going a bit organic, going crazy.

I'm not a health food junkie. At all. Infact, I'm certain I set the record at my local grocery for most Single Most Cake Slices Purchased and Eaten Alone. Also, I know how to show a box of Cheez-Its a good time.

Although I've got some meat on my bones--I blame the single cake slices--I'm pretty aware of the caloric contents in most of what I eat. I'm not perfect, but I try to skip "fast food",  keep junk out of the house and rarely eat meat. Since Kindergarten I've been mostly veggie...the thought of meat just never sat right with me. My parents thought it was a phase, even through all the clean-your-plate stare downs over Hamburger Helper.

I'm nothing if not stubborn as heck. ;)

All this led me to believe that I'm doing "alright" nutritionally. Not perfect, but not half bad for a girl who fell into the "obese" BMI category just a few years ago. Thinking knowledge of calories + fat + protein content was enough...it was a great idea to cling to. I liked being blissfully unaware--I didn't want to know where my food came from, nor grasp the ethical gameplay that happens behind the scene.

But last night, Gabe and I stayed up late watching Food Inc...and I cannot unsee that. I'm irritated that it affected me, mostly because it means I have to change something deeply ingrained in me, and something I really love: food and the way I eat.

Do you have any advice or resources on how to go a bit organic, without going overboard? I feel like people often go organic-extreme, and that's cool. It's just never going to be my reality.

How do you incorporate cleaner, safer food without busting the bank?


  1. My rule is just to eat food in it's most natural state MOST of the time. I follow an 80/20 principle. 80% of the time I eat good whole foods and 20% I eat "bad" foods. Ive lost weight consistently since doing this along with food journalling and now it's a way of life and not hard at all.

  2. My fiancé and I watched Food Inc. too a while back. COMPLETELY HORRIFIED ME! We never eat fast food and we don't buy overly processed meals --like frozen dinners and that other yucky stuff. I'm not a big meat eater but he is, so for meat I usually go to a local fame's market. At least you know what you're getting there is good, clean meat.

    My advice would be to buy organic when possible. You usually get the best bang for your buck at farmer's markets and small privately owned shops rather than mainstream grocery stores. But don't sweat the small stuff --like peanut butter, the organic stuff just doesn't taste as good!! :)

  3. We do the same thing - try to make changes and improvements where we can without it becoming too extreme.

    We've changed our produce and meat to almost all organic by shopping the sales and ads and sticking to what's in season. Since we do eat meat, we try to bring costs down by doing a few veggie only meals per week but that won't help you much! Maybe you could also try a CSA?

    I've also started looking up alternative recipes to processed favorites like taco seasoning (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/taco-seasoning-i/) and canned soups (http://afrugalsimplelife.com/2011/09/07/cream-of-whatever-soup-substitute/)

    Hope that helps a little! And good luck with your efforts. :)

  4. Start here for your veggies! http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/ It's the "dirty dozen" and "clean 15" It's a great tool for budgeting organics in and out.

  5. I am totally in the same boat as you, I just read "Food Revolution", and trying the vegetarian thing myself.

    I joined a CSA at my local farmer's market. Fresh veggies, and plenty of them come with my share, I just freeze what I am not using so I can use them later! I also buy LOCAL, when I am not getting veggies from my farm share, and attempting to plant a garden in the back yard. Good luck! xox

  6. I have also been trying the "eating clean" thing. It has been a challenge, but I can definitely tell the difference in how I feel!

    A friend of mine showed me this clean eating blog a few months ago and it is amazing. She has a getting started guide, substitution list and posts daily recipes. There is also an email list you can sign up for the receive daily recipes. :)

    Here is the link: http://www.thegraciouspantry.com/

    Best of luck to you!!

  7. This site: http://rawearthliving.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/what-does-the-number-on-a-fruit-sticker-mean/....explains how to tell genetically modified, organic, and foods sprayed with herbicides or pesticides apart. The produce tags do have a purpose after all.

    There are also sites that explain which foods you should be buying organic and which ones in the end really don't matter. Also, when it comes to farmer's markets, just because they're locally grown does not mean they're organic or haven't been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides (the majority of the time the produce has been sprayed). Making clean food choices takes a lot of research and commitment, but educating yourself definitely helps you make healthier choices more easily.

    Oh, and as far as beef goes it is best to always choose grass fed meats whether or not it states that it is organic. I usually go to our cities meat locker so I'm supporting local farmers and they offer grass fed beef options as well. I'm definitely not an expert, but have taken a few environmental science courses that have focused on GMOs and the effects they've had in recent years. Good luck!

  8. I had the same problem. When I changed my diet and eating habits about 4 months ago I wanted to go all organic, and I'd end up stressing over food costs. Watch the weekly flyers and purchase organic items when they are on sale.
    Wash your produce thoroughly!
    Also check the labels on things you are eating for all the fillers, refined sugars, and preservatives. Just because it says organic doesn't mean it isn't still full of sugars and other crap you don't need!
    Here is a great site for clean eating recipes and tips that has helped me A LOT!
    Good luck!
    P.S. I really enjoy your blog!

  9. I think eating local is the biggest step to eating clean & organic. CSA farm shares are awesome: they provide diverse local produce and can present fun challenges when building weekly meal plans. Plus, you never know what you're gonna get, so it's like vegetable Christmas every week! Also, to save moola, consider growing your own herbs (i.e. mint, basil, cilantro). They can be so pricey at co-ops, but are super affordable and fresh when grown on your kitchen window sill. Best of luck in your organic endeavors! :)

  10. It is easy you just need more time if you want to prepare from scratch ... i rarely eat processed food ... and try to buy organic as much as possible ... they are some great recipes out there that are super healthy and so yummy ... look at the kitchen operas website hey have some fabulous recipes xxx

  11. GOOD question. Trying to figure it out right now too! I'm going for an appt with a trusted dietician to get a good meal plan that's a balance of healthy and afforable :) Here is a website with some good recipes! http://www.loveandlemons.com

  12. a few have mentioned CSA and I cant second that loud enough! I am outside of Madison and we have an amazing CSA that follows organic guidelines. It is a big chunk of change right up front (and honestly its a little late in the season now) but sometimes they will offer payment plans also inusrance companies will give you some money back for the CSA membership. Also some CSAs will allow work shares so get your hands dirty once or twice a month and you will have free veggies! We had our first CSA last year and it was amazing made me get creative with our meals and made me feel good about the farm I was helping and the good nutrition I was giving my kiddos.

  13. I agree with Bailey. Going local is the easiest way to go organic without having to be obsessed about it. A year, or so ago, we stopped buying meat from the grocery store and started buying from local farms. My husband and I like knowing exactly where our meat is coming from - and even being able to drive by and see the farm. My husband actually called up the gentlemen who owned the farm and he offered to give us a tour. It was great. We saw the type of feed they use and found out a lot about the whole process. So we really recommend if you're able to visit the farm - do it!!

    Organic veggies can get really expensive (why is it so much more expensive to eat healthy?!?!). Since we are fresh out of college and lacking in the $$ department we've gone to growing out own. It's time consuming, but definitely a labor of love. We are fortunate enough to have enough of a back yard that we can plant quite a large garden each year, but not everyone has that.

    My sister lives in an apartment complex and doesn't have the same luxury. She actually contacted a local church that owned some land behind them and asked if she could start a garden patch so she could grow her own veggies. The church was more than willing to let her use their empty lot and even helped till the ground for her.

    Obviously, that isn't a solution for everyone, but the point is - if there's a will, there's a way... sometime you just have to think outside the box.

    I also make our bread. Each Saturday I mix some up for the week. If I don't have time to make my own, then I head to a local bakery - check around, but you can usually find one that makes them fresh and without chemicals and preservatives.

    Good luck. My advise would be to not try to change everything all at once. It can be overwhelming. Just pick a few things you can easily change - and then after a while you'll be able to change a few more.

  14. I've been a vegetarian for 16 years for just the same reason--meat has always kinda made my stomach turn. The last time I ate meat was when I was 14, freshman year of high school, and I've never looked back. I don't always make amazing choices (I love pizza, pasta, burritos, etc.), but I do really like healthy food and I'm grateful for that. Also, I love my CSA from a local farm. And farmers' markets, which are all over here in SF. I think it's great that you're already so knowledgeable--you're way ahead of most people!

