To Buy Organic Or Not To – That Is The Question

Many people struggle with this question.  The case for buying Organic vegetables and fruits is that they are pesticide and GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) free. Why should we care about pesticides and GMO?  In his post titled How to Find the Healthiest Fare in Meat and Produce Aisles, Dr Mercola succinctly answers this question:

“Research has shown that pesticides and other agricultural chemicals are neurotoxins and can cause disruptions to your neurological system and your brain. The reason why neurotoxins still enjoy widespread use on our fresh food supply is really more about the bottom line for farming operations than it is about the science of human health.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides, and 30 percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic. All of these toxins are permitted on conventional farms, and any number of them can end up on your plate when you purchase conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables.

The increased use of genetically engineered Bt hybrid plants and soil insecticides also increases the chemical load in food — particularly processed foods.

These man-made neurotoxic chemicals can bioaccumulate in your body, as they resist breaking down in water and also accumulate and store in fat, where they can remain for long periods of time.

In short, this means your body has a very hard time getting rid of them once they enter your body.”

The case against buying organic is:

  • it is darn expensive (compared to conventional produce) and
  • some research, although controversial, shows that organic food is not any more nutritious than conventionally grown foods. A team of Stanford researchers concluded in an article in Annals of Internal Medicine  that:

“Published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. (Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria)”

A Happy Medium

Let’s face it, life is all about compromises.  And Environmental Working Group (EWG) provides us with a compromise for Organic vs. Conventional in their 2013 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™.  According to this study:

“The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides™ to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all. The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ will help you determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic. You can lower your pesticide intake by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and choosing the least contaminated produce.”

12 Most Contaminated Fruits And Vegetables

Here are the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables per EWG that you are better off buying Organic:
  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Cherry tomatoes
  4. Cucumbers
  5. Grapes
  6. Hot peppers
  7. Nectarines – imported
  8. Peaches
  9. Potatoes
  10. Spinach
  11. Strawberries
  12. Sweet bell peppers
  13. Kale / collard greens
  14. Summer squash

15 Least Contaminated Fruits And Vegetables

EWG also provides a list of 15 least contaminated produce:
  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocados
  3. Cabbage
  4. Cantaloupe
  5. Sweet Corn
  6. Eggplant
  7. Grapefruit
  8. Kiwi
  9. Mangos
  10. Mushrooms
  11. Onions
  12. Papayas
  13. Pineapples
  14. Sweet peas – frozen
  15. Sweet potatoes

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Reduce Food Waste, Sell By. Use By and Best Before dates

As I touched upon in my blog about meal planning, we are simply wasting a ton of food.  According to a report published by NRDC:

“American families throw out approximately 25% of  the food and beverages they buy.  The cost estimate for  the average family of four is $1,365 to $2,275 annually.”

% of Food Wasted by Consumers by Category

Food waste, Grain, Seafood, Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Milk

Source: NRDC

Of the food wasted, Seafood seems to be getting trashed at the highest rate and Meat at the lowest.

Three Tips To Limit Food Waste

This past week ABC News ran an interesting 3 minute report about food waste.  They tracked the behavior of a family of four for one week by putting cameras in their grocery cart, kitchen, refrigerator and pantry.  They discovered that this family wastes about $2,300 worth of food each year.

In this report they recommend three tips to limit food waste:

1-  Learn the lingo: Sell by or Use by does not mean toss by, you can often eat it up to 7 days after these dates

2-  Plan your plate: Manage your meal and portion sizes

3-  Zone your fridge:  To extend the life of all dairy, liquids and eggs keep them in the lower section of the refrigerator because it is colder

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7 Meal Planning and Menu Mailer Services Compared

Meal Planning, Menu Mailer, eating healthy, Websites Compared

Picture: Meal Planning by Pennyshima

What do you do for Meal Planning?  How do you decide what to cook?  Do you first come up with a Meal Plan for the week and then create a Grocery List?  Or do you first shop for groceries by buying the ingredients that your family likes, and then cook based on what you have in your pantry and refrigerator?

If you’re like our family, my guess is you’re somewhere in between the two approaches.  Although you might plan in advance for cooking a few meals for the week and buy the ingredients required for those meals, when you are at the grocery store, you still end up buying other ingredients.

Outsource Meal Planning?

