I was researching foodie things going on in the uk to share with you during my British Vegan MoFo and I discovered that September is “organic month” run by The Soil Association. I try to buy as much organic fruits and vegetables as I can but I also shop on a tight budget so sometimes it is about compromise.
My first organic shopping tip is quite simple, check the reduced aisle! I often swap things like lettuce for watercress, apples for pears etc if I find a suitable reduced organic item. I generally do this for everything not just to find organic foods, sometimes you feel a bit embarrassed to be routing through that pile of bright yellow stickers but it is totally worth it, plus your saving waste!
Next I prioritise foods I’d like to insist are organic. Apples are an absolute non debatable organic food in my shopping trolley. They are consistently rated as being the most contaminated with pesticides. Next are salads such as lettuce and spinach because I eat loads of them and add them to juices which means they really need to be pesticide free! Because salads are grown close to the ground it means they are a huge free buffet for all kinds of insects, slugs and snails. Organic farmers do not use pesticides but instead rotate their crops regularly to keep the soil rich and take advantage of local wildlife as pest control.
Yes, ok I did buy an organic lettuce the other day which had a few half eaten leaves, but I just washed it, chopped around it and ate it
Next on the hit list are tomatoes, peppers, cucumber and celery. These are included on most “dirty dozen” lists I have found. Now the prices in these salad items can vary quite a lot, I tend to pick and choose based on what deals are on and what I’m going to be eating the most.
Buying in bulk and cooking from scratch means you can make leftover/ excess veg go further! Add them finely chopped to sauces and freeze for some emergency pasta, turn into pesto, flavoured butters or purees and freeze these too. Recipes such as stews and bolognese are great for chucking in any vegetables nearing their shelf life and don’t forget about juices!
So, why should you bother buying organic? Well sometimes washing your fruits and veg isn’t enough to remove the nasty chemicals that are often used when growing produce. A lot of things like potatoes/ root veg, celery and greens actually absorb the chemicals too. It has been researched that ingesting pesticides can increase your risk of cancer however evidence shows that the levels found on food are quite low. This is why I feel ok to pick and choose based on my budget however I really believe that getting as much organic fruits and vegetables into your diet is a very beneficial step towards a healthy future.
You are also helping the environment as resisting chemical based pesticide build up the grounds natural resilience and “It also stores higher levels of carbon in the soil, and as a result if organic farming was common practice in the UK, we could offset at least 23% of agriculture’s current greenhouse emissions.” (Source: the soil association)
Don’t sacrifice eating fruits and vegetables because they aren’t organic, there are plenty of health benefits in getting your 5 a day but it is easy to include lots of organic produce into your diet even when shopping on a budget!