As though a significant increase in the levels of pesticide residue in our fruits, vegetables, grains and a spike in the use of synthetic food colorants, artificial sugars, emulsifiers and stabilizers of questionable origin was not bad enough to cause us loss of health and sleep, the FDA has now made it official that it is perfectly safe to consume genetically engineered (GMO) apples and potato causing a spate of debates among those who care what we put on our plates and how it puts our children at risk. It is almost frustrating to see how less the big food corporations muscle their way through approvals for the sake of business cash with average consumers having little power or say in the matter.
With most economies going through a belt-tightening phase given the worldwide economic recession, loss of jobs, limping healthcare services, it is more important than ever before to invest in ourselves. For these stressful times can be waded out if we are healthy, eating less cheap junk and keeping fit with good food and staying active. Yet it seems almost ironical that with more people out of jobs and having lesser to spend, it would be not be wiser to eat cheap (and unfortunately unhealthy till better times come).
We see it differently and here is why we think consuming better quality foods (read, locally or naturally grown, without being hosed with pesticides or processed adding several synthetic ingredients to the finished product) might be a smarter choice in the medium and long run:
- Organic foods are by virtue of their very nature healthier and less dangerous to human health than GMO foods or those plants and animals meant to be used as food exposed to high levels of antibiotics, hormones and pesticides.
- Consumption of certain ‘chemicalized’ or engineered foods that have already entered our food chain shows that such foods leave material behind in our bodies that will give to long term problems. This is especially true for foods like soy.
- We do not know the long terms effects of GMO foods on our bodies. Some studies have suggested that such foods contaminate our gene pool for longer than nuclear pollutants.
- Reports, even if they are backed by enough research that say it is unsafe to consume artificial foods are generally suppressed by big corps in their business interest.
- In case of GMO foods, when genes are inserted into the plant seed to make a GM breed, the after effect of such human interventional process creates new carcinogens, allergens and toxins within the plant. It also rips the food of a fair number of it’s nutritive components.
- Organic and non-GMO foods are ‘friendlier’ for our environment as they use no synthetic chemicals that seep back into our soil and water sources while growing.
However, we must understand that there exists a more significant difference between the goodness of organic and non-organic in case of certain foods more than others. Such foods include potatoes, apples, celery, spinach, bell peppers, kale and berries. While for other foods the difference organic and otherwise may not be that wide like it is so for melons, mangoes, corn (grown with pesticides but not GMO corn), eggplants etc.
So clearly, we do not want to douse our bodies with unknown synthetics that come with potentially horrible side-effects. Even if there are 3 studies out there that point to the adverseness of such foods against seven that say it is safe to consume such foods, most of us would like to err on the side of safety. Having said this, we already know how expensive organic is. Strolling through the shelves of any store that offers organic greens, produce and dairy alongside conventional variants it is easy to notice a two to four-fold difference in prices. In times of tighter budgets, this may not seem like a good idea. Luckily there are ways in which we could have the organic benefit without overstepping out monthly household bottom-line. Here are 10 easy ways to be money savvy while buying organic:
- Buy organic foods that are not packaged but are available loose and by weight. Packaging costs form of a good portion of final price a consumer has to pay for no added value to the food being purchased and consumed. Buying by the weight can be done for salad foods like lettuce, celery, cabbage, cucumbers, carrots etc. It can also be done for whole grains and dry fruits like almonds, walnuts etc.
- Choose organic foods that are whole, unprocessed or raw. Foods that are made available in parts such as cleaned chicken breast only, thigh only, are more expensive. Buying here by the pound is cheaper. We can cut the organic whole, cleaned chicken using a meat knife at home.
- Source foods from the local farmer’s market. Food from local and small farmers land here and are usually in season foods and so cheaper and healthier
- Purchase organic dry grocery and foods with longer shelf life like oats, sugar, whole grains and lentils like rice, kidney beans, black eyed peas etc in bulk. Bulk purchases often have saver schemes and discounts on them and they can be stored in bins in the pantry.
- Buy foods that are harvested in that season. If you are picking beets, cauliflower or carrots in summer, it’s clearly coming from out of the cold storage or has travelled many hundred miles from a place which has winter conditions right now. The food is likely to have lost its nutritive value and goodness over this travel and storage.
- Grow some of your own, even if in containers. So what if you live in an apartment? You will have window sills and kitchen counter that receive some sunlight. This is enough space for pots to grow your herb needs in. Grow your own parsley, coriander, mint, basil, rosemary and thyme!
- Plan out your meal for the week in advance to make sourcing timely and easier. This way you do not have to make a dash to the supermarket and pick that packet of frozen pizza or packet soup for dinner. Processed foods may be convenient but they certainly are light on nutrition and heavy on the pocket. Processing, like packaging and transportation costs is added to the price of the product.
- Stay away from pre-washed and ready to eat organics that come at a spiked cost. Buy whole and wash and dice at home as and when you need it.
- When stepping out with a grocery list, items which are most likely to be hosting a good amount of pesticides, antibiotics or GMO should be attended to first such as dairy, eggs, meats, herbs, whole grains, condiments, fresh fruits and vegetables (especially apples, peaches, cucumbers, strawberries, potatoes, green leafy vegetables) so that you know which items in order of consumption relevance, are taking up how much of your daily budget.
- Such of those organic foods that have been bought whole or by-the-weight and not used up entirely should be stored appropriately in a dark and dry pantry, refrigerator or freezer. Minimizing food wastage is an obvious but often neglected aspect of money saving.