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Organic food can be expensive. I can’t always afford to pay extra even though it’s supposed to be healthier. However, sometimes it isn’t necessary to buy organic.

For produce, I use this rule of thumb: anything that has a thick skin you are going to peel or remove doesn’t really need to be organic. Bananas are a common one. There are very few pests that bother bananas so there aren’t too many pesticides used. You are going to peel it and eat only the inside anyhow, so why buy organic? You can save a few cents per pound by buying the regular ones. Oranges and other citrus are typically peeled so buying organic citrus is not that important. Just wash them before you slice them. (actually you should wash all produce, then wash your hands before eating, but I’m not always that neurotic)

Thin skin fruits and veggies a better place for you to spend your organic dollar. Berries, carrots, celery, broccoli and the like may get sprayed more often because they have more pests to combat. If organic cucumbers or carrots are too expensive, I buy the regular kind and peel them well.

The most ridiculous organic item is real maple syrup. To make any real maple syrup, the sap is drained from mature maple trees and cooked to bring out the sugar. That’s it! So there is no point in spending extra money for the organic label when it’s probably the same syrup.

Organic canned and frozen foods as well as pasta can be more expensive than the regular versions. I look for the store brand organics first. As with anything, if there is a sale, stock up. Organic canned diced tomato is usually cheaper than organic tomato sauce. I buy these from Costco by the case and use them to make an easy tomato sauce, or just drain the liquid and throw them into pasta just as they are. You can also use them in many recipes that call for fresh tomato.

Organic or not, it’s generally cheaper to make things from scratch. It’s a good idea to learn to make simple recipes like pasta sauce and soups.

I am lucky enough to live near a farm stand that is open 4 days a week. All the produce is organic and still cheaper than the regular grocery store produce. Check local co-ops. Sometimes they buy local produce and can sell it cheaper. This depends on where you live in the country. Another great place to find cheaper foods is the ethnic markets. I like asian and mexican foods. By shopping in these stores you will find certain items much cheaper than the regular supermarket.

In all, I think the health benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables probably exceeds the dangers of pesticides. Buy organic when it makes sense, wash the heck out of everything else.