Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to memorize the Dirty Dozen list published by the Environmental Working Group. This is a list of the 12 items that, when consumed, supply your body with over 90% of your chemical load from fruits and vegetables. You can find the list here, or see below. You may have this already somewhere in your house, but you should know that it’s been updated very recently (March 2009), and there are a lot of changes, in my opinion.
UPDATE: Here’s the new 2011 Dirty Dozen produce list
For slackers, cheaters and moms: You don’t have to memorize the list. Just post it on your fridge and refer to it as you make shopping lists and check ads. 🙂
EWG’s 2009 Dirty Dozen
- Bell Peppers
- Grapes (imported)
EWG recommends that you buy these items organic whenever possible. If you can do that, it’s a way to concentrate your efforts where it counts and save your budget when it doesn’t matter quite as much. That’s why I can say this mission impacts your budget both positively AND negatively: you may find yourself spending more on organic vs. standard produce, but at least you can make wise choices about when to take that plunge.
UPDATE: The 2010 Dirty Dozen list was released!
Small Step, Small Impact
However, I’m not going to ask you to make any major purchasing changes this week. That’s why the Earth only has a checkmark on Impact Rating: we might not make many changes yet to help reduce chemicals going into the soil. Also, sometimes organic foods must be shipped farther, resulting in more energy consumption and air pollution.
For now, let’s just be aware of the Dirty Dozen items and think about how often we use them in our meal planning. Take a Baby Step and increase your knowledge base; pray about what God wants you to do with your shopping list/budget.
Dirty Super Foods
You might notice that an unfortunate number of Dirty Dozen items are also on our Super Foods list, including peppers, which we’re tackling this week. That always makes me sad, but it also gives me more motivation to try to find it in my budget to purchase this stuff often, and purchase it organic when possible. When I can’t, I trust in the promise of my meal blessing and continue to do the best I can.
My Household’s Decisions
For my family and my budget, there are some choices that are easy:
- Carrots – rarely more expensive to buy organic, so I always do. Another way to save $ on carrots is to go old-fashioned and cut your own carrot sticks from organic carrots — this ends up being cheaper than conventionally grown “baby” carrots in a 1 lb. package.
- Celery – negligible difference, and we don’t use much celery. Sometimes I buy the organic hearts to include in recipes and the regular stuff for my stocks.
- Imported Grapes – in the winter in Michigan, the grapes in stores are from Chili. They usually don’t have that satisfying snap of American grapes (perhaps because of the long airplane flight from South America). My philosophy is to skip them and wait until summertime, when grapes are from California.
- Bananas and Mushrooms – I know, these aren’t on the list. They did make it onto Greg Horn’s list of most important organic choices in the book Living Green, however, I believe because of the impact on the environment. Because bananas are usually only 10 cents more per pound for organic and mushrooms are generally the same price when organic goes on sale, I do my best to stay away from the pesticide-laden varieties.
Some choices are harder to swallow, even though the choice is clear:
All of these are so very expensive to buy organic. I just can’t do it. Plus, I prefer to buy peaches and cherries locally and pick our own strawberries in June. They last us almost all year in the freezer.
Some choices are complicated:
- Apples and Pears – I vacillate between local Michigan apples and organic Washington apples. Pears I’ll occasionally buy organic, when on sale. Otherwise, I scrub them to death!
- Bell Peppers – I don’t even notice if they sell organic peppers in the stores. I just grimace and bear it on this one, but sometimes I can get organic peppers at the Farmer’s Market in the summer and freeze them, both diced and sliced.
- Lettuce and Kale – new to the list this year, whereas spinach was on the old list. I go back and forth on these leafy items as well, depending on what is on sale and what my grocery budget has left. We eat a lot of salad at my house…I wash non-organic lettuce and spinach twice!
Yay! Garlic and Onions aren’t on the list! You can eat them without (as much) worry and with the knowledge that they’re so healthy for your family.
That brings me to an added bonus Monday Mission for some of you:
If you don’t already use fresh garlic in your cooking, I challenge you to try it this week. I guarantee some of your recipes call for a clove of garlic, and you always just substituted garlic powder or dried minced garlic. On Wednesday I’ll be posting some helps for selecting and preparing garlic, onions and peppers.
One Small Step
Perhaps you can make one small change in the way you handle the Dirty Dozen items. In my house, when I can’t/don’t buy organic and I know the vegetable or fruit I’m about to use is on the Dirty Dozen list, I scrub harder! Potatoes take forever for me to scrub because I really do them well (they were on the previous Dirty Dozen list). If you don’t have a vegetable scrub brush, add it to your wish list! I don’t know if it helps for sure (and the EWG says probably not), but I’ll trust the Lord to at least honor my intentions as I try to scrape my way into Heaven, even if my children’s bodies aren’t as protected here on Earth.
I also put my children first and try to make sure they get more organic food than I do if it comes to a choice like that. Their bodies are so much smaller that the chemicals in conventional produce have a much greater negative impact on them than they do on me. For example, we have some organic frozen fruit for our yogurt right now (it was the same price as conventional fruit, and only 2 oz. less for raspberries). The blueberries were 10 oz. organic vs. 16 oz. conventional, so I bought one of each (plus they only had one organic). My husband and I will eat the regular stuff and save the organic for the kiddos.
My Personal Monday Mission
I’m looking into the merits of produce washes, both commercial and homemade. Right now I don’t use one, but perhaps it is warranted. I’ll let you know the results of my inspection at the end of the summer when we get to natural cleaners.
UPDATE: Here’s an analysis of 8 different produce washes!
Other Interesting Posts:
- How Much Does my Dishwasher Cost?
- Dishes Workout
- Praying in the Kitchen
- Hand Sanitizers in the Home
- How to Buy Reduced Produce
Mind the Microwave in May: