By Claire Moshenberg
We all know the merits of choosing organic produce, and we all know that the big health benefits can also come with a big price tag. With a few simple steps, you can minimize chemicals on your non-organic produce, purchase cheaper organic items, and make sure that you're making the most of your fruits and veggies. Here are our top 5 tips on how to give your produce shopping and preparation a nontoxic makeover:
Wash everything thoroughly: The surface of fruits and veggies can be home to chemicals and pathogens, which is why it's important to thoroughly wash your produce, particularly if it's not organic. Rub your fruits and veggies for 30 to 60 seconds under warm running water. Wash inedible peels; even though you discard the peel, cutting into the fruit or peeling the fruit can transfer chemicals into the fruits flesh through your knife. For edible peels, peeling non-organic fruits and vegetables is an easy way to avoid the chemicals that are absorbed into the peel.
Skip the convenience claims: Pre-washed and ready to eat produce still needs to be cleaned thoroughly, especially salad greens. Consumer Reports tested several prewashed salad greens and found bacterias that are common indicators of poor sanitation and fecal contamination. Skip the pre-washed claims, which tend to make produce pricier, and apply the produce washing tips above to less costly, non-pre-packaged and ready-washed fruits and vegetables. If you are buying pre-washed produce, remember to wash it and make sure you buy it as far from sell-by date as possible.
Supermarkets are also starting to sell fruit and vegetable rinses. If you're washing everything thoroughly, these shouldn't be necessary. But if you're attached to using a fruits and veggies rinse, you can try this simple, two ingredient rinse recipe from The Smart Mama.
Shop Smart: Take these handy tools with you on your next grocery shopping trip. Use these lists from the Environmental Working Group to choose which produce to buy organic: The Dirty Dozen are the fruits and vegetables that you should try to buy organic if you can. The Clean 15 are fruits and vegetables that have a low pesticide level even when they're not organically grown. What's On My Food is a searchable database that shows you levels of pesticides in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and more. The Breast Cancer Fund has a wallet card that shows you the top 10 canned foods to avoid, including fruits and vegetables.
Store Correctly: If you invest in fresh organic produce, make sure you're putting it to good use. This guide shows you how to store fruits and vegetables so they're less likely to spoil quickly, and how soon you should eat them after purchase. If you find a great deal at your local supermarket on organic produce, why not create your own frozen food? The National Center for Home Food Preservation gives you a rundown of how to freeze specific fruits and vegetables so you can store and freeze your produce safely.
Find a Farmers Market: Farmers markets are a great place to find local, organic produce at a reasonable price. Find local farmers markets on this interactive, national map ,or use this Farmers Market directory from the USDA. Healthy Child, Healthy World has a guide to frugal farmers market shopping And get your kids involved in the farmers market fun: Parent Earth has tips on how to manage a farmers market visit with your child.