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Organic on a budget

A few facts:

  • A 2002 US study of 39 two to five year olds showed children on a conventional diet had 84% more pesticides in their urine than those eating mainly organic.  When converting, pesticide residues fell quickly.  Donna Air says "Good food is the next best thing after love to give a child".  We agree.
  • Children, including unborn children, are particularly sensitive to toxins.
  • Blood tests reveal we each have about 500 toxins in our body; 95% from our diets.  Our grandparents didn't have this level because most of the toxins didnt' exist 50 years ago.
  • Local organic food is by far preferable to that flown in by aircraft and picked to ripen afterwards - both in terms of health benefit and environmental impact (see Organic Vs Local article).

We don't want to frighten anyone - we're not fully converted due to our own budget!  However, this is an attempt to share what we've learned about eating well on a budget.

Key * not worth paying more for unless you consume lots, **Buy if you can  ***Definitely worth buying organic. 

Note:  These comments are only intended as a guide.  They are not necessarily our opinion (though we wouldn't add advice if we thought it was rubbish!).   The information mainly comes from "In the Know" magazine and The Soil Association.  By suggesting somethings are only * or ** we are not suggesting you should not buy it nor are we suggesting that buying non-organic is always less preferable.  We mostly buy non-organic meat for instance simply because we trust our butcher and the local farms completely.  However, if we had a larger budget, we would also eat more organic food too.  Please be guided also by your own judgements! :)

Animals reared organically must be free range and cannot be given routine drugs such as anti-biotics which can pass through the food chain.  Feed must be organic, GM food, nitrogen fertilisers and persticides on pastures are banned.  Welfare standards are very high and environmental impact is low. 

Chicken ***- we have a great local chicken farmer whom we trust and we love their meat (Creedy Carver).  We know the chickens are really free-range and they taste great so we buy these.  However, if you cannot trust the source of your free-range chicken, we recommend you buy organic chicken.  Intensively farmed birds are cramped, drugged, bred and fed to gain weight unnaturally quickly and killed sooner.  They are rarely hung properly and even "free-range" birds can be in a shed with several thousand others unable to get outdoors through a small hole in the "barn".  This is why good chicken costs more - it's worth it.  Buy less often but buy well.  Avoid at all costs, cheap chicken - think about the life it must have had if it's possible to sell it for a few pounds and still make a profit.

Beef **
Cattle reared organically, particularly those that are clover fed, contain more essential fats, including omega-3s.  No cow born and raised organically has ever contracted BSE.

Again if you can't trust the farm (by almost visiting yourselves) buy organic.  I can't get that awful programme that was on last year out of mind. You'll be pleased to know all our turkey farmers are local, trusted and have high animal welfare standards.  If you're not sure, buy organic - huge difference in welfare standards and also taste between intensively reared and organic.

Non-organic pigs are rarely free-range (ours are).  If you don't know the source buy organic.  Non-organic pigs are often reared intensively, in cramped pens, fed less naturally and routinely treated with drugs.  Organic pigs are always free-range and their meat is purer.

Lamb is free range anyway and many local farms don't spray their meadows and are not certified because of costs.  Buy from a source you know and ask if the farmer sprays.  You can save money and perhaps buy some organic vegetables instead.

Eggs and Dairy
Again unless you know the farm is really free-range with full and practical access to outdoors, buy organic.  Our eggs are sourced locally and the hens are fully free-range (we're scared to run them over when we collect!).  Certification guarantees for those who don't have access to our eggs, small flocks, excellent welfare, natural feeds and no routine use of drugs.  Organic eggs have more essential fatty acid.

Milk and Yoghurt***
Milk is one of the first things we converted to buying organic.  Buy unhomogenised if possible as it's supposed to be critical to good health - the fat floats to the top like it used to.  Our milk is both organic and unhomogenised.  Organic milk is much higher in vitamins, omega-3 and is anti-biotic free.  Organic isn't that much more expensive than good local milk so we think it's a top priority if budget is limited.

Cheese and butter**
Both high in saturated fats so not good to eat too much anyway. 


Fruit and Veg
I found it fascinating to discover some fruit and vegetables retained more pesticides than others.  Eating organic reduces your pesticide intake.  Peeling reduces chemical residues but at the expense of vitamins.

You eat a lot so will absorb a lot more pesticides over time.  They're not that much more expensive and they're more tasty. 

Carrots and parsnips***
Peeling wastes vitamins and they contain a lot of residual pesticides often.  If you can't buy organic, cut off a good length at the end.

Heavily sprayed and absorb a lot of pesticide too.  However, we still don't like the bugs in them though we think better a bug than a load of chemicals!

Pesticides use really heavy.  The supermarkets don't get that perfect look easily - they can be sprayed up to 16 times with 36 pesticides.  Washing doesn't get rid of them and peeling reduces vitamins.  We like the skin too.

Oranges and bananas*
The skin is removed anyway and skins are quite thick.


Groceries and drinks
Fizzy and soft drinks***
Non-organic drinks contain so many dreadful additives which we've seen cause mayhem once consumed by most children.  Most are banned in organic drinks.  Try Rocks Organic Cordials.

Tea and coffee**
Going organic will significantly reduce your toxins if you drink a lot.  It's also more ethical - pesticides seriously harm developing and third world producers.  Try to cut down and spend the savings on organic if you can.

Wine and beer*
We like good wine and beer and can't find any that taste good enough to persuade us.  We'd rather spend the money on a higher quality product.  If you have recommendations, let us know as we're in process of applying for alcohol license and would be happy to put good organic wine on our site!

Bread and pasta***
We eat a lot and grains are heavily sprayed.   Certification is a pain for many small bakeries as they need to have 2 separate areas for organic and non-organic.  Hence we don't sell organic bread yet.

Conventional grains can contain pesticides and additives so buy something natural.  If you buy organic check it's fortified with vitamins and minerals such as Mighty Muesli and Power Porridge.  Are significantly more expensive however so only one star.

Chocolate, biscuits and cakes*
Shouldn't eat too much anyway.  Handmade biscuits using the right ingredients (no hydrogenated fats) in moderation are the next best thing.  Organic chocolate is definately purer but in terms of health benefits, probably less of a priority.

If you haven't tried organic food yet, we have put together a "Try organic box" in our hampers and gifts section under themed food boxes.  Why not try and let us know how you get on.  Any other good articles or ideas let us know. 

If you want to reproduce this information please credit us as the source where you found it by providing a link to us and also to the original sources too.  Thank you.

Copyright The Local Food Company, November 2006


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