Thursday, April 10, 2008
Because I'm Not Sure Why You Wouldn't...
Many of you know that I am passionate about feeding my family as much organic, hormone and antibiotic free food as possible. Now this doesn't mean that we are perfect or "saints" about it. I do what I can to control the food that we eat at home but we aren't psychotic. There are days when we do go to Mc Donalds (no fries though!) and we've been known to eat a Twix or two (okay I've got a whole pack in the fridge right now). And before we had kids I don't think we ate anything that was organic... if we did it was certainly incidental.
Once Kid was born and I went to the store to pick out her first foods I just naturally went for the organic version of things. It was available and we could afford it and I couldn't not buy it. I wanted to give Kid the purest best food available. So it started with baby food. And then as Kid got older and her diet expanded so did our organic purchases... until now when we are probably up to about 85-90% organic with about 99% of our produce being organic.
I realize that buying organic produce is often more expensive... but honestly... not always (at least here in Ann Arbor). There is a reason I shop at 3-4 stores and it does take work to do that (and obviously not every one has the time or drive to do that) but I can say with certainty that I've switched us over from 0% organic to 90% organic without raising our costs per person. The way that we have done that is by cutting out most of the pre-packaged foods that we used to eat. I buy very few "snacks" and mostly whole foods and ingredients.
Hands down my biggest expense is produce. But I don't buy things that are crazy expensive I stick to organic fresh fruits and vegetables that are reasonably priced. I buy most fruits in-season only so often (and yes I'm serious) I can get organic berries at the exact same price in the same store as regular (same with kiwis, avocados, etc) and often stumble upon sales on these fruits when they get a shipment and want to move it out before it goes bad. So in the winter we really stick with bananas, kiwi, avocados, apples & oranges. Fresh vegetables I get in the winter are lettuces, onions, potatoes, winter squash, & broccoli. The rest of the fruit and vegetables I cook with I buy frozen from Whole Foods. They have their own brand of organic frozen produce that is much cheaper than the name brand organic foods you find at a regular store... and comparable with name brand conventional frozen foods as well.
When I do buy packaged foods I typically stick with either Whole Foods or Trader Joe's store brands. Both of these stores carry an organic version of almost anything at very reasonable prices. If I want name brand organic products I do find that they are often cheaper at a regular store and that Whole Foods raises those prices to offset their own store brand prices. The only thing that I cannot find a cheap source for is organic packaged bread... which is why I've been making more of my own lately.
As for meat, fish, and dairy I have decided to focus on antibiotic and hormone free meats and dairy as opposed to organic. When I was a social worker I worked with families in very impoverished neighborhoods in NYC. One thing I witnessed again and again, among young girls that I worked with, was early onset puberty. And it scared the shit out of me. Many people feel that it is due to increased hormone consumption in young girls from diary and meat products. So when I had girls I knew that it was imperative for me to provide them with hormone free food sources.
I don't buy organic milk because we have great local dairies that are hormone and antibiotic free and I choose to support them. I buy chicken from a regional Amish distributer that is widely available in all our local stores. When I buy beef and pork (which I do only once or twice a month) I have now switched to buying "natural" meats that are hormone and antibiotic free (but not always grass fed), which are also available at our local store. I buy only sustainable fish... which was actually a fortunate coincidence since we really only eat wild salmon and farmed tilapia on a regular basis anyway.
I'm still learning about a lot of this stuff and adding new products as I find out more about how things are farmed and produced.
If you haven't made the switch and don't know where to start...
Dirty Dozen... the most contaminated and least contaminated.
Organic Produce...the Top 10 fruits and vegtables you should buy.
Sara Snow, I actually really like her show and have found it to be both informative and accessible.
Sustainable Seafood Guide... this is really important folks. Please read this list and keep it in mind next time you hit the store.