How not to buy organic


I wish I had my camera. It was a fantastic photo opportunity, although I'm not so sure that the lady in line in front of me at the grocery store would have been so keen on the idea.

Tonight I saw firsthand a perfect example of how not to buy organic food. What, you say??? This, coming from the one who lectures us on nutritious food? Don't worry, I'm still the same health-conscious, alfalfa and brewer's yeast eating gal I've always been (that one was for you, my darling Mrs.S).

The vision I saw before me tonight was of a cart, piled high with expensive foods, covered in labels that screamed "I'm organic, I must be good for you!". The total of the woman's cart came to (get ready for this)… $300!

The amount of food in that cart would not have sufficiently, nor nutritiously fed my small family for two weeks, yet it comes close to our entire grocery/household/toiletries budget for the month (ok, ok, she had some laundry soap and toilet paper in there, too).

So what did she buy? Organic sodas, organic chips, organic canned soups, organic frozen juice, organic freezer food (looked like special fries or gyozas or something), organic milk and a brand of cereal that is marketed as being healthy (it's not). There were a few other items, but quite honestly, it didn't amount to a whole lot of real, fill your tummy, nourish your body kind of food.

Organic or not, the kind of food that I want to spend my husband's hard earned dollars on is unsprayed produce grown in nutrient rich soils, grass-fed beef and free-range poultry and eggs, clean and pure raw milk and cheeses and butter, whole grains like spelt and oats and barley and quinoa. I still care about organic, if I can buy it for a reasonable price above another similar (but not organic) item.

But when it comes down to it, let's not kid ourselves. Packaged and processed food, by any other name- even organic!- is still just packaged and processed food. Wise consumers know true value when they see it, and are not fooled by gimicky advertising and trendy words. Know where your food is coming from, and what's it's true value proposition is. Is the nutrient content higher? Are you being protected from chemicals, additives, and sprays? And most importantly, is it real food, whole food that will nourish your body and not just empty your pocketbook? Then that's how you know when to buy organic.

Originally posted December, 2007.

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. I love that – packaged foods are still packaged/processed foods – organic or not.

    Honestly, I have not bought into the whole organic thing .. yet. No one has sold me on it. I challenge you.

    I’m a overweight American (born in Canada, however) that does all the wrong things but tries ones a year to overcome her worst habit – not taking care of her health.

    I even bought the Lake House cookbook by Trudy Styler (Sting’s wife) – beautiful pictures.. plus I love Sting.

    Temptation overwhelms me.

  2. I agree with the previous commenters who mention that she may be doing the best she can. Of course we’d all like mothers to be of the stay-at-home variety, but for mothers that work a job or two and are far too busy to cook from-scratch meals, annie’s mac n cheese might be a life saver. It’s certainly more nutritious than fast food or the non-organic variety (and annie’s mac has more “real food” value than kraft). I’m glad to have those options, myself.

  3. I remember when you first posted this. It’s so true, that’s not they way to buy organic, if it can be helped. :-)

  4. Another good example why educating oneself is so important. And, it isn’t all that ladies fault; marketers play a HUGE role. Also, she may have come from a family who ate out all the time (I work with a gal like that) and she has no idea how to cook from scratch so in her mind, eating processed foods at home is cheaper and probably healthier than eating out every night.

