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Health & Food

Guide to Buying Organic

There’s no doubt that organic food is the better and safer choice when it comes to feeding your family. One thing that I hear when I challenge others to buy organic is that it’s too expensive. If you find the cost of an all organic meal cost prohibitive you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that, with a few pointers, you can begin enjoying buying organic and slim down the cost of your grocery bill too. Farmers markets and fresh produce stands are abundant in Iowa, consider buying fresh produce that can be canned or frozen for future use; the time is ripe to choose a variety of fresh vegetables for now and later. In the off season, when it comes to choosing to buy organic or nonorganic and the prices come into play, all you need to know is which foods you absolutely should buy that are organic and where you can find it, locally, where you live.

Here’s suggestions on how and where to shop:

Things You can Buy Safely (Non-organic)



Their thick skins that protect the fruit from pesticide build-up.

How to Buy it: You want an avocado that is slightly unripe and is firm tot he squeeze, they will ripen in a few days of sitting on your kitchen counter. Store at room temperature. Even though you won’t be using the skin of the avocado, be sure to rinse it anyway before you open it up.


The banana peel isn’t eaten and its where the pesticide stays.

How to Buy it: You’ll want to think of how you are going to use the banana before you choose it. If choosing green (where the peel is pale yellow and the tips are green) their taste will be somewhat tart. You will want to use these for frying or baking in a pie. If choosing where the peel is mostly all yellow, the pulp will still be firm but their starch content will have started to turn to sugar. These, as just as the green ones, work best in pies and tarts. If choosing banana with signs of brown spots with the peel a deeper yellow color., the banana will be sweetest in taste and work well mashed and added to baked goods like banana bread recipes. Store at room temperature. If they’re unripe, you can place them in a brown paper bag to ripen.


It has a rough and spiny skin that protects it from pests and pesticide residue.

How to Buy it: Although the sweet smell of pineapple can be alluring, you don’t want to use your nose on this one because it usually means that it is overripe. Like any fruit, avoid soft spots and also avoid damage to the rind. Store in the refrigerator or on the counter if you plan to use with on a day or two.


Its fuzzy skin acts as a barrier to pesticides, but be sure to still give them a rinse before use.

How to Buy it: When buying kiwi, you have to use your nose. Sniff out kiwis that smell good. The kiwi you choose should be plump and yield to a squeeze like that of a ripe pear. Don’t pick any with moist areas on their surface or any skin bruising. If unripe kiwi are all that are available, simply take them home and place them in a paper bag at room temperature with other fruits that need more time, such as bananas or pears. Store in the refrigerator vegetable drawer.


Another fruit that has thick skin that protects it from pesticides, but you still want to rinse before use.

How to Buy it: There are different varieties of mangoes, but in general look for those that are bright in color such as red, yellow, or orange. You can use your nose again here because it should have a significant fruity smell, if not don’t buy it. They should be slightly firm but yield to your touch somewhat. (Usually the sweeter mango is the one that is softer to the touch.) However, if it is too soft, it could be rotten inside, so choose carefully. They are best stored in the refrigerator fruit or vegetable drawer.


Pesticide residue stays on papaya skin, but give them a rinse before using.

How to Buy it: Papaya colors come in colors ranging between yellow and green. Choose one that is slightly soft and show no signs of bruising or that don’t appear shriveled. If their not fully ripened you can put them in a brown bag once you get home. If they are ripe, store in the refrigerator.



This vegetable faces fewer threats from pests, therefore needing less pesticide.

How to Buy it: You want firm spears with purplish or bright green tips.Buy about 1/2 pound per person. Try to choose spears that are similar in size and thickness to ensure uniform cooking. Keep them in the refrigerator vegetable drawer and rinse before using (even if you’re going to boil them).


Conventional broccoli crops face fewer pest threats, like asparagus, so they require less pesticide use.

How to Buy it: It should be deep green in color and the stalks should be firm and not rubbery. Wash in a cool water while changing the water a couple of times in the process before use. Store in the refrigerator vegetable drawer.


Like asparagus and broccoli, it doesn’t need a lot of pesticides while it is growing.

How to Buy it: You want a cabbage head where the leaves are tight, you also want it to be heavy for its type and firm. For most cabbage varieties, you’ll want to make sure the outer leaves are shiny and crisp. The exception to this rule is savory cabbage, as it forms a looser head and the leaves grow crinkly naturally. Don’t buy any heads whose leaves are yellowing. Bok choy should have deep green leaves with their stems a crisp-looking white. Make sure to get remove the outer leaves of a cabbage before using it. Cabbage can be washed or spun, just as you would lettuce. Store in the refrigerator vegetable drawer.


As many others listed they don’t see as many pest threats, which means less pesticide use.

How to Buy it: You want an onion that is firm and has a distinct onion smell but not but not too strong. You also don’t want to choose one with signs of damage or soft spots. Keep in a cool dry place, or in the refrigerator.

Things to Buy Organic

Fruits and Vegetables:

With fruits and vegetables, many of them contain thin or edible skins than can contain pesticide residue. In addition, some of them have to be heavily sprayed due to their high level of pests.

Check here for a list of fruits and vegetables ranks in order of most or least pesticide load: http://foodnews.org/

FRUITS: arranged in order of highest to lowest pesticide load: Peaches, Apples, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Grapes, Pears, Raspberries, Plums, Oranges, Tangerine, Cantaloupe, Lemon, Honeydew, Grapefruit, Watermelon, Blueberries

VEGETABLES: arranged in order of highest to lowest pesticide load: Sweet Bell Peppers, Celery, Lettuce, Spinach, Potatoes, Carrots, Green Beans, Hot Peppers, Cucumbers, Cauliflower, Mushrooms, Winter Squash, Tomatoes, Sweet Potatoes


Fair Trade Certified Coffee Beans: Check out this site to find out where to buy them: http://www.transfairusa.org/content/WhereToBuy/

Milk: Check this site for a rated list of organic milk and other organic diary products. http://cornucopia.org/dairysurvey/index.html

Meat: Organic meat is free of antibiotics, added hormones, and human growth hormones (GMO). These animals are raised more ethically and humanely, meaning they are allowed to range freely and not confined to pens. In addition, the land that they eat from and live on uses no or less chemicals.

To locate organic farms and foods near Iowa City check out Corridor Locavore. In Des Moines check out the Drake Agricultural Law Center’s website and download the Buy Fresh Buy Local Directory; it’s the most comprehensive source for local farms, foods and businesses in central Iowa. Search by zip code to find a Farmer’s Market in your area, check out Local Harvest.

Remember, if you can’t afford to purchase all organic food, try to at least buy things that are lower in pesticide loads.


About Dawn

intense creative independent parent loving life


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