How to Start Going Organic

You know it's better for you, but you're not sure where to start.

August 25, 2015
two women shopping for produce
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Want to hear something gross? There are more than 600 chemicals currently registered for agricultural use in the United States, and billions of pounds of these chemicals are used on produce each year—working out to about 16 pounds per person per year. The real kicker: Most of these chemicals weren't subject to extensive testing before being deemed safe. A pretty compelling case for eating organic, isn't it?

While you don't have to eat strictly organic, buying organic (or from small local farmers and producers who you know don't use chemicals) whenever possible is a very good idea.

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Per the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), organic produce:
• Must be grown on land that has been free of all banned fertilizers and pesticides for the past three years
• Has never been fertilized with sewage sludge (treated human waste) or chemical pesticides and fertilizers
• Has never been treated with irradiation to kill bacteria
• Has not been grown from genetically modified seeds.

When it comes to processed organic foods, USDA organic certification prohibits them from containing artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors and requires that the product be made up of 95 percent organic content. If the label says "contains organic ingredients," it must be 70 percent organic. Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, as well as packaged foods, on the other hand, have often been grown from low-nutrient soils and come into contact with pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and sewage sludge.

Try It: Eating clean has never been tastier or easier!

Now that you know why you should eat organic, you may still be balking over the cost. It's true, organic is more expensive, but there are ways to get your hands on the good stuff without all the stress on your wallet. Here are 5 money-saving strategies:

1. Shop at your regular grocery store. You don't have to start shopping at a high-end market or natural foods store to get organic foods. Chain stores like Target, Walmart, Costco, Safeway, and Kroger all carry their own reasonably priced lines of organic foods.

2. Buy in bulk. Organic oats, brown rice, dried beans, nuts, and seeds are usually cheaper in bulk because you're avoiding all that packaging. To figure out just how much you'll save—and if it's worth it—compare the unit price of bulk and individually packaged items.

More: 4 Stores for Cheaper Organic Food

3. Enjoy in-season produce. Locally grown, in-season fruits and vegetables are cheaper, since there are essentially no transportation costs. Bonus: Eating seasonally forces you to switch things up in the kitchen and ensures that you're getting a variety of health-boosting nutrients.

4. Consider a CSA. Buying shares of a local farm's yield through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) means that in return for your financial support of the farm, you get a weekly box of fresh produce. These collectives are great for your wallet and community.

More: Is Organic Healthier? The Answer Is Yes

5. Eat less meat. While lean animal proteins are certainly a healthy component of clean eating, they are one of the most expensive organic foods you can buy. Consider eating a few meatless meals each week to save on costs. Experiment with delicious organic plant-based recipes featuring vegetarian proteins like tempeh, lentils, and chickpeas.

Adapted from Eat Clean Stay Lean