Figuring out what to cook on a weekly basis can be daunting.  One way to solve this problem is to subscribe to one of the meal planning and menu mailer services.  These services send you weekly Meal Plans and Grocery Shopping Lists.  They cost between $5 – $10 per month.  Given that on an average about 1/3rd of all groceries we buy go to waste, spending $5 – $10 per month on a meal planning service could end up being a smart financial decision.

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cheap eats, Zagat food Rating, google

Do you want to have your cake and eat it too?  Sure!  I’m always on the look out for good quality food at the lowest possible price.  Websites like Yelp and Urbanspoon are great resources to find cheap eats.  However, my new favorite is Zagat.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Zagat, it is a restaurant rating service.  Zagat uses a 30 point scale to rate restaurants (and other food establishments) on factors like Food, Decor, Service and Cost.  Late last year, Google bought Zagat.  Prior to Google’s acquisition you had to pay for Zagat’s ratings.  Google has made it FREE!!

Here is a video (and transcript) of how to use Zagat to, among other things, find good quality cheap eats in less than 5 minutes.

Here is a video and transcript of how to use Zagat to, among other things, find good quality cheap eats in less than 5 minutes.


Today I’m going to show you how to find good quality cheap eats in less than 5 minutes using Zagat.

Go to Zagat.com.  Sign in with your Google plus account.  If you don’t have a Google plus account, you can register here for free. [click to continue…]


7 Full Service Stores for Online Grocery Shopping

full service online grocery stores, benefits online grocery shoppingPicture: NYPL Digital Gallery

According to US Grocery Shopper Trends, we make an average of 2.2 trips per week to the grocery stores.  And according to The Time Use Institute, we spend 40 minutes per grocery store visit.  If you add commute time of say 20 minutes per trip, we are spending a little over 2 hours per week on buying groceries.  And, like me, if you shop for groceries with your children, I would add another 15 minutes per child!

Online Grocery Shopping Starting To Pick Up

One way to save time is to shop for groceries online.  According to US Grocery Shopper Trends, ‘at least occasionally’ 12% of us buy Groceries and Beverages online and 4% of us buy Fresh Foods and Produce online.  With more full service online options becoming available these trends are likely to grow.

Benefits Of Online Grocery Shopping

Again, according to the US Grocery Shopper Trends:

“Those consumers who are buying groceries online do so for several reasons; convenience of home shopping (57%) and home delivery (47%) being among the top three reasons. Value or lower prices (53%) is the third driver for online shopping. In a word, online shopping makes certain aspects of grocery shopping “easier.’ Consumers report that it’s “easier’ to find items (35%), read reviews (33%), compare prices (32%), and research products (28%).”

Full Service Online Grocery Stores

So if you want to shop online and save almost 2 hours per week, here are the full service online grocery stores that deliver perishable and non-perishable groceries.  Although there are several stores that sell dry groceries online, only full service stores act as a one-stop-shop  able to meet all of your grocery needs including fresh produce, dairy and meats.

Let me know if you know of another option near you that is not listed above!


Introduction: Healthy Eating made Simple and Efficient

With the New Year around the corner healthy eating is going to be on most of our New Year’s resolution lists.  But how many of us will be successful at consistently eating healthy in 2013?

Eating healthy is challenging

Let’s face it,  the process of getting healthy meals on our plates is not always easy.   When we cook at home, we face two big issues:

1. Cooking is time-consuming

cooking time consuming

In order to cook at home we have to plan, buy groceries from one or more grocery stores, prep, and cook.  This process takes time.

2. Cooking healthy is a complicated equation

cooking complex equation

USDA’s Food Plate recommends that we eat within a certain caloric range and ensure that our diet includes a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, proteins, grains and dairy.  These recommendations by themselves can be very complicated to put into practice.  However when you add other factors such as personal preferences (tastes, likes, dislikes), diets (Atkins, vegetarian, vegan) and other considerations (price, brand, local/organic, etc.), you end up with a highly complicated problem.

Unhealthy eating can cause serious problems

families eat porly have health problems

Families – especially with children – are constantly strapped for time.  We simply don’t have a lot of time to plan and cook healthy meals.  And even if we do, we end up getting overwhelmed with managing the complexity of eating healthy.  As a result of this we don’t always make the best food decisions.

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