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Friday, May 3, 2013

How to Be Awesome at Buying Organic

We've been trying to eat healthier lately, and I don't mean lower carbs or fewer Calories.  I mean really healthier.  Like, cutting out highly processed foods, artificial dyes, preservatives, and eating more natural food.

You would think it would be easy to eat "real food."  Just get the basics and make meals from that.  That would be incorrect.  It's not just about getting basic food instead of processed food.  If you start looking into this stuff, you start hearing all the horror stories about pesticides, GMO's, chemical fertilizers, artificial growth hormones, and on and on until you are convinced that the spaghetti sauce you ate for dinner will cause your spleen to leak out of your nose and your brain to shrivel into a Craisin.

Also, you start to realize that a lot of the "basic" foods grown or made without all that artificial stuff aren't even sold in most stores anymore.  You have to go to specialty stores, which are a lot like jewelry stores.  They are out of the way.  They employ snooty sales clerks. There is no logical thought process to the layout of their store, and above all, the prices are exactly the same.  Just with fewer diamonds and more kombucha.

I really don't like going into these stores.  I always feel like people are judging me for not being organic enough.  It's like they can tell I got my jeans at Target instead of macraming them myself out of hemp.

(And yes, I looked up how to conjugate the verb 'to macrame.'  Apparently spell check does not believe me, but it's true.  Look here.)

So I compiled a list to help those of you who might want to visit an organic-type store in the near future.  These are the steps I follow, pretty much to the letter.  Hope it helps!

Step 1:  Drive at least 45 minutes to your nearest health food store.

They do not make these close to anyone.  Even people living next door to one must drive 30 minutes away before driving 30 minutes back.  It's a rule.

Step 2:  Bring your own reusable bags.

They have public floggings for people who forget them.

Step 3:  Choose 5 to 8 things you wish to purchase.

You can't afford more than that.  That's why they have the super tiny carts.

Step 4:  Spend at least 30 minutes wandering the aisles looking at all the crazy stuff.

Three-fourths of the things they carry, you have never seen before.  You will say things like, "Huh.  I didn't know you could just rub a rock under your arm instead of using deodorant."

PROTIP:  Skip this step if you want to look like an expert.  It's really hard, though.

Step 5:  Go up to cashier.  Give this person all your money.

It doesn't matter what you boughtGive them all of it.

Step 6:  Return home.  Enjoy your $20 smoothie.

I did learn that true organic produce has a special code on its sticker, (you know, those sneaky little things, apparently made with airplane glue, that you never find until you start chewing), so look for a five-digit code that starts with a nine.  Otherwise, it's totally an impostor.

Also, if you're like me and have trouble figuring out how you can afford to buy organic, short of giving up electricity and possibly indoor plumbing, you can just buy organic for the "Dirty Dozen."  Those are the twelve fruits and vegetables that usually have the highest concentration of pesticide residue on them.  I keep a little print-out in my purse because for the life of me, I can never remember which ones are on the list.  Here's one you can use.  It also has the "Clean Fifteen" list of fruits and veggies that are the safest to buy at Walmart (or wherever you shop).


I like it because the foods on the left are all sad, or maybe they're just dripping with pesticides, and the papaya is apparently singing an opera with the avocado.  Also, that sweet potato is so adorable it makes me want to go buy one and take it for walks.

Buying local is another good way to get healthier, cleaner food.  I'm so excited that market season is starting up!  I also started ordering produce boxes from Freshfully a month or so ago, and I love it!  I get a local organic box, so I know it's all clean, and it is a fun surprise to see what I get each time.  One time I got a dozen eggs, and this week, I got local cheese!  I even got bok choy one time, which was fun, because I would never have picked it up on my own, but it was pretty good!

Lastly, just because a store is known for carrying healthy, organic food, that does not mean that all its produce is organic, so make sure you check.  Maybe it's just my pesticide-addled Craisin-brain, but I seriously bought stuff at Whole Foods for weeks before I realized that not everything they carry is organic.  Come on.  I can't be the only one.


  1. Thanks for the Freshfully shout out! We had the same problems shopping, and that's we gave up and just started our own store. :D

    1. Well, I'm so glad you did! It's so convenient and such great quality food! I love it!

  2. I love this! Especially the craisin brain and the verb conjugation (you are such a boss)! Having been a clerk for Whole Foods for nigh unto a decade (she types while recoiling in horror) I will say that the snotty ones are sprinkled throughout every store, but most of us could give a fig what people are buying. And you are so right that not everything in those stores is organic or remotely good for you! Just because you took the high fructose corn syrup out (and we're glad you did) and replaced it with cane sugar doesn't make that fake Oreo "healthy" - Newman's Own I'm looking at you! You still have to read labels and make good choices if you want to avoid brain melt and craisin status. Keep up the good blogging and the healthy eating love!

    1. Yeah, I should have qualified that not ALL their employees are snooty. Actually the two people I talked to yesterday at Whole Foods were super nice and helpful, even though I was so nervous asking where the cranberry sauce was (because I thought maybe it was a health food no-no, and they would scoff at me. Scoff, I tell you!)that I stuttered to the point where I think the lady thought I had special needs. She was super nice about it though. :o)

  3. This is both entertaining AND extremely helpful/practical. Maybe I'll just make a trek up to Earth Fare sometime soon (well, after I drive there and back home, and then there again to make sure I make the 45 minute time requirement) ;)

    1. By the way, those two things were exactly what I was going for, so thanks! That makes me happy! :o)

  4. Great post - I totally get the "no where near my house" thing! Living in NW Indiana was utterly frustrating in this aspect - Whole Foods had a warehouse RIGHT THERE, but the nearest store was all the way in downtown Chicago.

    The dirty dozen sheet is cute, but don't forget about GMOs, too! Corn and papaya may be "safe" to buy non-organic, but they are very likely to be GMO if they are not organic. If the PLU starts with an 8, it is GMO. To be honest, though - I don't ever remember to look at the number.

    1. You're absolutely right! I forgot about the PLU for GMO's! So much to remember!