to read between the lines.

            And, to be clear (if I haven’t), I see no moral distinction between eating meat or drinking milk or breeding pets or dog fighting or buying leather shoes. It’s all animal exploitation and it does all involve violence against beings who can suffer and do feel pain.

          • Meg, I’m out of my element. Maybe I confused “judgy” and “preachy”. I was not expecting an animal rights discussion on a personal finance blog about organic produce that never once mentioned meat.

        • Not flippant at all. Just throwing the idea out there. I get pretty bad allergies in the spring. I think it’s something that probably has environmental factors we’re not totally aware of, though I know pollen is the big one!

          I agree that getting enough fruits and vegetables a day is very important. I also think we need to know what’s in and on these as well.

          The argument of eating meat vs not is a whole other can of worms. For us, it makes sense to be vegetarian. But I totally respect a person’s choice to eat meat. Still, a person should consider the conditions of the animals and what the meat will actually contain.

  7. Some of the organics at my local grocery store are actually cheaper than non organics… and when I go to the farmers market on Saturday nearly every organic is cheaper than the alternative at the grocery store!

    Food is one of the best investments in yourself a person can make and is natural medicine. Part of living more simply I think people should focus on this a lot more. Great points.

    • Thanks, I agree. I think we could save on a lot of medications by living a healthier lifestyle in the first place.

  8. Another problem is industry is basically given incentives for providing the worst instead of the best. Large Corporate farms get numerous tax breaks and advantages where the little guys trying to produce a far better product is barley scraping by.

  9. Eating Organic is not necessarily better for you. There is no evidence that the small concentration of chemicals that may be present on food is going to do you any long term damage.

    • I think the recent report about the possible connection to ADHD in children is food for thought.

      • actually there is links to artificial colours and flavours and increasing the severity of ADHD. But there is no evidence that pesticides e.t.c can cause any effects with children and ADHD if you do not agree, find me a peer reviewed study which suggests otherwise.

        • Granted, this post doesn’t name the source of the study that showed the link between ADHD and pesticides, but it wasn’t that hard to dig up. It was published in Pediatrics, a peer-reviewed journal. And it’s not the only study linking pesticides to developmental problems (see Rauh 2006, also in Pediatrics: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/peds.2006-0338)

          So, there is hardly “no evidence”, even if you may not have found it previously.

  10. I just want to point out that you misspelled “it’s” in your very first sentence. “It’s” is short for “It is.” Is eating organic helping you spell any better?

    • Interesting. You criticize me for getting “its” wrong but the word doesn’t appear in the very first sentence. Hmmm….

      That said, I did spell it incorrectly. For some reason the whole “its” vs. “it’s” confuses me. I just looked it up on wsu.edu and I think I get it now (at least until the next time I mess it up).

  11. Considering the massive amount of data and information out there, I found it easier to listen to each side’s argument (Organic or Non-Organic), and look up some data on independent sites. The USDA and Mayo Clinic both state that the nutritional benefits from Organic foods are the same as Non-Organic foods. They also both state that the extremely limited exposure to herbicide and pesticide means no significant correlation could be found. Living in a big city, there are far more dangerous chemicals out there than the minuscule portions of pesticide on the produce. And with the amazingly larger crop yields that the chemicals allow for, along with lower prices, I’ll stick with the non-Organic until I find an alternative.

    The big guys are given more breaks because they’re responsible for feeding more people – you may hate the agro-industrial complex or whatever, but it feeds hundreds of millions of people – and allows for less than 5% of the US population to feed all of us, along with having enough to export. Shrink the population of the planet, then we can go back to all farming methods being kind and friendly. Until then, we have to exploit it to survive.

    • Nutritionally there may not be differences, but I think there have been enough studies to suggest that pesticides and such could be harmful.

      And I don’t think companies are given breaks because they are responsible for feeding the masses. I think it’s more that big companies have millions to pour into lobbying for rules that favor them.

      I never said I hated agro companies. If they decide to make better food en masse then all the better, and I think they can. It’s up to us to demand it from them. I think we have the technology to feed more than we already do.

  12. broke student says:

    I agree that eating organic/free range foods is an overall better way of eating, but all i have to say is will you please STFU about it? Of course it is expensive, in the short term, which most people these days live in. This whole thing is becoming more annoying than anti-smoking commercials, or the PSA’s about meth. We live in 2010. who the fuck is this article reaching that doesn’t already know that live stock is treated poorly, or that smoking leads to cancer, or that meth is bad for you? Everyone in any modern country knows that pesticides are poison. Fuck even the Amish know that, and they dont even have electricity. I agree with humane treatment of animals and all that shit, but seriously, who is in such dire need of this extremely over covered issue, that they absolutely need another article like this? Is it the rednecks in the breadbasket of America? No, its not. They are well aware of it, they just don’t care or have other things to deal with. Who is so uninformed of the situation, that this article will bring about a completely life changing way about eating? Not a damned soul. I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child, and the medication i was put on made me hate myself, so i got put on antidepressants, which in my case actually exacerbated the situation. The people that go to ‘big name companies’ for gas are smug assholes. My ex brother in-law was one of them. What will it take to get these pompous, self righteous articles out of the world? Will it be when every single cow is treated the way wagyu beef is raised, being massaged daily and given beer and all crops are grown with the care of bonsai trees? When will it end? When will you get off of your high horse and say my work is done?

