Save vs. Splurge: Organic Foods

What first comes to mind when you hear the word “organic”? Expensive, natural, healthy, perhaps?

Contrary to belief, organic food isn’t free of chemicals and pesticides. However, organic food contains chemicals made from natural sources, since protection is still needed from bugs and bacteria.

The Downfall of Buying Organic

While buying organic food seems better for the environment and your body, your wallet will take a hit. Brenda Eissenstat, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Professor here at Penn State, sees this trend often. “Organic is more expensive, and when you’re looking at the cost of fruits and vegetables as they are, when you make them more expensive, there’s the risk that people are going to eat fewer of them,” says Eissenstat. If you’re on a budget (what college kid isn’t) you want to save your money, making the choice of purchasing organic food less likely.

Money shouldn’t have to be a factor when making the decision to buy organic or regular food. Here are a few quick ways to know where to save, and where to splurge on organic food.


“The Dirty Dozen”

This phrase describes the 12 produce that are very important to buy organic, because they contain the most pesticides on its surface. These produce are apples, strawberries, celery, cucumbers, sweet bell peppers, hot peppers, peaches, grapes, spinach, regular potatoes, nectarines, and tomatoes.

“The Clean Fifteen”

Don’t worry- you don’t need to buy everything organic to cut the amount of pesticides you consume. The “Clean Fifteen” are 15 items of regular produce that hold the least amount of pesticides; this is where you’ll save money. They include asparagus, avocado, cabbage, cantaloupe, corn, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangos, mushrooms, onions, papayas, pineapples, frozen sweet peas, and sweet potatoes.

Note: a great rule of thumb: if you have to eat the outside skin, buy it organic!


Meats and dairy are sold a bit differently; and if you’re willing to splurge, definitely try to purchase as much of these items as you can organically. The importance of buying meats and dairy organic is due to the hormones the feed the animals to grow faster- those aren’t something you want to put in your body!

When it comes to dairy, Professor Eissenstat always chooses organic, and not just because “it makes better lattes”! “There are some compounds that are used in maintaining the health of the herds of dairy cows. You have a little more control over that with organic milk” says Eissenstat.

If you can’t make the switch to buying organic, the next best thing would be to purchase produce local. Eissenstat says that not only is it cheaper (because you don’t have to transport it), but it is often fresher. This makes the nutrition value higher!

Now that you know where to splurge and save, shop right and save your wallet (and your health) from the heartache!


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