bowl of apples sitting on counter
Is organic food really worth the cost?

Is Organic Food Better?

bowl of apples sitting on counter
Is organic food really worth the cost?

There’s much debate in the world about whether or not organic food is better for you, and whether or not it’s worth the expense. As someone who’s been experimenting on and off with organic and non-organic food for nearly two decades, I’ve watched documentaries, read books and researched findings on both sides of the aisle: those in favor of organic, and those who say it’s a waste of money.

There are those out there who say that organic eating is a marketing scheme and a complete waste of cash, and those out there who insist we’ll die an early death if we choose to eat primarily non-organic food. Personally, I think that a balance can be found. I think that there is absolutely a place for organic foods in today’s society, and I believe that we are highly (and purposely) uneducated on the dangers of the pesticides and chemical additives in much of today’s food.

After much research (and working to learn to feed our family organic food and still stick to our $400 a month grocery budget) I can solidly say we are highly in favor of eating organically when possible. Here’s what we’ve learned about eating organic, and why we choose to feed our family organic foods when we can.

Benefits of Organic Food

The benefits of eating organic are many, in my humble opinion. I’ve notice a marked increase in the health of our family since we started making organic food a priority when possible. Our family’s experimentation with organic food and whole foods began 16 years ago after the birth of our first daughter. The dangerous circumstances (she came out a whopping 10 pounds, 12 ounces, and the doctor, ignoring my please to double check her weight in-utero, insisted on a vaginal birth) surrounding her birth nearly killed her and me both, and what followed was over a year of of chronic pain, fatigue and illness for me.

As a last resort, I went to a whole-foods, organic food diet, desperate for something to make me feel better again and allow me to play with my daughter and care for our family. After only 30 days, 70-80 percent of my symptoms were gone, and I was once again able to live a normal, active life. When I returned however, to a non-organic processed food diet, the symptoms returned. From then on, I’ve worked to find a balance between eating organic whole foods and still living a “normal” eating life.

When our son was born 6 and a half years later, he developed strange symptoms at age one and a half. He’d vomit once or more a day, be fine for a day or two, and then start vomiting again. He also developed an itchy rash on the back of his leg. After NUMEROUS trips to the doctor, we finally self-diagnosed the problem: corn intolerance. More pointedly, the GMO, pesticide-filled corn we’d been unknowingly feeding him, both through processed foods, popcorn and dairy products from corn-fed cows was what was making him sick. Again, we eliminated the GMO corn and corn products and our son was fine. But to this day, if he eats any large amount of corn products, the rash and upset stomach return.

Because of our vast experimenting in the food arena, we’re sharing with you today five reason why we believe organic food is the better choice.

No Pesticides

Pesticides such as Roundup have long been suspected by well-educated scientists, physicians and health experts as causing a myriad of diseases and symptoms, such as cancers, gluten issues and more. I try not to believe everything I’m told, but as my mom likes to say, if enough people are telling you that you look like a duck, you’d better turn around and see if you have a tail.

There’s far too many reports by researchers – and far too many reports by everyday citizens like myself – of pesticide-induced health problems for me to believe that pesticides don’t harm people, animals and the environment. One BIG reason for us to go organic.

No Chemical Additives

Chemical additives have long been suspected of causing physical and mental symptoms that are dangerous and debilitating. I’ve got several friends whose children react negatively (and sometimes dangerously) to a dose of this, that or the other red dye number. MSG has been shown to cause headaches, nausea and vomiting. The chemical additives that are put in today’s food to make it look more appealing, taste better and last longer likely have the downside of endangering our health. Organic foods, however, cannot contain chemical additives, according to this website.

No GMOs

One of the most powerful documentaries we’ve watched on the subject of GMOs, conveniently called GMO: OMG, will give you a million and one reasons to avoid GMOs. The best way to avoid GMOs? Eat only organic fruits and veggies.

Recommended Viewing: GMO OMG

A Marked Difference in Taste

I’ve read this in books before, but have been surprised at the differences we’ve experienced ourselves. When switching to an organic diet, most people don’t notice much of a change in taste. HOWEVER, when eating non-organic foods AFTER a long stint on organic only, the taste difference becomes undeniable. Three areas where we’ve found taste differences to be dramatic in organic vs. non-organic are:

  • In chicken and in red meat. We can scarcely stomach the store-bought meats since we’ve switched to free-range organic cow and chicken
  • In veggies. The garden-grown veggies we eat here at the farm kick tail over the all-but-tasteless store-bought stuff
  • In dairy. I have to say we didn’t realize how big the dairy difference was until this year at Thanksgiving. I was afraid we’d run out of butter so I picked up some unsalted non-organic butter at the store to use on the tables for rolls,etc. I sat down to eat, buttered my roll, took one bite and promptly disposed of it in my napkin. It was disgusting! My thoughts on non-organic butter and the disgusting taste were verified when second-oldest daughter came to me a short time later, asked if I’d tasted the butter and then asked if she could PLEASE throw out her roll. And yes, I checked the date on the butter. The store we bought it at has a huge turnover rate, so I doubt spoiling was the issue.

