Going Organic! (Not Just GFCF)

July 7th, 2010

Having your child eat Gluten Free/Casein Free (GFCF) is the first step in the process. Considering and then, going organic are other important steps in this process for better eating, health and digestion.

Organic foods, which have not been sprayed with chemicals or preservatives, (and are not genetically modified, raised humanely and fed organically, etc.) are easier for many children with autism to digest and absorb nutrients properly. More importantly, these foods do not contain nasty chemicals added during the growing/raising process. Concerning meats, organic options are healthier, because they do not include hormones, preservatives, or fillers that are also not good for our children’s sensitive digestion process. There is also concern about how genetically modified organisms (GMOs)/foods may potentially affect people in negative ways still unknown.  These GMOs are widely available so check labeling or contact the manufacturer or source selling them for more information.  Labeling that includes information about genetically modified ingredients used is not yet required in the U.S. so the only way to guarantee you’re eating foods free of genetically modified ingredients is to look for the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA)  “100% Organic Certification” symbol. It is recommended that you and your family  avoid GMO fruits, vegetables, meats (coming soon, if not already), and products from cloned animals like milk from cloned cows.

Organic and Expensive

Buying organically, however, often flies away from frugality. At the grocery store, I was previously able to get a dozen free eggs because of a price war with other stores, but in that same store, when I bought organic eggs, they were $2.99 for a dozen. I’ve started to explore other options such as buying meat from a local farm that advertises antibiotic-free beef, chicken, etc. and considering joining food co-ops. Still, the prices for everything that is organic will definitely be higher than what I’m used to paying. More unfortunately, there are rarely any coupon opportunities for these organic products.

Another option is to use your own backyard or patio to grow your own organic choices. You can try to grow as many fresh vegetables as you can eat, can, and freeze.  Or create your own informal co-op with a few other families and purchase organic products and meats in bulk directly from farmers and manufacturers to split up the total costs and share products purchased.

Organic, but Uncertified

Another way to avoid expensive organic food sources is to hunt for local uncertified, organic fresh produce at local farmers’ markets. It is also worthwhile checking out roadside stands in areas known for agriculture production (California’s central valley and wine country are good examples, as are the fields of many Great Plains states, generally in the Midwest) and farmers’ markets, which even exist in large cities). A great and smart tip involves getting to know the vendors and asking them about their products and preparation tips. Ask vendors if they raise/grow their products themselves and if the products produced are 100% organic (ask about what livestock is fed, making sure they do not receive antibiotics, hormones, and the like, and/or if there are any possibilities for soil contamination for produce, etc.). Many vendors at open markets are selling the same agribusiness produce you will find in stores, but some will be from small farms owned and operated by local growers who may participate in a co-op and who are raising their produce/animals organically simply because they are so small.

These shopping alternatives also can yield other nice pluses such as a wider selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables, and fresh eggs, milk, etc. as well. The only drawback is that it is hard to find foods out of season, so you will need to have a lot of storage to eat at these savings year round. For savings on grains, dried fruit, herbs & spices, and other items, I joined a food co-op. Some co-ops sell organic fresh produce, too. To find one near you, seach the web for local food co-ops in your area.

Love Trader Joe’s! (About a Personal Favorite)

Trader Joe’s is a wonderful option for cheaper organic foods. They are a specialty grocery store, which only carries items they can get at a good bulk rate. In addition to regular foods, they also carry a lot of organic and preservative-free choices. Because they only carry what they can get a good deal on, the prices are usually substantially better than other stores, but you may not be able to find everything on your list either. They also don’t always stock the same items week to week.

Trader Joe’s does have a good selection of fresh produce, meats, as well as prepared foods. You can check out their website to see if there is a store in your area. Special note: Trader Joe’s provides a special GLUTEN-FREE product list available at the front of every store. NOTE: The list contains only GLUTEN-FREE items so be sure to check they are CASEIN-FREE as well!  Remember to always read and re-read labels for ALL ingredients as these may and do, change often.

Saving Money on Organic Products

If your local supermarket carries organic products, it is a good idea to watch for sales. It is common to see organic products for the same price as the regular stuff with the pesticides in it. Also, you will find that prices vary widely from store to store. Since not everyone has caught on to the organic movement, some grocery chains will move packaged organic options for a low price, if they are taking up valuable shelf space and are not moving off the shelf as fast as they could.

Some health food chains may offer better prices than some of the local supermarkets, especially when items are on sale. Co-ops will also greatly cut your costs for buying healthy organic options.

Co-ops are groups who use their bulk purchasing power to get lower prices.

Co-op examples:

Health Food Store Finder

Saving Elsewhere

It is widely understood that organic options can cost 10-30% more than non-organic options. Rather than skimp on the organic options, it is strongly suggested that you be frugal in other aspects of your life.  Money can be saved by purchasing items that don’t need to be organic such as toilet paper, vinegar, baking soda to clean with, etc. at typical chain stores. Then, go to the local health food stores or farmers’ markets to purchase organic veggies and fruits, and other organic products.

For many families, organic food choices are the way to go. Everyone can do a lot to ensure farm worker health and the health of your family as well as the health of the environment. In the U.S., consumers have become so accustomed to cheaply priced and overly processed foods that it may take some serious rethinking to change longtime patterns and to do what is best for your family’s health, even if it will cost more.

Try Kosher

Kosher foods, especially around Jewish holidays, are also great alternative options that may be organic or pretty close to organic. A good tip is that if you can’t afford completely organic foods, then look for foods marked “kosher.” You can usually identify kosher foods by a “U” in a circle, or perhaps, simply by a “K” on the front of the label. The standards for truly kosher foods are much higher than the government standards allow on residues. Typically, these great kosher choices are not genetically engineered foods.  However, always check the ingredients on the labels.

In Closing

To better understand organic certifications and assist your decision process, visit the USDA’s website for information about the government’s criteria for certification of organic products.  You should also search for more general information about organic certifications on google.com, by typing “organic certification” in the search box. Organic certifications can be confusing and a lot of the debates about the certification process are about defining what makes products truly organic (absolutely no chemicals used or just a few, such as antibiotics used only to ward off infections in livestock). The certifications also vary based on each product’s labeling.  There are many, many books written about living and eating organically so visit your local libraries and/or bookstores to check them out.

 

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