The Young Adult’s Guide to Organic Shopping


As most twenty-somethings living on a budget, I will sometimes cut corners with my money by trying to save a buck here or there. I use coupons and rebate apps and buy generic brand products. But when it comes to buying conventional over organic produce, it becomes a little more uncomfortable. Information about GMOs and pesticides have only become widely publicized over the last fifteen years or so, and it’s hard to choose between your gas bill and an organic tomato. (Yes, that is an exaggeration, but you get it.) Do I poison myself just to save a couple bucks? Unsure. For me, I am also a bit intimidated by the idea of buying organic because I don’t know what the most important produce items are to buy au-natural. In an ideal world, I would not eat chemicals, be able to support sustainable farming practices, and still save 10 dollars a week. Do I buy organic or save for retirement? All of these questions are hard to answer. 


While there are many other very real important issues going on around the world right now, let's take a moment to look at the most critical fruits and vegetables to buy organic, especially if you’re on a budget. These twelve items have been dubbed the “Dirty Dozen”. “The “Dirty Dozen” is a list the Environmental Working Group puts out indicating which items in the produce aisle tend to have the highest concentrations of pesticide residues.” Says Lori Zanini, R.D., spokesperson for the Association of Nutrition and Dietetics. 



  1. Strawberries

  2. Apples

  3. Nectarines

  4. Peaches

  5. Celery 

  6. Grapes

  7. Cherries

  8. Spinach 

  9. Tomatoes

  10. Sweet Bell Peppers

  11. Cherry Tomatoes

  12. Cucumbers 

It is not nearly as intimidating heading into the grocery store knowing that there are only twelve items in the produce section to avoid unless buying them organic. And lets be real, cherries and grapes are always expensive anyway so if you're on a budget you weren't even buying them in the first place. Keep these fruits and vegetables listed on a note on your phone for easy access during your grocery store trips. Or, If you're more organized than the other 90% of the world, you can add them into your grocery list app. If you forget your list, just remember that any fruit or vegetable with a thick rind or skin like oranges are more than likely free from pesticides in the flesh.


Similarly, there is also a list of fresh produce called the “Clean Fifteen”. All of these items will almost always be okay for you to buy conventionally, and when tested show very little to no pesticides. 



  1. Sweet corn

  2. Avocados

  3. Pineapples

  4. Cabbage

  5. Onions

  6. Frozen sweet peas

  7. Papayas

  8. Asparagus

  9. Mangoes

  10. Eggplant

  11. Honeydew

  12. Kiwifruit

  13. Cantaloupe

  14. Cauliflower

  15. 15. Grapefruit


Now you can complete your shopping in a more carefree manner each week knowing that you are being good to your budget and your belly.