Buy this, not that – How to save money on buying organic – Green is Universal Eco Eats Challenge

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I learned how to cook mostly from my mom who is an excellent cook. She won many cooking awards in the past and has taught me some of those winning recipes. But it was both my parents who taught me how to shop for certain grocery items for a certain recipe. I learned from them the different kinds of root vegetables and what seasons the harvest will most likely produce. I learned that not all apples taste the same nor do they yield the same results when cooked. And I learned among many other things, that buying the right produce at the peak of the season is the secret to a successful and delicious recipe.

Many years ago, before the USDA regulated the use of the term “organic” for any product, most of the food found in grocery stores were either from locally-grown farms or were mass manufactured products that were genetically-modified for faster production.  Local farmers who didn’t spray their crop with chemical pesticides were lucky enough to have their products sold at supermarkets without having to compete with the bigger companies. Only problem was, produce that came from locally-grown farms were extremely expensive and hard to find. And most of the time, you’d have to get them right when they’re being delivered or they were sold out or couldn’t stay fresh because there were no chemical preservations used.

But farmers markets have been around for a long time, and I remembered going to the local farmers markets with my mom and helping her pick out the freshest produce available. It was there that I also learned about what real and fresh produce were all about and I could instantly taste the difference between produce that were ripened in the store and produce ripened on the tree.

My parents also grow their own vegetables and fruits and they don’t use any kind of toxic chemicals on the produce or in the ground. It was quite convenient for us to go to the backyard and snip off some green beans or pluck some apples and pears for that night’s dinner. For me, homegrown fruits and vegetables seemed like the perfect answer to eating healthier. But as years went by, and people became more aware of the importance of eating better, organic and pesticide-free products started showing up more readily in supermarkets.

However, organic and locally-grown produce can still be moderately expensive, depending on where you shop. And where you buy your produce and dry goods is crucial in how much you’ll end up spending on organic food. If you want to start buying more organic food or just starting out, your best choices in organic produce are the natural food stores or farmers markets. However, if you don’t have any of those nearby, then here are some tips in buying organic at supermarkets.

 

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Supermarkets back in the day rarely carried organic and all-natural food and products and if they did, it was very limited and very expensive. Nowadays, whenever I visit my local supermarket, I can see most of them dedicating a certain section called “natural” and “organic” where only natural and organic products are sold. Cheers for them for thinking more abou their health conscious customers. So how do you choose where to shop for the best value and the best selection of organic and natural products? Well, you can start by looking at the ads produced by the store you regularly shop at. Most every market will have their own store circular either mailed to you, online, or available in their stores. If you want the best prices and selections in organic produce, then take a look at their ads. Decide which organic produce you need for that day or week and compare between the different markets. You’ll probably find them competitively priced nowadays but that’s good news for us since we want to save a ton of money when we’re buying all or mostly organic products. After you’ve made your list of what organic produce you want to buy, then list the other organic or all-natural products such as dry goods, snacks, drinks, etc. Once again, look at your stores circular and find out if the product you want is listed or on sale. If they aren’t listed, go online and you’ll most likely find a “secret” ad that is available only online. Very tricky of these markets, but they’re also hoping you’d buy their groceries online as well.

The next step in saving even more money on organic and natural products is using coupons. Where do you find coupons for organic and natural products, you say? Well, most likely you’ll find them from the companies direct websites. Many of them offer coupons for their products if you sign up for their newsletter or simply just visiting their website.  Otherwise, you can always give them a call or send them an email requesting some coupons. Organic and natural product companies love hearing from people who want to buy their products so most of them are more than willing to send you coupons. If you use their coupons, then you’ll most likely end up buying more, right?

There are also several stores(smaller natural grocery stores and mass supermarkets) that offer store coupons instead of manufacture coupons and most of them will allow you to “stack” coupons – which means even more money saved! These stores include Whole Foods Market, Sprouts Farmers Market, Henry’s Farmers Market, Mother’s Market, and even certain supermarkets that carry a wide selection of organic and natural products. The bottom line is that these markets, whether small or big, want to try to appeal to a wide array of customers and since organic and natural products are becoming more popular, they want to lure their customers into their stores with money-saving opportunities. With the economy the way it is right now, it’s a win-win situation for the farmers and manufacturers, the markets, and the consumers.

