We’re all doing our best to eat more fruits and vegetables these days, but it’s no secret that the cost of food is a real concern in this tight economy. In an ideal world, every piece of fresh produce we buy would be organic. But for some large families or seniors on fixed incomes, this isn’t always possible.

Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group offers some guidance. The nonprofit has recently published its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of the produce items highest in pesticide residue – ones we should always try to purchase with the organic label. EWG also gives the green-light for the “Clean 15,” or those foods with the least pesticide residue which are safer to consume when conventionally grown.

Using these recommendations can help you to make smart choices when buying food. Organically grown produce in stores can be a bit pricier than conventionally grown, but health-wise, it’s worth the investment. With some planning and effort, you can get the most bang for your food buck by subscribing to an organic food co-op (visit www.localharvest.org to find the nearest Community Supported Agriculture group in your area). Another strategy is to always buy local produce in season when it’s cheaper – you can package and freeze extra to eat later.

Here, courtesy of EWG, is the current “Dirty Dozen” list of foods you should buy organic whenever possible:

  1. Apples

  2. Celery

  3. Sweet bell peppers

  4. Peaches

  5. Strawberries

  6. Nectarines – imported

  7. Grapes

  8. Lettuce

  9. Cucumbers

  10. Blueberries – domestic

  11. Potatoes


On the upside, here are the “Clean 15” which EWG says are low in pesticide residue even when conventionally grown (not organic):

  1. Onions

  2. Sweet corn

  3. Pineapples

  4. Avocado

  5. Cabbage

  6. Sweet peas

  7. Asparagus

  8. Mangoes

  9. Eggplant

  10. Kiwi

  11. Cantaloupe – domestic

  12. Sweet potatoes

  13. Grapefruit

  14. Watermelon

  15. Mushrooms


Do you choose organically grown produce when you shop?

Source: Environmental Working Group