  15. i just do what i can.
    all my fresh veggies and fruits are organic, but canned foods are not.
    we watched food inc in health class.

  16. I loved your recent post. I stopped eating meat when I was ten and for the past six months have been trying to eat vegan ~85% of the time. While I certainly considered myself a healthy eater before, limiting the dairy and gluten have made a world of difference in how I feel - I have much more energy and feel so much more alert. I truly believe that we all have the ability to function at higher levels when we are conscientious of how/what we eat. Plus, it does my heart good to know that I am being a more compassionate eater.

    One thing that has been very helpful to me, health- and budget-wise, has been starting off my mornings with nutrition-packed smoothies. These give me both an energetic start to the day as well as help me maintain realistic grocery budgets as I order the majority of ingredients online and save a bundle. I use:

    Frozen berries (3 and 6 lb bags are available at Costco for a fraction of what the grocery store charges)
    Greens powder (currently using Amazing Grass which I order from Amazon at a great price)
    Chia seeds (Navitas, also from Amazon)
    Rice protein powder (Amazon)
    Occasionally a bit of flaxseed oil (Trader Joe's)

    Delicious, healthy, and cost-effective!

  17. Try and avoid "made" foods, rather cool things scratch. Anything made , try organic so you know wholesome things are in the mix. I try a lot of fresh veggies/fruit in our house and feel SO much better about it.

  18. I don't buy into that wholesome equals organic. What might say organic might not really be organic. Same goes for cage free, range raised chickens, ect. Read Omnivores Dilema.

    In my house we try to eat as whole as possible being veggies and meats and limit process foods as much as possible. It might not be organic but its whole. I also try to buy as local as possible. Also I rearely go down the aisle of the store only if the reciepe calls for something.

  19. I buy organic whenever the budget allows. But when it doesn't, wash your produce AS SOON as you get home and well. I try to buy most organic meat. Everything that isn't organic I look at the label- the less ingredients and the more unprocessed the better. If the organic version is 4x the price I either don't get it, or just deal with the regular version. If it's not too much more then get it! Remember that small changes count! Good luck!

  20. I feel like the worst person with food right now. I buy organic meat when it's on sale because it's just so much more expensive. Same with everything else. If I can help it I try not to eat too much processed food but it can be so difficult. I'm not the best cook or meal planner either so it can get hard when I'm home from work and really don't feel like cooking. Usually it's take out or something that night. x

  21. This is a great resource that I have come to love: http://www.gorgeouslygreen.com/

    Her books are also great (check your local library for them) as well as the book No More Dirty Looks for info on dangerous toxins in our makeup and toiletries :)

    This is a great adventure! And your body will feel (and look) better for it :)

  22. I really/really recommend watching Forks Over Knives documentary, as well. It explains more about how meat is bad for you, as well as dairy products. And not only that, it explains WHY it is in a way in which a clueless person like me can grasp it.

    Also, if you shop around, you can find some decent deals at places. Hyvee has an amazing natural food selection, while still having a reasonably priced fruits/veggies section. Trader Joe's can be good....Whole Foods is usually ridiculously overpriced!

  23. Unfortunately I am the last person to help with this, I try to eat as "clean" as I can but I can be pretty lazy. I generally buy organic eggs and try and but fruit and veg at the farmers markets!

  24. I so feel you, B! Did you see the printables I made earlier this week highlighting the "dirty dozen" and the "clean fifteen?" (The produce that is highest in pesticides and should therefore always be bought organic and the produce with the lowest pesticide residuals and not necessary to buy organic). I made them as colorful and as visual as I could so people can easily memorize both lists.

  25. The suggestions to find a CSA are great. It's also possible to grow quite a bit for yourself - even in your apartment. Green beans, peas, tomatoes, potatoes and lettuce mixes (and more!)can all be grown in pots/containers/baskets along your porch and would provide enough to feed the 2 of you with minimal effort or waste...

