Trying to make the best choices for your family isn’t always easy, or obvious, and this is particularly true when it comes to food. There is a lot of conflicting information out there and trying to disseminate it can become a full-time job. Does everything that your family eats need to be organic, and if so, how does the average family budget make this work?
The short answer is no. In a perfect world we would all eat 100% organic food 100% of the time. We would also likely grow a good portion of this food in our own yards, and some people do! While I applaud and admire the people who have the time and wherewithal to start an urban homestead, that’s just not a reality for everyone.
While I don’t believe that all of your food needs to be 100% organic in order for you and your family to be healthy, I definitely believe that organically grown food is better for our bodies and better for the planet.
Where do you start without breaking the bank?
Small changes always lead to bigger ones. Why not start by looking at the dirty dozen and clean fifteen? This list refers to fruits and veggies that are most and least contaminated by pesticide residue. Focus your efforts on choosing organic options for the items found on the dirty dozen list, and build from there. Also, keep in mind that children have much smaller bodies than adults and a greater potential for chemical load. If there are foods that your child eats a lot of, I encourage you to make that organic too.
You don’t need to become vegan, but you should eat less meat and choose humanely raised animal products. Some people thrive on a vegan diet, or even just a vegetarian diet, but don’t feel pressure to put a label on yourself unless you want to. Unless you have ethical reasons for not eating fish or animal products, don’t feel that going this route is the path to ultimate wellness. You should, however, eat less of it, and by doing so you’ll be able to afford to choose higher quality animal products that come from organic, or clean, naturally raised sources. Find a good butcher who knows their sources, and use resources like Seafood Watch to help you make better fish choices. Choose organic when it comes to dairy and other animal products to avoid xenoestrogens that come from antibiotics, pesticides, and growth hormones.
Choose fresh, and make your own whenever possible. If your diet is heavy on packaged, convenience foods then you are paying extra for the convenience of having it made for you. Life gets busy, and trying to strike a balance between work, family time, and meal preparation is not easy. If you’re trying to keep costs down, however, you’re going to need to work at prepping more meals and snacks from scratch at home. This may mean setting aside an hour or so each weekend to prep some items for the week ahead, but the payoff will be worth it.
Here are some ideas:
- Soak dry beans and cook them in larger batches. Then drain and freeze cooked beans in 2 cup portions for easy use later. They’re great in soups, pastas, salads, and dips, and they also cost WAY less than canned organic beans (and you avoid BPA lined tins!)
- Cook grains in larger batches for easier meals during the week
- Making soup or stew? Make enough to freeze some leftovers for easy meals on busy nights
- Make your own muffins and snack bars and keep them in the freezer to pull out for easy snacks.
- Batch cook and freeze waffles and pancakes to be reheated in the toaster during the week for easy breakfasts.
Shopping for organic products has gotten easier too, and no longer involves trekking to far flung corners of the city to specialty stores. I’ve been suitably impressed by the selection at major grocery store chains like Loblaw, Sobeys and Longos, and while you’ll pay a premium for some items, others are competitively priced. You’ll find organic produce, meats, and dry goods all in one place. Costco is another surprising source for organic dry goods, and I’ve even some organic items at the Bulk Barn. While it’s hard to beat the freshness of organic food from a farmers’ market, delivery services like Front Door Organics offer an amazing selection of locally grown, organic produce in a variety of box sizes.
Choosing to eat a diet full of fresh, homemade foods is the best starting point for all families, and from there you can figure out where organic choices fit in.