As I said, most of the time one can’t tell the difference between organic and non-organic flavor. But after a long stint on only organic food, a trip back to the non-organic sibling will be instantly recognizable for its sub-par taste.

An Affordable Option

Another “beef” that critics have about a non-organic diet is that it’s just not affordable for the average family. I call bullshit. If you want to, you certainly can be wasteful by buying organic, as Mr. and Mrs. 1500’s neighbors have shown us. But it’s also perfectly possible to feed your family organic and still stay within a small budget. We feed our family for roughly $70 per person each month and buy many organic items. Here’s how:

  • Avoid processed foods. By eating primarily whole foods and avoiding processed foods such as expensive organic cereal, you can save tons of money on your grocery budget
  • Cook from scratch. We work to cook most baked goods such as bread, cakes and cookies from scratch. This allows us to buy organic flour, sugar, etc and stretch it a long way for a little bit of money. Organic bread costs $5 a loaf at the stores around here, but it costs us about a buck to make it from scratch
  • Grow your own. Most of our organic veggies and fruits come from our very own organic garden. We then can and freeze the proceeds to make our organic fruits and veggies last all year around
  • Make choices based on what’s important to you and what fits in your budget. Primarily, these are the things we buy organic: milk (from Walmart) butter, flour, sugar (from Costco), red meat and chicken (from local farmers – often cheaper even than store prices). The butter isn’t much more expensive than non-organic ($4 a pound instead of $3 a pound), the red meat is cheaper than most store prices, thanks to a non-greedy local farming operation, but the chicken and the milk is much more expensive than non-organic. So we make choices. We choose to drink less milk and eat less chicken than we normally would, and we choose to forego spending money on non-essentials (such as chips, pop and processed dinners) so that we have more room in our budget for the organic milk and chicken.

I think this is one of those subjects that you’ve got to be convinced about on our own, but I can tell you that our family has learned well. And for that reason, we’ll stick with organic where and when we can.

 

 

35 comments

  1. Good post Laurie! I think there can definitely be balance found with organic food. We’ve moved to as much of an organic/non-processed food diet as we can and have found similar results. While it does have the potential to be more expensive, there are most certainly ways to cut down on those costs and still stay within a relatively good monthly budget. That being said, we’ve yet to find a good option for chicken. We eat red meat so infrequently that it doesn’t impact us much as we have a few good options for that but nothing for chicken.

    • Laurie says:

      John, you should check local small-time farmers. We found a home schooling family that vendors at local farmers markets with their free-range non-corn/soy-gmo chickens. The chickens are more expensive, so we just eat chicken less. It feels good knowing we’re eating better chickens, better cared for chickens, and supporting an entrepreneur as well. I know Charlie from Three Thrifty Guys does chickens. Maybe he knows someone close to you who could hook you up.

  2. Iforonwy says:

    Geat post Laurie and very timely for me. At the moment I am unwell and I think that some of the problem is that we were on holiday for 2 weeks and I doubt if much if any of the food we ate, although of great quality was actually organic.

    We try to eat as much organic as we can. Most berries, apples, plums, herbs, beetroot, beans and potatoes come from our own garden and I am very strict about not using any fertilisers or weedkillers.

    We always buy organic beef and chicken and eggs. I find that most folk turn their back on it as it is deemed expensive and so it always turns up on the shelf with the reduced stickers. Yipee! just a short hop from there to our freezer!

    Bread is a bit of a problem as my bread making and pizza making skills are zippo Why does ‘Im-in-doors refer to my attempts at pizza as piatza ?- But I always use organic flour to make cakes, scones and crumble toppings. I hope to turn this around though as for Christmas I have “bought” myself a new food mixer, the old one is nearly 45 years old, with a dough hook and so I am looking forward to honing my skills. I say “bought” as I have used the bonus vouchers earned throughout the year on my weekly grocery shop to buy it.

    I must say though that sometimes I do wonder if some companies that perport to sell organic have just given some things a “green wash”. I subscribe to Mother Earth News and some of the articles really surprise me. The farming practices that seem to be the norm in the USA would be almost illegal over here in Europe! I have also this week been quite surprised to read in a UK consumer newsletter that some companies that we perceive as green and independent are in fact owned by large multi-national companies – many that I might not normally support.

    So here ended my long-winded comment!

    • Laurie says:

      Get better soon, dear friend! Yes, our food production processes here are largely unacceptable over in Europe, such as the use of GMOs, pesticides and the like. I think we put up with it because we’ve been so brainwashed that it’s not bad for you. Glad to hear you got yourself a breadmaker – that will make bread making much easier. And you should try my homemade pizza recipes: the crusts are super easy to make, especially the thin pizza crust. the breadmaker may just give you a new lease on homemade bread making, my friend! You’ll have to let me know how it turns out.

