Saturday, March 28, 2009

Balancing Organics/Health with Saving Money - and Using the "Dirty Dozen" List for Good!

Right now, it's still a big mental/financial hurdle for me to buy into the concept of "all organic, all the time". There is a list called the "dirty dozen" - naming the organic fruits and vegetables whose conventional versions retain the most pesticides and chemicals that are ultimately consumed by humans.

Of course, the list exists as a guideline for those wishing to allocate portions of their budget to buying organic. Sometimes, when faced with options between organics (like if I have a coupon for frozen organic veggies or fruits), I can remember this list and opt to buy the organic items that are on the "dirty dozen" list - so in that sense it is useful to me in optimizing my organic purchases toward the healthiest options (that is, buying frozen organic strawberries means I won't buy frozen non-organic strawberries...). But have I changed my entire produce-buying patterns to match this list? Not really. For example, we've been scarfing non-organic loss-leader strawberries around here for weeks, and unless I'm mistaken, our Giant doesn't carry organic strawberries.

I try to take all of the organic advice with a grain of salt and for now have ended up with this general philosophy: Allocate as much of our budget to (loss-leader-priced) fresh fruits and vegetables as seems sensible, and when organics are within reach, start with the dirty dozen in purchase prioritizing. After all, eating lots of non-organic strawberries is still preferable nutritionwise to allocating my entire budget to processed/prepackaged foods bought on deep discount.

Say I have an extra $30/week to spend on groceries above my usual budget.

As a little bit of an outlandish example, I could either buy $300 worth of 90% discounted Go-Gurt at a store tripling coupons, or I could buy a wide variety of loss-leader fresh produce, meat, and milk, including a few prioritized and/or affordable organics (especially if I go to at least two different grocery chains!) - and maybe also a couple of weeks' worth of Go-Gurt. The first example, I am being the most resourceful in stark accounting terms, but the second example, I am being the most resourceful in a holistic sense - still saving lots of money, while offering balanced nutrition and teaching my children good eating habits in the long term. The second example is the better steward in combining a frugal/couponing philosophy with a optimize-health philosophy - because while it is important to be good stewards of our money, being good stewards of our minds and bodies is arguably just as important, if not more so.

What are your thoughts on frugality and couponing v. buying organic? Have you found a way for the two to live in harmony? Share your strategies with us all by posting a comment!

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