Buying organic and natural products and food takes some practice because you can always go to the most convenient store nearby, but you may not be getting  the best price. Of course, if you have to drive 20 miles just to get organic grapes for 10 cents cheaper, then it’s probably not worth the gas money unless you’re planning on buying other things. Get to know your local supermarkets as well as the natural food stores and soon enough you’ll know where to get the freshest produce at the best price.

The key is to know what you’re buying, why you’re buying it, and then have fun shopping for them! When you buy organic and natural products, your body will thank you and your planet will reap the benefits as well. By eating organic produce as much as possible, you’re ensuring that your body doesn’t contain toxic chemicals that can store  inside your system for a long time and those with fragile immune systems (for whatever reasons) or young children especially need to eat more organic foods. Organic products also help the environment in that the farms and manufacturers uses sustainable methods to help improve the conditions of  the environment and in long-term health, the less toxic chemicals in your body, the better.

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If you’re interested in joining a revolutionary journey to a healthier lifestyle, check out NBC’s Green is Universal One Small Act Eco Eats Challenge. There are many challenges and goals you can join and they are all fairly easy. Anything from how to buy organic produce from the EWG’s Dirty Dozen guide: https://onesmallact.practicallygreen.com/acts/400, to choosing a healthier on the go meal: https://onesmallact.practicallygreen.com/acts/624, and to composting kitchen waste: https://onesmallact.practicallygreen.com/acts/427. We all can achieve something for the better no matter how small the task. Only we can make our bodies and planet healthier. Only we can make that choice for us.

From September 2- October 17, NBC’s Green is Universal One Small Act is also hosting a sweepstakes when you join the “Eco Eats” challenge . To join, visit their free green-living tool, One Small Act. Everyone who signs-up and tackles at least one action by October 17th will be entered to win one of five 6-month subscriptions to NatureBox. No Purchase Necessary. Must be US resident and 18+. Read official rules here.

Disclaimer: In exchange for participating in the challenge and writing this post, I was given a gift package from Green is Universal. All opinions here are still my own.

Disclaimer: The product(s)were sent to the author for review by the manufacturer/PR. All reviews on “Happymomblogger” remain unbiased and unpaid and are the sole decision of the author. The opinions of these product(s) were not influenced in any way, shape, or form. As always, please read the ingredients carefully when trying new products.

Please read the labels and ingredients carefully and follow all manufacturer’s instructions (if any). The products selected for the giveaway were generously donated by the companies/PR to help readers learn more about their products. The winner’s choice in using/consuming these products are entirely up to the winner and will not hold the author and her family liable nor the companies/PR liable. These products are made with non-toxic ingredients but always be safe with what you use and consume.

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Top 10 Reasons to Choose Organic

I didn’t always know that organic food and products were beneficial to my body and to the earth. When I was growing up, I just ate whatever my parents cooked and indulged in the occassional junk food now and then. My parents came from families who used only natural ingredients in their food and they avoided using chemical pesticides on their fruit trees and vegetable gardens. They themselves, coming from an older generation didn’t know that the term “organic” nowadays mean food and products are not chemically treated and that they are better for the environment and for the bodies. And that’s because food many years ago were not so harshly genetically modified and chemically processed and treated. In a sense, food back then were innocent and more pure.

But with the population and the economy growing throughout the years and scientists and companies wanting to produce more products at a faster pace to meet the demands of the consumer, food became less innocent and pure. The normal foods you put on your plate were getting genetically altered to be bigger but not necessarily tastier, the crops sprayed with chemicals for longer preservation, and our planet depleting in natural resources. People were no longer living green and trying to build a better future for their next generations. It isn’t easy trying to be green all the time or trying to buy organic everything, but here is a list taken from organic.org on the reasons to go organic. And perhaps as we learn along the way, we can help ourselves become healthier, smarter, and happier.

1. Reduce The Toxic Load: Keep Chemicals Out of the Air, Water, Soil and our Bodies
Buying organic food promotes a less toxic environment for all living things. With only 0.5 percent of crop and pasture land in organic, according to USDA that leaves 99.5 percent of farm acres in the U.S. at risk of exposure to noxious agricultural chemicals.

Our bodies are the environment so supporting organic agriculture doesn’t just benefit your family, it helps all families live less toxically.

