Organic/Natural Foods Journey: Organic Produce

We received our first bi-weekly bin from the local produce delivery service. The order for a medium fruit bin is $44. However, the first deliver cost me less since I bought a Groupon last month valued at $35. I also bought some organic whole wheat flour and hamburgers.

The hamburgers were on sale and were some of the best meat I’ve had. They were supposed to be near a Kobe quality, but they weren’t as expensive. They were soooo yummy! I think it was around $5 for 4 patties which was really expensive but the quality was worth it! I’m hoping our organic cow tastes like those babies!! OK, I got off track (meat does that to me).

Anyhoo, the produce was yummy but obviously more expensive than conventional. If you have no purchased from a produce delivery service before, your order is typically a set bin. The bins come with a set list of items, but our service allows us to edit the bin contents a few days before delivery to what may be more suitable for us.

Since I knew we were focusing on The Dirty Dozen, I took out several items found on The Clean 15 (mangos, pineapple and a few other items in our bin). I then swapped more strawberries and some organic lettuce. Since I got the fruit bin, I didn’t have any veggies. Overall, I was happy with the produce, but I will be looking to see if I can get less expensive, and still organic, options at the farmer’s markets (hopefully).

First, let’s talk a minute about The Dirty Dozen and The Clean 15. If you are brand new to this concept like I was, these aren’t just fancy names. These terms are what will be guiding our choices for produce purchases. The top 49 Fruits and Veggies consumed, per the USDA, are tested for pesticides and contaminates. The results are this full list ranked from 1 (for cleanest) to 49 (for dirtiest). It is so interesting to know the amount of pesticides are used to grow stuff – I was truly shocked!

The last 12 listed (so numbers 38-49) are what people refer to The Dirty Dozen. The first 15 (numbers 1-15) are what people refer to as The Clean 15. The theory is that you should avoid The Dirty Dozen as those items contain the most pesticides and contaminants. As I mentioned, those are primarily the produce items we are seeking organic options. Swapping out “cleaner” items from our produce bin helped me to avoid paying higher prices at the grocery store. That was a savings!

But, I don’t want to break the bank!!

I had a discussion with Jo of Healthy Alter Ego. I shared how I wanted to do a price comparison of local stores to compare the organic and conventional produce prices. Since I am a money-saving blog, I can’t go and blow all my savings on organic stuff if I don’t have to. I was SO HAPPY that Joe already did this work! Check out the organic/conventional price comparison at Healthy Alter Ego.

Jo also has a GREAT spreadsheet she put together (in this post) of various local stores and the price comparison of organic versus conventional. If you aren’t local, this is still a valuable resource for you. You can at least get an idea of what the highly marketable Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s produce prices are compared to a Kroger affiliate (which was surprisingly the most affordable option for organic – YAY Kroger!).

A side conversation, Jo and I were Facebooking (yeap, that’s a verb) about the spreadsheet. I wanted to see if blackberries were on The Dirty Dozen. Last week (and this week at Meijer) blackberries were on sale for $1/pint. Since they aren’t on The Dirty Dozen, buying conventional was (and is) safe! I stocked up on blackberries to supplement our produce bin since it’s a bi-weekly thing for us (for now). I have a yummy breakfast cereal bar recipe to share using these babies too!!

I also found another resource that offers alternate produce suggestions if an items is on The Dirty Dozen. I was happy to see that blackberries were offered as an alternate for strawberries! You can also download The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in a wallet-size card or download the Free iPhone App (it’s called Dirty Dozen)!

So, I’m just hitting the surface with this organic produce thing. Will it be more expensive – yes. But, you know there are rarely any produce coupons available so I’d be paying full price for produce (or waiting for sales) anyway. To try to save, I plan on doing a few things:

  • Visit local farmer’s markets and pick your own farms to see if organic prices are more affordable. Mason Metu has a great farmer’s market list for local Cincinnati/Dayton folks. We actually went to our first farmer’s market on Saturday, more on that to come!
  • Grow our own!! I keep saying that my DH is gonna dig that garden, but all these things come up!! I really want to have a few veggies in a garden this year to help save a bit (or I may have to thief some from yummy produce from $5 Dinners’ garden).
  • Continue to be mindful of The Clean 15 produce options. Just like the blackberries, I will try to seek out cleaner options to supplement when our organic produce is getting low. If a recipe calls for a specific produce item, I will use an alternate produce suggestion to get r done!
  • Compare other produce delivery services. The produce delivery service is SO nice but it is more expensive because it’s a convenience. I’ll share my experience of other services for the local folks who may be interested.
  • REALLY try hard to get more of our hygiene items at Walgreens and CVS! Since those are some of the more expensive items, I think being more diligent about saving there will help to wiggle a little to afford the organic stuff.

This is in part going to be a learning process and fun. I want to experience farmers’ markets as a family. So, we may be purchasing more than we need to but it’s helping our local community! That’s the other part in all of this – buying homegrown helps not just our bellies, but it supports local businesses!! I’ll spend a few extra bucks for that!

by Savings Lifestyle: Andrea on May 25, 2010


  • Jules - May 25, 2010 @ 8:34 am

    Thank you for posting all of this information. I am not an organic shopper either b/c of the cost, but with your help here, I may turn into one!

  • Amber @Saving Money Wisely - May 25, 2010 @ 8:55 am

    I am with Jules! I love the idea of organic produce – but the cost typically keeps me away. I think it is great that you are trying to do this for your family but still keeping cost in mind as well! I’m looking forward to seeing what you find…..and now you’ve got me thinking about hitting up our local farmer’s market this week :-)

  • Laurie - May 25, 2010 @ 10:13 am

    Keep in mind as you’re shopping at the Farmer’s Market that you need to talk to the people there about their growing practices. Not all organic growers will be advertising the fact that their products are organic. There are guidelines that have to be met, in some places, before a grower can proclaim themself to be an organic grower. Just because they aren’t “officially” organic doesn’t mean they aren’t. Something to keep in mind. :)

  • Peggy - May 25, 2010 @ 10:34 am

    Thank you so very much! I’ve been trying to explain to my family why we are eating less of the conventional fruits and why but they just weren’t getting it. My husband was pleasantly surprised with the list as his favorite fruits/veggies are on the clean 15… but he has agreed that it is probably in our best interests to start buying the dirty dozen as organic produce. He was pleased to see that it could be done without adversely affecting our grocery budget as well!!

    Once again thank you!! (We live in Indiana in an area where there are no CSA’s closer than a hours drive away, only one “health” food store, and the farmer’s market is small… so this info was a tremendous help

  • Rosemary - May 25, 2010 @ 2:17 pm

    I would love the granola bar with blackberry recipe…

  • Jen - May 26, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

    Hey there girly! Great post! We just made a post to on the dirty dozen and clean 15!! I love it!!! If you are really wanting to get into buying at farmers’ markets and local farms you HAVE to check out this awesome Food Guide I picked up at Park n Vine (I think?!). They do have a website with a little info, but you really need to get the guide. It covers Central Ohio Valley and it is all about eating local. It lists all farmers’ markets, local farms, a harvest guide, local restaurants that buy locally, local vineyards and wineries… the list goes on and on!!! It is AWESOME!!!

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