Spend a little bit less on organic foods
Has sticker shock sent you reeling from your desire to buy organic foods? They can cost 50 to 100 percent more than their nonorganic counterparts, but it's possible to save money:
1 Understand the appeal. It may be worth it to you to buy at least some organic items considering what "organic" is supposed to mean: no growth hormones, antibiotics or feed containing animal by-products for animals that live on organic farms, and no genetic modification, irradiation or fertilizer made from sewage sludge or synthetic products for organic produce.
2 Ponder pesticide use. Organics aren't grown with the help of synthetic pesticides that last for a long time in the environment. Organic farmers use botanical or largely nonsynthetic pest controls that readily break down when exposed to oxygen and sunshine.
3 You don't have to go whole hog. Buy only a few organic items that make sense for you. Consumer Reports found that organic apples, peaches, spinach, milk and beef consistently contain fewer chemicals. In contrast, pesticide levels aren't detectable in conventionally grown broccoli and asparagus.
4 Beware of misleading labels. Consumer Reports discovered that organic seafoods and shampoos may not be worth the extra money because they often aren't all they're cracked up to be on their labels.
5 Shop around. Prices for organic produce and meats can vary wildly, so compare prices at more than one supermarket in your area. You'll usually pay less for organic fruits and vegetables if you buy them when they're in season.
6 Track down food farmed by local growers. Visit farmers' markets whenever you can. Many local growers don't charge premium prices for their wares. To find farmers' markets and other sellers of locally grown foods, visit these Web sites: www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets, www.localharvest.org and www.eatwellguide.org.
7 Get involved in community-supported organic farming. You can buy a share in a community-supported farm in the Tampa Bay area and get a regular supply of fruits and vegetables from fall until spring. The price may sound high up front, but this approach actually can help families save money on produce during those months. To find community-supported farms, visit this site and click on the link for consumers: www.sare.org.
8 Have your organic items delivered to you. Mail-order organics. Learn more at www.theorganicpages.com.
9 Keep your eyes peeled as you shop for groceries. The next time you wheel a cart through the produce section, check to see whether the organic vegetables and fruits are situated where they won't be exposed to the water used to mist the nonorganic produce. (Doing so could expose the organic goods to pesticide residue.)
10 Verify hype by educating yourself. The Consumers Union site www.greenerchoices.org explains organic labels. It also lets you search for detailed information via the food category of its "eco-labels center."
Laura T. Coffey
Sources: Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org); Greener Choices (www.greenerchoices.org); Food Traceability Report (www.foodregulation.com)