  26. My Fiancé and I watched Food Inc. last year and it totally rocked our worlds. We actually went on a huge organic food binge and became instant snobs about where our food came from and where other people's food came from. [Cue that episode of Portlandia] It wasn't pretty. And it was VERY expensive. So after going to the extreme we did a lot of reading and thinking and decided to tone it down a little. So now we try not to eat meat, but when we do we make sure it's grass fed [beef], and free-range [chicken]. It's still gross, but at least the animals had a happy life while they were alive and weren't pumped full of growth enhancements! Ugh those poor chickens who couldn't even carry their own weight.. and the farmers who wouldn't let us see in their coops, you know thats sketchy stuff.

    Anyway, when it comes to fruits and veggies I try to always buy organic or local 1. because it lasts longer, and 2. because I know where it came from. I buy organic milk for that same reason. I mean a gallon doesn't expire for a month in a half! crazytown.

    When it comes to the other stuff I just sort of use my own judgement. If I know I'm going to binge on something I try to get it organic so that I can at least feel a little bit better about eating a whole box of oreos. [If you love cheese its then get Annie's cheddar bunnies.] I've found the junk food/dry food section to be the most pricey, so unless you're eating a whole lot of it, you can just keep getting the processed stuff.

    I'm actually a huge stickler on organic household cleaning products though and beauty/skin care. But that's a whole other story. [Basically: clean air to breathe, sensitive skin to protect, toothpaste freshness lasts longer, hair feels silkier less buildup, reduce carcinogens around small kids/pets, you get the idea]

    I hope that helped!! One of my friends said it best "organic food is cheaper than cancer" lol touché. If you want more info, I've written a couple posts on going organic that may help. Love your blog!! :D

    xo Catharine @ Your Modern Couple

  27. Just stumbled across your blog...*swoon*. And I thought I was the only one that bought single cake slices at the store! LOL. I try to buy organic when I can and when it cost effective. I will say I try and only buy organic strawberries, milk and meats.

    OK...off to drool over more of your photos!

  28. There are some really great articles about things you should buy organic versions of, and things that matter less. Those lists can be really helpful when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet + a budget! xoxo, e

  29. I know what you mean, even though I haven't seen that movie yet. I try to buy organic strawberries and brocolli because I heard those are good ones to "splurge" on :)

  30. I love your blog! :-) I have started the slow process of going organic-ish. I started around February---slowly eating what I have at my apt and replacing it with the better alternative. I hope to be used to this lifestyle by August. It sounds like forever but you really have to change how you shop and also how you prepare foods. Things take longer! Best of luck! :-) I'll be reading!

  31. OMG I just watched this last weekend! I admittedly had been putting it off but finally did it. I watched this and No Impact Man and after felt like a guilty wasteful shlubb and promised to make changes for myself and my family. This first week I followed the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean Fifteen" when buying my produce. I bought a 1 lb package of natural organic chicken (for two meals - small portions). And then bought a package of meatless meatballs and chicken strips to try. I'm excited! My grocery bill was only $10 more so not as bad as I anticipated. Next is buying organic milk since I have a 1 and 5 year old. Feel bad I haven't been doing that already! I figure baby steps. We already do 1-2 meals a week meat-free and my new goal is to switch that where we only do 1-2 meals with meat. Also going to start going to the Farmer's Market. Baby steps.....Good luck! I might watch it again so as not to get complacent.

  32. Oh and please update us how things go for you--great vegetarian recipes you've tried out or if you try a "fake meat" item as my husband likes to call it. I'm trying out different brands and experimenting now.

  33. Farmer's markets are the way to go. They are affordable, and you have the chance to shake hands with the person who's produce you're buying. You know exactly where it came from.

    If you eat meat, that's where I'd suggest investing. Take the time to learn about where certain brands get their meat, how they treat their animals. You'll taste a difference between grass-fed beef, and the infamous "mystery pink goop" beef. It will cost more, but it is better for you.

    For me, it is less about "organic" and more about knowing what I'm putting in my body. My husband and I have a rule that if we don't understand more than 3 of the ingredients on a label, we put it back. That doesn't mean we don't let a few things slip through the cracks...

    Companies like Whole Foods have started making organic options LESS expensive than conventional. We started getting organic bread because it's a larger loaf for a dollar less than conventional bread. Also remember that just because something organic, doesn't mean it's good for you. Organic potato chips are still potato chips, after all :)


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