  3. Hannah says:

    Outside of taste (which is a compelling reason to grow your own food), I see really compelling arguments for eating organic animal products. Right now, we typically can’t justify the cost differential except when we find killer deals, but if we had room for a chest freezer, I might change my tune. I don’t think we’ll ever be urban farmers, but I hope that one day we’ll expand our garden beyond herbs and tomatoes. We’re in an ideal climate for growing, but we have too many higher priorities as of now.

  4. I have no doubt organic food is better for you. We don’t always buy organic, but we do raise our own food organically, and are getting better at preserving it past growing season with canning and a deep freezer. I definitely understand why organic food costs so much more, having raised it.

  5. Petrish @ Debt Free Martini says:

    Organic always doesn’t taste better, but it sure is better for your body. With that being said I am always sold when it comes to organic food.

    • Laurie says:

      Wow, I’ve never had the experience where it doesn’t taste better unless the product is past expiration. You’re right, though: it’s much better for the body.

  6. Mackenzie says:

    I agree that organic is best! I have a problem with gluten so I’ve really had to pay attention to labels and I have found that a lot of organic things don’t have gluten in them but the processed items do! They add a lot of different “wheat” ingredients to processed products and you don’t know that unless you read the labels!

    • Laurie says:

      Exactly, Mackenzie! This was a surprise to me too. I am gluten sensitive but when I buy organic – even organic flour – my body is MUCH happier.

  7. Mr. SSC says:

    I definitely go for the organic choice when possible. I just commented on our next life’s recent post about cringing when I see the price difference on no antibiotic/hormone, free range chicken vs chicken, then I think, “Why am I wanting to save $4 when I know the other chicken is loaded with crap I don’t want to eat?” When put like that it’s not a hard decision.
    It is tricky finding good deals and keeping it within budget, and I’m impressed how well you tend to do that.
    I did enjoy my homegrown collards though, and we do make a lot of our own foods here from scratch with fresh veggies. It’s been hard finding a good local farmer market/produce selection though. In LA, we had a great farmers market with guys that brought all kinds of fresh organic veg, beef and more. Here, they’re all during the week, mid-day hrs, so mostly grocery styled organic selections. Sigh…

    • Laurie says:

      When you guys are out in the boonies where you belong 😉 you’ll LOVE the continued access to the good stuff, Mr SSC. You’re SO right about the price difference. We’d rather eat expensive organic chicken six times a year as opposed to eating crap chicken 12 times a year. For us, it’s worth the trade off.

  8. Bill says:

    Amen! The idea that eating healthy is too expensive is a myth and a dangerous myth at that. How many families continue to ruin their health because they’ve believed the lie that good food is too expensive for them? The truth is that our culture spends less of its income on food than any culture in the history of the world–less than 10% on average. If we exclude meals eaten at restaurants the amount is about 5%! By comparison, in 1985 we spent 17% of our income on food and in 1950 we spent 30%. And as you say it is generally not good food that consumes our food budgets, but rather the processed crap food. A diet of nutritious whole foods is not expensive. Often people make false comparisons. Sure organic potato chips cost more than conventional potato chips. But that would just be substituting one unhealthy item for another somewhat less unhealthy item. A better comparison would be potato chips versus potatoes–which are inexpensive, organic or not. It is true that meat and eggs will be more expensive, but not prohibitively so. And it’s been clearly established that our culture currently eats way too much meat. Cutting back on the amount of meat we eat, and eating only organic/humanely-raised meat products instead would be no hardship. Thanks again for this post. The message is vitally important!

    • Laurie says:

      Woohoo!! You get it!!! I’m frustrated at the fact that food conglomerates work so hard to convince us that their processed crap food (we call it that at our house as well 🙂 ) is cheap! Not only is it NOT cheap, it gets even more expensive when you add in the medical costs that are associated with the health problems it brings!! SO frustrating. Great comment, Bill – thank you!

  9. Ashney says:

    We buy organic produce through a local buying club once a month. The company we use is Global Organics. We get most our organic produce here for about or sometimes cheaper than conventional produce in the grocery store. Our group is smaller so we can’t get everything through it, but most of it.

  10. Well, there’s no way to argue with the points you’ve raised. They come from your experience – and they sound pretty convincing. My husband’s brother has convinced him that the organic push is false and hyped. We’re also price-shy – trying to keep to our lower grocery bill (though not nearly as low as yours!) I would like to experiment a bit with organic. Maybe just a veggie per week to begin with. Very interesting stuff here. (Laurie, you said “bullshit.”)

  11. Laurie, I always prefer organic food than the other type. I am glad that there’s a local store/market nearby so everyday I have organic food from meat to vegetables. The taste of every dish is authentic and more delicious when it’s organic.

  12. Diana says:

    Laurie, I am planning to start eating organic food next year, which is part of my New Year’s resolutions. I actually have found a good store whose organic products are cheaper and I have already tried it. So good.

    • Laurie says:

      Good for you, Diana, and so happy for you that you’ve found a great store to supply your bounty! Keep us updated on how organic is working for you.

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