Dirty Dozen vs. Clean Fifteen – Which produce to buy organic and which ones you don’t have to!

The following is a new weekly feature brought to us by my friend Charlotte Lee.  She has been a wealth of information both here on The Frugal Find and personally when it comes to eating healthful organic foods on a budget.  I’ve asked her to share tips and how-to’s that show us ways to replace the quick and processed foods we’d typically buy at the grocery store with organic and all natural options.  Our goal is show you that you CAN EAT WELL for LESS!  Take it away Charlotte…

If you’ve been following the recent “studies” done by Stanford that have put conventional produce on the same playing field as organic you may be wondering why you’d go organic at all. Though I wholeheartedly disagree that their method of sifting through thousands of studies to pick the 15-20% that told them what they wanted to find is science, I also want to scream out that they’re forgetting a HUGE factor in buying organic foods: pesticide and herbicide use!!! Never mind that local, organic produce will just taste better because it’s fresher but organic produce is grown without the use of harmful chemicals! So the reality is, they’re not the same but there are some areas where the differences aren’t as drastic and that’s good news for your budget!

If you’re just starting out with organic shopping and realizing that 100% organic foods just won’t work, then I’ve got some great news for you! There are some places that you can stick to conventional and still get great bang for your buck! Each year the Environmental Working Group tests produce to find the ones that have the most and the least pesticide residue from their time out on the farms. They list the worst offenders in their Dirty Dozen list and the ones that come out cleanest, meaning the least amount of detectible residue, gets placed on the Clean 15 list! The great thing about knowing these lists is that you can skip organic on the Clean 15 list and most CERTAINLY buy organic on the Dirty Dozen.

The Dirty Dozen is easily broken down into a few categories to keep it simple:

Stone fruit – peaches & nectarines are consistently on the list year after year. The growing season is short for them and yet they get some of the highest residual pesticides. They are heavily sprayed crops so stick to organic.

Salads – leafy greens also make the list year after year. Spinach, lettuce and even kale rank up on the dirty dozen for high spray crops and if you’ve ever grown your own you know that bugs love them and it’s hard to keep them off. So while I understand why, I’d prefer a bug bite on my kale over chemical sprays.

Skins – If you’re going to eat the skin, buy it organic. The skins are where the majority of the sprays will absorb. But before you think you’ll just skin all your foods, think again! That’s where the majority of the nutrition is too! All that color is what gives us antioxidants and vitamins. So apples, berries, cucumbers, potatoes and celery are all crops to invest into organic options!

The Clean 15 is the list from which to remember where you can skip organic and save some money! After looking at the Dirty Dozen and understanding why they rank on that list, it becomes clearer why the Clean 15 is clean. For starters, if you’re removing the skins like citrus, melons, mango, avocado, pineapple and bananas then you’re not going to get the chemical concentration. Just beware of using conventional citrus when a recipe calls for zest! In that case, get organic!

SAME-O – Sweet Potato, Asparagus, Mushrooms, Eggplant and Onions were all surprises and items that are frequently much cheaper to get conventional! And that’s just a little acronym to help you remember.

And lastly, sweet corn which needs a disclaimer on the Clean 15 list. Genetically modified sweet corn is on the market with no labeling. The only way to avoid GMO produce is to buy organic. They cannot be labeled organic when using GMO seed. Seeing as corn, soy, canola and cotton (cottonseed oil) are the highest GMO crops with 90% market saturation of GMO production, I would opt for organic corn and soy every time.

You can head on over here and enter your email address to download a PDF version of the guide or an app for your smart phone with the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists!

For more posts in this series click away:

Organic On a Budget: Eat THIS or THAT?

Homemade Kefir, Alternative Milks, and Flours!

How to stretch your expensive organic meat, plus a black bean burger recipe!

4 Ways to get a Bounty of Organic Foods on a Budget


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