Ways To Avoid Pesticides in Produce on a Budget

Ways To Avoid Pesticides on a Budget

Conventional produce has pesticides even after washing.  Ideally it would be great if you could buy organic for all of your produce.   However, that’s not always possible – either you can’t afford or can’t find organic produce for everything you eat.  Now, what do you do?  
The Environmental Working Group has created a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides which ranks pesticide contamination for almost 50 popular fruits and vegetables.  The 12 most contaminated foods are called the ‘dirty dozen’.  They include apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines (imported), grapes (imported),  sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries(domestic), lettuce, spinach, kale/collards.   There is also the ‘clean 15’ which are the 15 least pesticide ridden.  They include onions,  sweet corn, pineapple, avocados, asparagus, sweet peas (frozen), mango, eggplant, cantaloupe (domestic), kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, mushrooms.  
The obvious answer is to buy organic for the dirty dozen.  If that is not an option, the EWG still says “Eat your fruits and vegetables!  The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.”  Aim to reduce your pesticide exposure if you can’t totally eliminate it.  And let’s face it, eliminating it totally is probably going to be pretty tough.
Here are other ways to reduce your pesticide exposure:
  1. Buy from a local farm that is organic or uses other methods of pest control.  With summer approaching, farmers markets will be everywhere!
  2. Don’t buy the dirty dozen as frequently.  Even if you reduce the amount of strawberries you eat by half, that’s half the amount of pesticides.
  3. Exchange one of the dirty dozen for something lower on the list, ideally the clean 15.  For example, choose sweet potatoes over regular or cantaloupe/watermelon for peaches or nectarines.
  4. Try organic frozen varieties of the dirty dozen.  They are often less expensive.  I love this for smoothies.  Plus, it helps to satisfy the craving for that fruit, which means I don’t need to buy it fresh as often.
  5. To reduce residual pesticide, wash your fruits and vegetables well. 
  6. Do some pricing research.  You can find organic produce at pretty good prices if you look around.
  7. Take a look at other areas where you can save money so you can shift some of your budget to organics.
  8. Grow your own!
  9. Take a look at what you eat the most and concentrate on reducing the pesticides on those.  For example, even though carrots are not in the dirty dozen, they are still pretty high on the list and we eat lots of them.  I choose to buy these organic.  Costco used to have them at a fantastic price.  But I haven’t seen them in Nashua for a month!
Here are some specifics I have found:

Celery – I have seen organic for not much more.  You could just leave it out of your recipe, or substitute chopped cabbage, cucumbers or water chestnuts for the crunch and celery seed/salt for the flavor.  If you do buy organic celery and won’t use it all, try freezing it.   I have chopped celery, frozen it and used it in soups with much success.

Apples – Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s regularly have organic apples.  Since they keep so long, I stock up when I can.  Also, remember to buy organic applesauce.   Trader Joe’s has reasonably priced unsweetened organic applesauce that even my sweet tooth daughter loves!
Blueberries (Domestic) – Sounds odd, but try to look for imported blueberries.
Spinach –   For cooked dishes, broccoli is an option which is also high in carotenoids, vitamins A and C and folate.   If you can use frozen, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have organic frozen spinach at a reasonable price.
Kale/Collard Greens– I see organic kale at Hannaford quite regularly for not much more.
Potatoes –Try sweet potatoes.  They are more nutritious too.  I recently bought organic potatoes at Hannaford for the same price as non-organic.  The only difference being that I had to buy them in a 5 lb bag instead of choosing them individually.  Trader Joe’s also has them at a reasonable price.
Grapes (Imported) – I have been buying domestic grapes at Hannaford.  Although from January until about April, they are not available so we don’t buy as many grapes.
Just knowing which ones are high in pesticides will help you make better choices.  I often find myself opting for the lower pesticide fruits and veggies automatically now.  There are still plenty of great options that do not need to be organic. 
As a general rule of thumb, items lower on the pesticide scale tend to be fruits and veggies with thick skins that you do not eat – melons, mangoes, pineapples, grapefruits, kiwi, peas, corn.  Of course then there are cranberries and eggplant that mess that up, but it’s a start!
In case you still can’t remember all this, there is a pocket guide!  As soon as I posted this, the EWG updated their guide for 2011.  This post has been updated for the 2011 EWG guide.

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday and Seasonal Celebration Sunday.




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9 Responses to Ways To Avoid Pesticides in Produce on a Budget

  1. April June 14, 2011 at 3:21 am #

    Great post! We buy a lot locally, and I’m trying to buy even more!

    Frugally Green Mom

  2. The Greening Of Westford June 14, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    Thanks April. I am so excited that summer is here! I get really tired of the produce available by the end of the winter. I always go to the Westford Farmers Market. This year I am going to check out a few others.

  3. groovygreenlivin.com June 14, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    Thanks for the great suggestions!It’s interesting how organic produce is really popping up at many mainstream retailers. I’m very happy to see it! The more demand the lower the price. Great post.

  4. Green Lifestyle Consulting June 15, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    Great article! Ironically, I was thinking about writing about avoiding pesticides myself, and then I saw your article! I think I’ll need to come up with another topic this week! I’m working on one on reusable shopping bags, you’re not doing that next, are you?

  5. Mrs. T June 16, 2011 at 12:17 am #

    Great tips! People need to know this stuff! 🙂
    Found you on the hop.


  6. The Greening Of Westford June 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    GroovyGreenLivin – I love seeing organic produce all over the place now. I am noticing quite a lot at Costco!

  7. The Greening Of Westford June 16, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    Green Lifestyle Consulting – LOL. No I’m not doing anything on reusable shopping bags! Look forward to reading yours though.

  8. The Greening Of Westford June 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

    Mrs. T – thanks so much for stopping by! I totally agree that people need to know this stuff. I feel really badly when I start to tell friends and that look of dread comes over them, but they need to know. I wish it was more mainstream, but we are doing our part!

  9. Natural Mothers Network March 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing this post on avoiding pesticides on a budget with us on Natural Mothers Network’s Seasonal Celebration.
    Warmly, Rebecca x

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