Having lived in the Bay Area for the last several years, and in areas close to the heart of the “organic, local food movement,” it’s been hard at times to not feel guilty when I buy “regular” apples as opposed to organic, and do so on many other food items as well (such as dairy products, bread, etc.). When the organic versions of these foods, however, are on sale at a price that is identical to or cheaper than the regular version, I will happily purchase them.
A major part of this purchasing decision is our income. We lived this past year on roughly $40,000 in an area that’s considered to be one of the more expensive areas of the US to live. This includes saving a little bit of money as well as funding retirement, and right now, we have very little “extra” room to even have a regular clothing budget. Thankfully, we have no debt, which makes this easier, but when it comes to food, we have felt that at this point it’s better to cook from scratch as much as possible and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables in order to save some money in our budget, but not to stress out because we can’t afford the “organic” version. In my mind, it’s better to eat apples and cheese or peanut butter for a snack than Cheetos, even if they are non-organic versions.
Mark Bittman, a food columnist at the New York Times, wrote about this same issue in an article this week. I would encourage people struggling with this dilemma to read it as well. To me, the basic gist of the article was that while organic can be good for you, the term itself doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a food is really good for you. Take “organic Oreos,” for example, points out Bittman. Or consider that the average American gets more of their calories from soft drinks than they do from vegetables. To Bittman, as well as to myself, this makes eating “organically” a secondary issue when it comes to a healthy lifestyle.