Cooking with organic food is a way of life for me. There are obvious health reasons but I also often like the taste better than regular food. Example: meat. Yes, I’m a carnivore, I admit it. Was on my way to going vegetarian about 6 or 7 years ago when I met my carnivore life partner who is a Latina-American. She saved me from ‘going over the edge’ and I never looked back.
For me, shopping organic comes in three categories: Produce, Meat/Poultry/Fish, and Other. My general rule has always been to never buy organic when the fruit or vegetables have a hard outer shell and I’ve ever since used that rule as a general guideline.
Btw, the PLU code on the produce’s sticker will indicate if it’s organic or not. PLU codes are the numbers on small labels stuck onto produce that are used to identify it during checkout at the grocery store. Organic PLU codes have a 5-digit number that starts with the number 9. Non-organic PLU codes have a 4-digit number that starts with the number 4. (PLU codes for genetically engineered or modified produce starts with the number 8)
The most highly pesticide-contaminated fruits I always buy organic as my number one priority. They are strawberries, apples, peaches, pears, and plums. I love eating cherries and grapes but they are rarely available as organic fruit where I live in Southern California.
The conventional fruit that’s the least likely to contain pesticide residues and doesn’t need to be shopped organic in my opinion: Pineapple, papaya, kiwi, melons, bananas.
Again, the most highly pesticide-contaminated fruits I always buy organic as my number one priority. They are all lettuce, kale, spinach, bell peppers, celery, and tomatoes.
The conventional vegetables that are the least likely to contain pesticide residues and don’t need to be bought organic in my opinion: Mushrooms, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, onions, sweet corn, and avocado. (Since I have started to eat one avocado every day for many years now, I’m especially happy about that!)
MEAT, POULTRY, FISH
I usually find a good selection of organic beef in my grocery store. Pork, not so much. It’s a little more challenging to find good organic steak like Rib-Eye. So when my go-to grocery store in SoCal has it, all I’m then looking for is good marbling and I’m a happy camper.
Organic poultry is easy to find. Every store has it now, even Costco. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. I find that organic chicken parts like legs and thighs are the cheapest organic meats around.
Organic fish: I read that neither wild fish nor farmed fish can be certified organic because no organic standards exist in the U.S. to regulate them. Since a large part of my diet is seafood, though, I make sure I always buy wild-caught as opposed to farmed fish. Chances are, it’s the healthier seafood.
- Vegetable, chicken, and beef broth. I use these 3 broths regularly in sauces and soups but also add them when heating up leftovers in the microwave.
- Canned fruit and vegetables like beans, yams, tomatoes.
- Organic herbs are often hard to get unless you grow them in your own garden or on your balcony. I find Parsley (both regular and Italian), Mint, and Cilantro are always available in the organic section but not so much for others like Thyme or Rosemary.
I’m very happy to see that more and more organic food is available in stores almost every week. A lot of stores are trying hard to make buying organic more affordable. And that’s a good thing. My dream is that one day we can shop and cook almost completely organic and live a lot healthier.