  5. Amen, sista.

  6. I agree with a previous poster who reminded us to be mindful of people who actually are trying to feed their families “healthfully” with the knowledge that they have (or don’t). While those foods that you mentioned filling her cart were much more expensive and less nutritious than other, whole-food choices, it is still better, processed and all, than many other processed choices she could be making. While I do work really hard to keep our budget trimmed (which means purchasing as many whole foods as possible and preparing most of our food myself), there are times when a little convenience goes a long way towards keeping our home running smoothly and maintaining peace. In those moments, a box of “organic” mac and cheese comes in quite handy and I’m not embarrassed to put a few in my cart now and then. While I KNOW that it is an inferior choice to my own homemade mac and cheese (made with whole grain pasta, raw milk, pastured eggs and raw cheese), it is a far superior choice to regular boxed items (simply due to what’s NOT in it as opposed to the “organic” ingredients that ARE in it) or, even worse, fast food.
    Fortunately my family is in a stage where I can devote a good amount of time to planning and cooking good, healthful meals using mostly whole foods. But I would not hesitate to opt for a slightly “healthier” alternative to convenience foods if we were to go through a time when that was not possible.
    I do understand that the point of your post is just that we should not rely on these products or deceive ourselves that they are “healthy”, but there are times when they are the best you can do and I’ll be glad in those times to have options.

  7. I saw the organic macaroni in the store the other day for the first time and had a good laugh over it. I can’t wait until I see Organic Hamburger Helper — I may actually fall down laughing with that one :-)

    God bless,
    Sallie

  8. I think it is really important to recognize that marketing techniques often tout things that are “healthy” or “100%”, when in actuality, these labels are a bit deceiving.

    Yet, I think we need to be careful with how we look at other people. I have caught myself looking at many carts at the grocery store thinking – “with that kind of diet how is that person still alive” or “wow, they must not know how to save money.” But I have to catch myself. Many times people are doing the best they know how. We should do our best to encourage their efforts.

    It’s funny how we are the hardest on people who are really trying. Even though she still has a lot to learn, it is clear that the lady in front of you is trying. A lot of people have never been educated in what true health really is. Many people have busied and rushed life styles and the kind of meals you mentioned are a huge step up from continual fast food. I’m not condoning having a life that is that busy, but it is important that we meet people where they are, and remember the long and patient process that God has been working in our own lives.

  9. So true! Great post.

  10. fullheartandhandsmama, I’ve actually saved your comment in order to write a post to answer your questions in the New Year. Thanks for the excellent questions!

    Mrs.Taft, I agree with you. If I do happen to be buying something packaged, and the organic version is available and affordable, I will get it (tortilla chips for instance- Costco sells a great brand of organic ones for a very reasonable price- when I get chips, I get these ones!).

    I see no problem with doing this sometimes- in fact, it’s great to use organic rather than conventional products when we can, as it reduces our consumption of sprays, hormones, etc. The issue I have with it is when people continue to eat processed foods, but simply switch over to those ones that happen to be organic. Perhaps their intention is to eat healthier (and they are, in a very small way), but they are actually missing the major elements of healthy eating- fresh, unprocessed foods in their natural state, full of nutrients to nourish our bodies (which is what it sounds like you are doing!).

    And, yes, I’d rather support that market, too. The more consumer support there is for foods that are organically grown, the more farmers will change their methods, which will benefit the environment, make organic foods more available, and ultimately make these foods more affordable as well! Excellent point!

  11. I don’t really buy a lot of processed food period, but I admit that if I do, I buy the organic version. :) I’d rather support that market than the other one if I’m going to toss money toward something quick. So yeah, we have mac n’ cheese from a box occasionally and we also buy “luncheon” meats that are natural and preservative-free once a paycheck. We also like Pirate’s Booty and organic tortilla chips. :) But…most of our food is homemade, so I don’t really sweat it too much :) I prefer my “crap” organic :D

  12. Excellent point. I’d rather my children have nonorganic whole foods over organic processed foods anyday. Though, in a pinch, I have no problem with the occasional organic processed food. It is all about balance.

    Also, do you think you could show a sample weekly menu that is budget friendly? And, any advice for those of us whose husbands aren’t quite as commited to eating so naturally?

  13. VERY good point. I’m also puzzled by people who fork out lots of money for processed foods, organic or not! I occassionally buy organic mac and cheese or soups for easy lunches, but that’s about it! It’s no wonder things like diabetes, obesity, etc are on the rise in this country!

  14. I so know what you are talking about! A lot of that “healthy” prepackaged food is junk! Its just a lot more expensive to buy! :-)

  15. Great point!