Food & Diet Sustainable Living

Tips for Buying Organic on a Budget

February 8, 2018

When talking to people about following a sustainable diet that promotes personal health and is more environment friendly, one of the main topics is to eat more organically and locally grown produce. This raises concerns for many people. In an ideal ( and unrealistic) world we could all afford to feed ourselves and our families buying fresh local and economical priced vegetables directly from a small sustainable farmer.

However this isn’t the case. Most people are working long days, long hours, have bills to pay and mouths to feed. Buying all organic food is simply too expensive. The choice seems obvious to choose the family size bag of lettuce that costs 1.99 over skimpy looking organic greens for 4.99. The conundrum that lies ahead is how to eat organically on a budget. Can it be done? I personally believe it can. Here’s some suggestions that may help to boost your intake of organic produce without taking a toll on your wallet.

First, it’s important to know which vegetables are most important to buy organically and which are less critical. Not all vegetables are created equal where organic is concerned. Some vegetables  don’t absorb as many harmful chemicals/ are less susceptible to pests, whereas others are more vulnerable and are healthier if they are organic. The produce that is most likely to be contaminated by harmful pesticides and chemicals are sometimes referred to as the Dirty Dozen. In a report by the Environmental Working Group, there are twelve vegetables and fruits that are particularly vulnerable.

                                 What’s in Dirty Dozen:

1. Strawberries***
2. Spinach
3. Nectarines
4. Apples
5. Peaches
6. Pears
7. Cherries
8. Grapes
9. Celery
11. Sweet Bell Peppers
12. Potatoes

***These delicious summer delights were the dirtiest of the dirty. A single sample of strawberries showed up to 20 different pesticides. Yuck.

Some runners up on the list are cucumbers, lettuce, blueberries, carrots, and bananas.
On the other hand there are the veggies and fruits that have lower levels of chemicals and they are referred to as the Clean Fifteen.


What’s in the Clean Fifteen:

1. Sweet corn
2. Avocados
3. Pineapples
4. Cabbage
5. Onions
6. Frozen Sweet Peas
7. Papayas
8. Asparagus
9. Mangos
10. Eggplant
11. Honeydew
12. Kiwi
13. Cantaloupe
14. Cauliflower
15. Grapefruit


It is important to keep in mind that the Clean 15 may not be 100% free of pesticides but they are better than the Dirty Dozen. If you’re looking to start buying organic produce but can’t jump on board to buy ALL organic, start by choosing items on  the Dirty Dozen list organically and leave the Clean 15 to regular produce.

Second, the most economical organic vegetables are usually not in the big chain supermarkets. Try going to a local co-op or the farmers market to look for more reasonable choices.  Or if you have an Aldi or Trader Joe’s nearby, there may be some more affordable organic produce there as well.  One of the most important things to do is COMPARE PRICES. Not all supermarkets and grocery stores have the same prices for the exact same ingredients. It may seem like a laborious process to continually compare prices, but eventually you will know where the best prices are.

One last way to cut back on prices.. Grow it yourself! Some things are quite easy to grow at home even if you don’t have a garden. Vegetables that thrive in potted containers are tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, potatoes. Plus, many herbs like basil, thyme, coriander, sage, rosemary, and oregano do great in containers and in small places like the windowsill.

Buying organic doesn’t have to signify spending way more money. It’s all about finding the balance of what to buy organic and where to buy it. Start by growing some herbs this summer and add a pot of tomatoes too! If you feel really ambitious rent a plot in a community garden or create own in your backyard.

{Meat}Less Meal  Recipe#2: 

Torta Salata di Spinaci aka Savory Spinach Cake


  • 2 pie crusts
  • 1 3/4 pounds of fresh spinach
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • Nutmeg
  • Chopped sun dried tomatoes
  • Salt & Pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 (180 C) degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large pan, sauté the spinach with the cloves of garlic and olive oil until it is wilted. Transfer the spinach to a large bowl. When cooled, chop the spinach.
  3. Stir the ricotta cheese in to the spinach.
  4. Stir in the parmesan cheese, whisked eggs, and sun-dried tomatoes. (leave enough egg for egg wash)
  5.  Place the pie crust in a 9 inch baking pan. Pour the spinach mixture in to the crust. Use remaining crust to cover the pie. Pinch & fold the edges together.
  6. Use remaining egg to brush the top pastry crust. This will create a delicious golden crust.
  7. Bake for about 30 minutes.
  8. Enjoy!
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Author: Ali @ Sustainable Psyche

My name is Ali. I am an American living in Italy. I am passionate about delicious food that is also ethical, healthy and sustainable. I love pasta and pizza, traveling, horseback riding and exploring the vibrant city of Milan that I call home.

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