Most people are unsure when it comes to organic food. We’ve heard it’s healthier, but is that true? And, is it worth the cost? The truth is that it depends on the food. Overall, research shows that organics tend to be richer and have much lower pesticide contamination rates but it can vary widely depending on the type food.

For the tight budget shopper, you can maximize your organic purchases or even avoid them altogether with a bit of planning.

Products to forgo the label

The best organic food products to avoid are processed junk foods like chips, soda, candy, and other snacks. Even if they’re labeled organic, they’re still highly processed and unhealthy choice.

With produce, it can be easier (and cheaper) to chose local, seasonal produce over organic brand foods without sacrificing quality. Just remember to wash any produce well at home before you eat. It can remove most, if not all, of the pesticide residue.

The best produce to skip the organic label are:

  • avocados
  • sweet corn
  • pineapples
  • sweet peas, frozen
  • onions
  • papayas
  • eggplants
  • asparagus
  • kiwis
  • cabbages
  • cauliflower
  • cantaloupes
  • broccoli
  • mushrooms
  • and honeydew melons.

Organics to consider

The biggest organic benefit can come from buying organic animal products. Animal products tend to accumulate toxins from their highly treated feed and have higher concentrations than fruits and vegetables.

You may also consider some organic produce options. This year EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce found 12 particularly “dirty” fruits and vegetables. You might want to buy the organic label to avoid a high concentration of pesticides in these products.

  • strawberries
  • spinach
  • kale
  • nectarines
  • apples
  • grapes
  • peaches
  • cherries
  • pears
  • tomatoes
  • celery
  • potatoes

You could also buy these at a local farmers market or even grow them at home and avoid the organic price tag. Small gardens tend to use much less chemicals and pesticides as large agricultural operations.

Shopping smart

With a little bit of knowledge, organic food at the grocery store is less intimidating. You can make smart purchases to maximize your dollar and improve your nutrition. Remember, you don’t always have to buy organic. But don’t forget to wash your produce!