2. Reduce if Not Eliminate Off Farm Pollution
Industrial agriculture doesn’t singularly pollute farmland and farm workers; it also wreaks havoc on the environment downstream. Pesticide drift affects non-farm communities with odorless and invisible poisons. Synthetic fertilizer drifting downstream is the main culprit for dead zones in delicate ocean environments, such as the Gulf of Mexico, where its dead zone is now larger than 22,000 square kilometers, an area larger than New Jersey, according to Science magazine, August, 2002.

3. Protect Future Generations
Before a mother first nurses her newborn, the toxic risk from pesticides has already begun. Studies show that infants are exposed to hundreds of harmful chemicals in utero. In fact, our nation is now reaping the results of four generations of exposure to agricultural and industrial chemicals, whose safety was deemed on adult tolerance levels, not on children’s. According to the National Academy of Science, “neurologic and behavioral effects may result from low-level exposure to pesticides.” Numerous studies show that pesticides can adversely affect the nervous system, increase the risk of cancer, and decrease fertility.

4. Build Healthy Soil
Mono-cropping and chemical fertilizer dependency has taken a toll with a loss of top soil estimated at a cost of $40 billion per year in the U.S., according to David Pimental of Cornell University. Add to this an equally disturbing loss of micro nutrients and minerals in fruits and vegetables. Feeding the soil with organic matter instead of ammonia and other synthetic fertilizers has proven to increase nutrients in produce, with higher levels of vitamins and minerals found in organic food, according to the 2005 study, “Elevating Antioxidant levels in food through organic farming and food processing,” Organic Center State of Science Review (1.05)

5. Taste Better and Truer Flavor
Scientists now know what we eaters have known all along: organic food often tastes better. It makes sense that strawberries taste yummier when raised in harmony with nature, but researchers at Washington State University just proved this as fact in lab taste trials where the organic berries were consistently judged as sweeter. Plus, new research verifies that some organic produce is often lower in nitrates and higher in antioxidants than conventional food. Let the organic feasting begin!

6. Assist Family Farmers of all Sizes
According to Organic Farming Research Foundation, as of 2006 there are approximately 10,000 certified organic producers in the U.S. compared to 2500 to 3,000 tracked in 1994. Measured against the two million farms estimated in the U.S. today, organic is still tiny. Family farms that are certified organic farms have a double economic benefit: they are profitable and they farm in harmony with their surrounding environment. Whether the farm is a 4-acre orchard or a 4,000-acre wheat farm, organic is a beneficial practice that is genuinely family-friendly.

7. Avoid Hasty and Poor Science in Your Food
Cloned food. GMOs and rBGH. Oh my! Interesting how swiftly these food technologies were rushed to market, when organic fought for 13 years to become federal law. Eleven years ago, genetically modified food was not part of our food supply; today an astounding 30 percent of our cropland is planted in GMOs. Organic is the only de facto seal of reassurance against these and other modern, lab-produced additions to our food supply, and the only food term with built in inspections and federal regulatory teeth.

8. Eating with a Sense of Place
Whether it is local fruit, imported coffee or artisan cheese, organic can demonstrate a reverence for the land and its people. No matter the zip code, organic has proven to use less energy (on average, about 30 percent less), is beneficial to soil, water and local habitat, and is safer for the people who harvest our food. Eat more seasonably by supporting your local farmers market while also supporting a global organic economy year round. It will make your taste buds happy.

9. Promote Biodiversity
Visit an organic farm and you’ll notice something: a buzz of animal, bird and insect activity. These organic oases are thriving, diverse habitats. Native plants, birds and hawks return usually after the first season of organic practices; beneficial insects allow for a greater balance, and indigenous animals find these farms a safe haven. As best said by Aldo Leopold, “A good farm must be one where the native flora and fauna have lost acreage without losing their existence.” An organic farm is the equivalent of reforestation. Industrial farms are the equivalent of clear cutting of native habitat with a focus on high farm yields.

10. Celebrate the Culture of Agriculture
Food is a ‘language’ spoken in every culture. Making this language organic allows for an important cultural revolution whereby diversity and biodiversity are embraced and chemical toxins and environmental harm are radically reduced, if not eliminated. The simple act of saving one heirloom seed from extinction, for example, is an act of biological and cultural conservation. Organic is not necessarily the most efficient farming system in the short run. It is slower, harder, more complex and more labor-intensive. But for the sake of culture everywhere, from permaculture to human culture, organic should be celebrated at every table.