When to Buy Organic and When Not To


Eating healthily these days seems overly complicated – there are so many choices. Organic, Non-GMO, farm-raised, and so forth. And while eating foods with these labels is good for you, it’s hard on your wallet. Some items are worth the extra cost, though. Buying produce grown organically means the growing methods are almost completely free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and are non-GMO. The USDA has a strict compliance guide for growers of organic produce to follow which is listed on their website here.

Certain fruits and vegetables are more heavily treated with pesticides than others or retain the chemicals even after washing, which when ingested can have negative effects on your health. Other items however are less treated or don’t absorb as many of the chemicals and there is not a significant difference between buying the regular and the organic.

According to www.organic.org, the most highly contaminated produce items are as follows:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

The following are less contaminated and therefore less harmful to just buy the regular mass-produced variety if you are on a budget:

  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Mango
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet Peas
  • Kiwi
  • Bananas
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Papaya

Keep in mind there is some controversy surrounding the organic food trend due to the USDA’s definition of “organic” and what some people might like to believe it is. According to the Washington Post, growers are only required to have 95% organic ingredients to be qualified as organic. There are 200 plus types of non-organic additives that can be used in foods while still maintaining the title, so some of that could be pesticides used on produce. It’s good to do a little research into what you’re buying before you go grocery shopping if you want to be informed on what you’re eating and how it can affect your health.

Spending a Fraction of Your Normal Grocery Bill


I’m great at clipping coupons. I carefully trim out a number of coupons every time I receive ads in the mail, stacking them neatly and putting them in my wallet. It sounds ideal, like I’ve really learned how to do this coupon thing. But unfortunately, the follow-through is where I seem to get lost. I consistently pull coupons from my wallet, about a week or two (sometimes painfully only a day) late once they’ve expired and are no longer of any use to me. So, in the recycling bin they go and the cycle viciously continues and I save absolutely nothing on my groceries.

I might be behind the times, but I’m just now discovering how cool some new grocery store apps are when it comes to saving money and not having to keep up with the obnoxious physical coupons. I first experienced this kind of unbridled shopping joy when I got the Target app, Cartwheel, not all that long ago. I use Cartwheel on a regular basis, “shopping” in advance before I go to the store and seeing which brands I can get an additional discount on. It’s extraordinarily convenient to plan this way before a big shopping trip. So you can get an advantage on your grocery / shopping bill and not have to keep up with any little slips of paper which makes this a winning combo.

Many grocery stores are beginning to develop coupon apps, which I’m thankful is catching on. Publix and Winn-Dixie both have coupon apps that can help keep you organized while you shop. Yes, we have the technology!


Best of Trader Joe’s

trader joes

Yes, I am one of those people- a shameless Trader Joe’s crusader, always asking, “What? You’ve never been to Trader Joe’s?”. No, I’m not being paid by Trader Joe’s to write this. Dear reader, there are reasons I’m such a die hard fan of TJ’s, and not just because a family member worked there or because I enjoy the alternatives to what’s in the mainstream. We do go way back, but Trader Joe’s has never ceased to amaze.

It is consistently a healthier, more affordable grocery store with just the right amount of products and creates a pleasant shopping experience every time. Hand-written signs, silly cartoons, and friendly faces make this place head and shoulders above your average grocery store experience. I loathe going to most grocery stores because there are too many choices of brands, the stores are enormous, OR you end up in a small specialty grocery store with prices through the roof and you leave with a big bill and nothing in the bag. By having their own brand of almost every product in the store, Trader Joe’s keeps prices low and somehow also manages to consistently have products with good ingredients, too. This ensures customers get the best of both worlds. I haven’t even gotten to the frozen foods part… Ok I’ll stop, but seriously people of Gainesville, especially if you are a student on a budget (or anyone on a budget) you have a Trader Joe’s, so go!

Here are my favorite things to get from TJ’s:


Habanero Lime Tortillas

These tortillas have a real kick! Spicy, with a little bit of tangy, pulls your tortilla based meals together perfectly every time.

$2.99 a pack


Aloo Chaat Kati Pouches

These are basically Indian Hot Pockets and they’re surprisingly good. Most of the time, foods of this realm fall short because they’re bland, but these little vegetarian turnovers are packed with flavor.

$2.29 for a pack of 2


Soy Chorizo

Another superbly seasoned vegetarian favorite, this soy chorizo adds flavor to anything you mix it with. It’s perfect for Mexican inspired meals as well as great with eggs for breakfast.

$1.99 each


Cashew Butter

I am completely incapable of eating peanut butter now (it suddenly tastes like dirt in comparison) thanks to this cashew butter, which is beyond delicious! Just ignore the calories on this one.

$7.99 each


Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The staple of all my cooking, TJ’s olive oil is good quality and so much less expensive than what you find elsewhere!

$3.99 – $14.99 for regular and infused oils


Speculoos Cookies

These are some of my favorite cookies to go with tea or coffee- they’re spiced Belgian cookies, crisp and caramelized to perfection. They are also the magical main ingredient of the ever popular Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter, which I strategically don’t keep in the house (but if I did, I have a feeling I’d keep it with a giant spoon handy).

$1.99 a box


Charles Shaw Wine

The BEST inexpensive wine you can get – buy a case while you’re at it. They have a multitude of varieties in the Charles Shaw section, so stock up!

$2.99 a bottle



Get a second opinion! Here are their 2015 customer choice award winners!



(photo credit: traderjoes.com)