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BTD Forums  /  SWAMI Xpress  /  Getting the best produce for the price?
Posted by: Mickey, Thursday, May 31, 2012, 7:23pm
I've noticed that i don't seem to be getting enough produce in my diet (the recommended swami amount).  I'm on food stamps and struggle to get enough food as it is.  I usually try to buy organic produce when it's on the dirty dozen list, otherwise i buy conventional.  

I'm wondering if it's more important to buy conventional than worry if the food is on the "dirty dozen" list ( in order to insure i'm getting enough veggies/fruits?.  Another question is how important is buying in "season" and buying "local"?.  Is buying organic produce from Mexico better than buying conventional food from the U.S., since every country has it's own standards for organic produce?.


I may not beable to get back to this until tomorrow.
Posted by: Conor, Thursday, May 31, 2012, 7:30pm; Reply: 1
Hi Mickey, I find that I get the best bang for my buck at farmers' markets.

Here's a link to a thread that discussed the 'organic vs conventional' issue in detail:

Posted by: Mickey, Thursday, May 31, 2012, 7:33pm; Reply: 2
Thanks Connor!

I don't have time to read your link right now, but will as soon as i can.

I haven't tried farmer's markets with my F.S. yet but i am going to try to find some local ones that take F.S. and give it a shot.
Posted by: Andrea AWsec, Friday, June 1, 2012, 11:12am; Reply: 3
Also you can buy CSA shares with food stamps as well.
Posted by: ruthiegirl, Friday, June 1, 2012, 1:11pm; Reply: 4
You need to take a close look at the available options. None of the farmer's markets or CSA shares near me take food stamps, at least not yet. But since I generally spend more money on food per month than I get in food stamps, I make the farmer's markets my "cash food budget." And the local farmer's markets are not always cheaper than the supermarket. They're much higher quality, and the prices are lower than organic produce at the store, but it's often more expensive than conventional supermarket produce. But then the farmer will throw in extras sometimes because she knows me- I've walked out of there with a bag full of bruised fruit or veggies (to cook with) that she gave me for free because nobody was going to buy it anyway (but only when I'd already spent $20+ on bags of other produce.)

I mostly buy produce in season, and I mostly avoid the items on the "dirty dozen" list. There's a brand of lettuce I can buy at Costco that isn't certified organic, but I checked out the company's website and I'm comfortable buying from them. They do use IPM (integrated pest management) which means that they use organic farming methods to keep the soil healthy and control pests, but also use some pesticides just on  the infested areas if the other methods aren't quite enough. That's far different from conventional aggriculture where all the crops are sprayed with pesticides on a schedule, several times during the growing season.

I also use a lot of frozen veggies. Fresh produce prices vary but frozen stay stable, so at times the frozen veggies are cheaper. There's also far less waste with frozen veggies since they're less likely to spoil before you get to eat them. I've  been using the pesticide-free spinach from Trader Joe's. It's cheaper than certified organic spinach (there or elsewhere)  but far lower in pesticides than conventional spinach. I'm OK with eating things on the "dirty dozen" list if they're produced with "less pesticides" even if it's not certified organic. I don't worry at all about organic for foods not on the "dirty dozen" list such as onions, sweet potatoes, and broccolli.

Since celery is on the dirty dozen list, I don't buy it often. When I do, it's organic. But I no longer buy it every week and snack on celery with almond butter; now it's an occasional treat. I don't find that I'm spending any more money on produce when I use the Dirty Dozen list; I'm simply making different choices in the produce department. The only exception is in the summertime when conventional peaches and plums are so prevalent and cheap, while the organic counterparts are 2-4 times as expensive. I'd happily go without the fruit, but my kids need it. I've been vascillating between "doing without" peaches in season, buying organic, or buying the inexpensive local conventional fruit.

If you're literally finding yourself without enough to eat, and you don't have any cash available to supplement the food stamps budget, then you may need to make some compromises.
Posted by: Brett650, Friday, June 1, 2012, 3:12pm; Reply: 5
Farmers markets can have high or low prices, depending on the market and often depending on the particular vendor. The prices are often lowered during the last hour of the market.

Many farmers market vendors offer produce grown without pesticides, even if it's not certified organic. I tend to trust farmers market produce more than what's in the stores, but that's just me.

I don't know where you are in the Bay Area, but someone recently told me they found great prices at the Civic Center farmers market in San Francisco, and apparently they accept food stamps too. Also check out the Market Match program for Bay Area farmers markets:
Posted by: Mickey, Friday, June 1, 2012, 10:11pm; Reply: 6
Thanks for the great links Andrea and Brett!.  ;)  Brett i live in San Jose, so S.F. is alittle far but i'll check to see where the local one's are from your link.

Thanks for all the great info. and ideas!!!.  I learn so much from you!!!.  ;)
Posted by: 18545 (Guest), Saturday, June 2, 2012, 12:34am; Reply: 7
I get pretty good deals on fresh produce at Aldi's.
Posted by: 19000 (Guest), Saturday, June 2, 2012, 3:12pm; Reply: 8
Trader Joe's also has good prices if you have one near you.
Posted by: shoulderblade, Sunday, June 3, 2012, 11:42am; Reply: 9
Quoted from Brett650

Many farmers market vendors offer produce grown without pesticides, even if it's not certified organic. I tend to trust farmers market produce more than what's in the stores, but that's just me.

I think you are right on that. I was speaking to one of the vendors at the market I go to and he said they very rarely use sprays at all. He rotates crops every year to discourage problems getting established in the soil and has a small enough operation that someone can do a walk through to see if there are any problems.

The problem with big operations is that you have to spray whether there is a problem or not. Too big an area to check by eye and too risky to let something spread in a monoculture situation.

Also spraying is an expense for the grower. If they can avoid doing it they can also advertise it as 'no spray'

The price difference between organic and conventional can pretty dramatic. Where I live there is not much going on in the way of organic but what is around is expensive. I was at market yesterday and saw a head of organic Broccoli for $3.50 whereas a larger head of conventional was $1

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