I saw the above picture on a friend’s Facebook page recently, and it really got me thinking… I try to buy organic fruits and vegetables, especially when they appear on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list (for those of you who are not familiar, I will outline the top perpetrators of toxins later in this post). However, it gets harder when I see “non-organic” (doesn’t that ring of irony) banana for $0.49 a pound next to their organic counterparts for over a dollar a pound.

Since the processed and treated foods typically have a longer lifespan (I am thinking of an episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer and gang watch their whole foods rot in front of their eyes as they scrounge enough money to pay the $800 grocery bill). This alone makes buying the non-organic items more appealing.

When did our culture deviate from wholesome homemade (and homegrown) foods to processed convenience foods, and produce chalked full of harmful chemicals? What has happened over the past couple of generations?

For one, a lot of families are composed of two working parents, making the convenience of grocery store foods a must have. Secondly, farmers who use pesticides and chemicals on their crops have a larger percentage of plants to sell to their distributors since their foods are not falling ill with disease or being eaten by birds and animals. Their foods also last longer- and can be harvested more months out of the year- due to these measures.

Lastly- it’s where we choose to live. With today’s condo culture and aptitude towards apartments, gardens and farms has been pushed to the side for urban living and… convenience. However, with some pre-planning, us urbanites can still  enjoy whole(some) foods without spending our whole paycheck (if you get my drift…). And, even if you are like me and have a large backyard, the idea of gardening is daunting. For Heaven’s sake, I have killed not one- but two- bamboo plants! I have a brown thumb.

I always vowed to myself that I would be the epitome of health from the moment I found out I was with child. Then reality set in. Nothing but hamburgers and french fries would suffice. And this was from the gal who’s usually the salad and smoothie type (my husband loved my sudden transformation when I was incubating our son). Well, after failing to eat all organic produce and dairy products while pregnant, I told myself that our son would NOT ingest a single pesticide or chemical until he was 34. That did not last too long, because he ended up on formula by six-months of age due to my temperamental supply. I once had a nightmare that my child was born with two heads, and that our pediatrician blamed it on my diet. Aren’t pregnancy dreams the best? :)

Ever since my baby started eating items other than milk, I have stood fast to my promise to make homemade baby food. I have become the Princess of Pureeing and the Buttress of Blending. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, I walk by the aisles of pre-made stuff and laugh under my breath, “I have an entire shelf in my freezer full of this stuff”.

Even with the best intentions, I have caught myself buying the frozen peas that are on sale, and the non-organic carrots for my son’s food. I feel badly about this, but I feel that as long as I try my hardest to provide him with clean, fresh, and wholesome homemade foods he will be just fine.

The good news is that even if you live in an apartment on a limited budget, and can’t keep a simple houseplant alive, you can still enjoy fresh, organic produce without spending your life savings!

“Hang” around for some ideas to include fresh foods in your diet
  • Farmers markets: Visit http://www.localharvest.org/ to find one in your area. Season permiting, you can stock up on fresh produce each week and support your local harvesters. Win-win.
  • Co-ops: Think of this as new school bartering. Perhaps you can barter your magnificent muffins for eggs and garden grown bell peppers.
  • Garden within your constraints. I can personally attest that even those with the brownest thumb (eh-hem) can grow tomatoes on their balconies with the help of a hand-dandy hanging planter. I have kept balcony-sized herb gardens in the past, and the herb planters from the supermarket can last for quite a while with some TLC. 
  • Shop sales- the weekly circulars are your best friend… coupon… and watch daily deal websites for special offers to Whole Foods, or other natural grocers.

No matter how devout you are in your quest to provide fresh foods to your family, just remember that every bit helps. With some love, nurture, and meal planning you can provide nutrition to your family in any quantity. Every positive effort has a measurable result.

As promised earlier in this post, here is a list of the “Dirty Dozen”, straight from the Environmental Working Group:

Dirty Dozen
Buy these organic: 
  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes (imported)
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Potatoes (this one especially shocked me)
  10. Blueberries (domestic)
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/collard greens

 Clean 15

Lowest in Pesticide
  1. Onions 
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Mangos
  8. Eggplant
  9. Cantaloupe (domestic)
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage 
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet Potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms
Cheers to healthy eating and happy families!