You’ve read the horror stories about GMO corn and vegetables soaked in herbicides and pesticides. You’ve read all about the hormones injected into your meat and about the horrible living conditions of commercial meat animals.
You’re ready to make the switch to organic living but have no idea where to start.
Awesome: this article was written just for you!
Before we get to the tips for going organic, let’s define what it means when your food carries the “certified organic” label. In order to be certified organic by the USDA, produce and meat must meet certain, specific criteria.
- Produce can’t be grown using irradiation, prohibited pesticides, sewage sludge or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
- Livestock must be raised in an environment that meets certain health and animal welfare standards and without being given antibiotics or growth hormones. They must also always be fed 100% organic feed.
- Multi-ingredient items must be made with at least 95% organic ingredients and the remaining ingredients must come from an approved list.
Phew. That’s a mouthful, but is “organic” a sure-fire label to ensure that you’re not chowing down on chemicals and other not-so-appetizing ingredients?
Well, yes and no.
You may still get a few stray traces of yuck but you’re definitely better off than you were when you were eating that hormone-riddled steak with a side of green beans with pesticide sauce.
Here are the top 6 tips for going organic that will help you make the switch.
1. Grow Your Own Food When You Can
There’s no way to ensure that the neighboring farm’s pesticides didn’t wash into the soil and cross-contaminate the heirloom corn seeds that you bought, but you know for a fact that it’s not modified with GMOs or washed in bug killer.
The only sure-fire way to know exactly what’s in your food is to grow it yourself. Unfortunately, that’s not feasible for the vast majority of us, at least not 100%, but you can take baby steps.
Growing an herb garden or even some indoor vegetables is certainly possible for nearly everybody. Grow what you can and then you know what you’re eating.
Plus, you’ll save a ton of money on groceries. One organic pepper can cost as much as $2 in the store but if you grow your own, you can get an entire pack of seeds and enough organic soil to grow several plants for less than $20.
Use your own compost and you’ve cut your cost to about $3 for the seeds!
2. Check Out Your Local Farmer’s Markets
We absolutely adore farmer’s markets.
They’re a great place to get delicious, local food (often at a much lower price than the supermarket) while supporting local people. They’re also a fabulous place to meet new people and pick up tips about prepping and homesteading if you’re willing to talk for a bit.
Still, be careful because just because food is home-grown doesn’t mean that it’s not grown using pesticides or herbicides. Ask.
3. Organic Isn’t Always Worth the Extra Cost
Typically, foods such as bananas and oranges are safe to buy non-organic because they have thick skins that you aren’t going to eat.
However, there are some foods that you should always buy organic, especially if you’re going to eat the skins.
There’s a list called the dirty dozen that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) composes every year based upon the amount of pesticides found on the skin and in the flesh of fruits and veggies.
There’s also a list called the Clean 15, which is comprised of the foods which have the least pesticides.
Dirty Dozen Plus Two:
- Spinach and other leafy greens
- Sweet Peppers
- Snap peas
- Hot Peppers
Always buy the organic varieties of these foods.
Now, on to the Clean 15 list. These are all foods that are the safest to buy non-organic because they had the lowest pesticide loads out of all produce tested:
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Cantaloupe (domestic)
- Sweet potatoes
Now, we do have a slight bone to pick with this list; corn, which is the most commonly genetically-engineered crop in the US, made the clean list because it does test low for pesticides.
Though they say that most sweet corn (the type that’s eaten) isn’t GMO, part of it is. Most of the GMO corn is field corn – the kind used to make animal feed, corn syrup, corn oil and corn starch.
You can decide that one for yourself.
4. Don’t Forget About Products MADE from Non-Organic Foods
A recent USDA survey found specific pesticides in around 30% of the non-organic milk samples that they tested as opposed to only finding a trace amount in 1 single sample of all the organic samples. The levels weren’t particularly high but if you (or your kids) drink a lot of milk, then it adds up.
Hormones and antibiotics are also concerns with non-organic milk. Ketchup and peanut butter are two other items that are typically made from conventionally-grown products. Think before you buy!
We do want to add a side-note here. Organic cow’s milk is disgustingly expensive in stores – often $7 or more compared to the $3-$4 you’ll pay for regular milk.
If that’s too much for your budget, go for coconut or almond milk. It’s organic and affordable.
Video first seen on Dani Spies
5. Don’t Forget About Organic Cosmetics!
Remember, if it goes on your skin, it may go THROUGH your skin. Conventional shampoo, soap, lotion and makeup are all packed with artificial dyes, fragrances and other ingredients that may have systemic effects. They likely also contain chemicals, hormones, animal parts and other not-so-great-for-you stuff. A good rule of thumb is to look at the ingredients list and if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.
Organic cosmetics really aren’t any more costly than higher-quality conventional products so there’s no reason not to make the switch. For that matter, make your own!
6. Learn to Compost
We touched on this briefly a few paragraphs back but composting has several advantages when you’re trying to go organic.
First, it’s free. You’d throw all that stuff away anyway.
Second, you control exactly what goes into your compost. That means that you know what you’re eating, plus you can blend it to meet the acidity levels of each of your plants.
Finally, a compost pile is sustainable. You’re always going to eat, so you’ll never run out of fertilizer no matter how much SHTF.
The bottom line is that choosing to live an organic lifestyle supports local agriculture, greatly reduces the chemicals and toxins that you put into your body, and reduces your carbon footprint. If you’ve decided to grow your own food, it also makes you much more self-sufficient, which equates to “much more likely to survive” if disaster strikes.
Though organically grown products can be expensive, we hope that these tips for going organic have helped you make some decisions about where to cut costs if need be.
You CAN live more healthfully if you’re just a bit more aware. Good luck and let us know about your experiences in the comments section below!
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This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.
About Theresa Crouse
Theresa Crouse is a full-time writer currently living in central Florida. She was born and raised in the hills of West Virginia, where she learned to farm, hunt, fish, and live off the land from an early age. She prefers to live off the grid as much as possible and does her best to follow the “leave nothing behind but footprints” philosophy. For fun, she enjoys shooting, kayaking, tinkering on her car and motorcycle, and just about anything else that involves water, going fast, or the outdoors. You can send Theresa a message at editor [at] survivopedia.com.