Eating "organic" doesn't have to break the bank. It's time to change the assumption that including organic foods in the family diet has to cost more than "regular" food. Focused planning and selective shopping is all it takes to make eating organic both smart and economical for everybody.

Prioritize. Taking the organic route doesn't have to be all or nothing. You should first determine what's most important to you, and then let those priorities guide your organic selections. If you want to avoid pesticides, for example, you may want to focus on organic produce. To help guide you, the Environmental Working Group--an organization committed to protecting consumer and environmental health--produces a "Dirty Dozen" list of produce with the highest pesticide residues. If growth hormones in dairy products or antibiotics in meats are of concern, go organic in these areas. It comes down to your own personal preferences.

Savor in season. One of the best ways to get peak flavor at the lowest price is to purchase organic fruits and vegetables in season. Farmers markets and community-supported agriculture (CSA) groups are great ways to find them. Bursting with the season's finest organic and locally grown produce, the fast-growing number of farmers markets and CSA projects makes them accessible year-round now more than ever. If you want to take the next step, grow fresh seasonal produce and herbs at home. Planting a backyard garden, even a small one, is light on the wallet and hefty in flavor, nutrition and satisfaction.

Savvy shopping. Organics occupy more supermarket shelf space than ever and that means traditional methods of shaving the grocery bill apply. Many large chains have added their own brand of organics along with the store's private label organics. Compare costs with pricier national brands for guaranteed savings. It pays to shop sales and stock up on bargain-priced organics, and if they're available in bulk sizes or bulk bins, the savings from less packaging will be even more. Beyond newspaper inserts, search online and print organics coupons; you can jump into social media like Facebook for coupons and freebies.

Do it yourself. There's now an organic version of almost every conventional food item, and that includes convenience foods. But remember that whole foods are less expensive than prepared foods and the same applies to organics. As tempting as peeled baby carrots or a cut-up chicken are, it costs less to purchase them whole.

The "Dirty Dozen"

Here is a list of the fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residues -- the most important to buy organic.

1. Apples

2. Celery

3. Strawberries

4. Peaches

5. Spinach

6. Nectarines (imported)

7. Grapes (imported)

8. Sweet bell peppers

9. Potatoes

10. Blueberries (domestic)

11. Lettuce

12. Kale/collard greens

Organics, Vegetarian, Vegan


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