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Clever ways to eat organic on a budget - The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15

A lot of people find organic fruit and vegetables a-peal-ing! And for good reason. Not only are organic foods better for our health, they are even better for the environment. Unfortunately, most people are scared off by the price tag attached to organic produce.

So where do the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 come into it? They are the key to eating clean and organically in a clever (and cheaper) way. Read on for more information, and tips on how to incorporate organic food into your diet on the cheap.

The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15

The Dirty Dozen are a list of fruits and vegetables tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and published by the Environmental Working Group listing the produce which is contaminated with the most pesticides and chemicals – even after washing and peeling.

The Clean 15 are the recommended fruits and vegetables found to be the lowest in pesticides and other chemicals. So, if your wallet won’t allow you to buy completely organic, at least you can prioritise buying the Dirty Dozen foods organically, to minimise your pesticide and chemical exposure, and have the option to buy The Clean 15 as conventional produce if needs be.

And the award, for the 2015 Dirty Dozen goes to...

  1. Apples
  2. Peaches
  3. Nectarines
  4. Strawberries
  5. Grapes
  6. Celery
  7. Spinach
  8. Capsicum
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry tomatoes
  11. Snap peas
  12. Potatoes

Also, Chilli peppers and Kale/Collard greens have been found to contain comparably high amounts of pesticides and chemicals.


And The Clean 15:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sweet Peas (frozen)
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Papayas
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Grapefruit
  13. Rockmelon
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Sweet potato

You can download a handy pocket sized list of the Dirty Dozen & Clean 15 by signing up with the EWG.

What does ‘organic’ actually mean? 'Certified organic,' or food given the label of 'organic,' generally means that synthetic chemicals (including pesticides and artificial fertilisers) aren't used to produce the food. It also indicates the food is non-genetically modified and not irradiated.

What are the benefits of eating organic?

  • More vitamin C for you! – Organic food generally contains more Vitamin C than conventional produce and increased amounts of antioxidant plant chemicals (phenols).
  • Less pesticides and chemicals – Pesticides can disrupt hormonal balance in the body contributing to a range of health problems, also disrupt the nervous system and may be associated with certain behavioural issues in children.
  • Lower greenhouse emissions – less energy is used to produce organic versus conventional produce, this also means less pollution from the manufacture and transportation of chemical nitrogen fertilisers.
  • Sustainable food production – conventional farming depletes the soil of nutrients, decreases biodiversity of species and the world supply of mined phosphate fertiliser used to produce conventional produce is running out.
  • Happy animals – Organic generally indicates animals are free range, free to graze and also fed organic produce. It also means animals that happen to reside naturally near farms are not affected by chemicals and pesticides.

Other ways to eat organic on a budget:

  • Check out your local farmers market for organic produce, and support your local community of growers. Their organic food may be cheaper than what you find in the supermarket as it hasn't had to travel far.
  • Buying fruits and vegetables that are in season will minimise cost, as there will be an abundant supply of them and less overheads related to their production.
  • Buying food that is 'Certified Organic' adds cost to the produce you buy, as the supplier has to pay a significant amount for this certification. Look for 'organic' or 'spray free' produce which may be the same as organic produce, just without the certification. Talk to your local growers about how they grow their food to ensure their authenticity.
  • Buy produce from farms that are in 'transition' from conventional to organic. Check with the grower to find out which of their produce is organic.
  • Grow your own organic fruits and vegetables in your yard or in a community garden. Ensure you check the quality of your soil first for heavy metals or chemical exposure.
  • Buy larger quantities of produce that is in season at more cost effective prices and share the produce (and the cost) with your friends!