    • Umm, not sure where the anger is coming from. Look, if you don’t like articles like this why are you reading them?

  13. I have to agree with some above posters and say that articles like this are annoying and sound high and mighty. Studies have NOT shown a significant difference in health benefits between organic and non-organic foods. Are these pesticides the best things in the world for you to be eating? Probably not. However, without these pesticides many, many people in the world would be starving today. Pesticides IMPROVE our vegetables. Many organic foods include toxins added from insect excrement, urine, and disease that are not found in non-organic foods. It is a trade off. If you prefer to eat organic, then fine. However, it should not be surprising that most people do not see enough benefit in doing so to spend the extra money.

    • If the article comes off sounding high and mighty then I apologize. I do admit at the end that it turned out to be a bit of a rant for me. If you don’t see the benefit of organic foods then that’s your choice and if that works for you then great. But I personally think that there may very well be negative effects to what is put on our food that we need to be made aware of.

  14. webprooptimization says:

    Well very good topic I must say but still I do agree what meg said “Yes, prioritizing is important and everyone has different priorities”.
    Thank you :)+

  15. I grow my own. It is fresh and cheap.

  16. We don’t buy organic, but we do grow some of our own fruits and vegatables.

    While I’m not well aware of all the health risks that non-organic foods have, I think the other half of the health equation (proper exercise and rest) can do a lot to help your overall well-being.

  17. the cynical investor says:

    I try to buy only organic apples and carrots, the rest only if they are on sale. I’d buy everything organic but my wife does not let me :)

  18. I agree with you. In fact after I stopped buying sugary stuff, diet foods, processed food and diet drinks and purchased only natural food the cost was not more expensive. As you said there are key foods that we should always buy organic, the other veggies/fruit can be grown conventially if going all organic is too expensive for someone.

    After changing my diet to healthy eating I am feeling so much better and have actually lost weight I have tried to get rid of for years! I know my health care costs will be minimal as a result.

  19. I try to eat organic when possible, especially with meat. Now that I’m pregnant, I try to be more careful with what I eat. There are lots of places that have deals on organic food like Trader Joe’s.

    And I do try to buy organic with the dirty dozen.

  20. I always make an effort to seek out and buy organic, free range and as locally as possible. If I buy fruits or vegetables from abroad I try to source fair trade. It just feels good ethically to me and I am convinced I feel healthier for doing so. Maybe some say its al in the mind the way I feel…. but thats up to me alone isn;t it? If my mind can tell me my food tastes better and tells me I feel healthier then I live a happier life feeling that I have made some effort in caring about what I eat and drink and the welfare of animals and our planet too.

  21. Loved stumbling upon this article. We try to buy local – and we live by the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen list for our organics. I’d rather take the chance and pay a little more for little to no pesticides rather than consciously place a basket of contaminated fruit into my cart.

    We’re real foodists over here – and I’m a single mom making it work. All of our bread, tortillas, food in general – is made from scratch. Since doing so – I’ve saved over $2500/year in my daughters Co Payments and Medication costs for her ADHD. The difference on real organic whole foods vs refined contaminated foods has been huge. So while I agree that Organic Standards need to be more stringent… we do abide by the Clean 15/Dirty Dozen rule. … Also – A lot of fruits can be frozen or canned when in season and bought locally which does help cut costs in the fall/winter when some of our favorite berries are no longer in season and prices begin to inflate.

    I personally believe that ANYONE can live this lifestyle and while the start up for us was expensive, in the long run I’m actually saving money. We’re no longer eating out, my daughters ADHD is non existant, the children don’t eat nearly as much since we’ve switched to REAL/Whole Food – (aka we are a non processed family and do not consume anything with more than 5 ingredients on the label). Honestly, My freezer, pantry, and fridge have never been so full.

    If I’m a single mom with two kids and NO child support coming in … and trust me I don’t make an impressive salary… and we can do this. Anyone can. I think it takes more discipline than it does money. It’s giving up those bad habits. …And besides. If you can pay $4.00 for a bag of doritos… why can’t you pay $3.50 for that 1lb of organic strawberries instead?

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