Organic Mom

by Sally on September 14, 2011

Organic Mom was in line behind me at the grocery store the other day.

Full disclosure: I have this really bad habit of looking at the contents of other people’s grocery carts. I’m not judging them. Okay, sometimes I am judging them. Mostly, I view it as “research”.

But when Organic Mom was behind me in line, I was the one who felt judged.

Organic Mom’s cart contained the following: organic yogurt, organic frozen vegetables, organic almond milk, organic spaghetti sauce, organic whole wheat pasta, and a jumbo pack of Seventh Generation diapers. She was wearing a stylish, belted trench. She was talking on her cell phone to a friend about whether the snacks at her child’s preschool were organic (I’m not making this up, I swear).

And me? I wanted to dive onto the conveyor belt and shield my items from view. Maybe using my L.L. Bean windbreaker that I bought in 1991.

I’m frequently asked if I exclusively eat organic. I don’t.

I usually buy organic apples and salad greens, items we eat a lot that tend to be higher in pesticides. If I can’t find local eggs, I buy organic because the chickens likely had better living conditions (I’ve seen Food, Inc. too many times). Sometimes I alternate buying organic and conventional on foods like yogurt and in-season strawberries to save money.

But I’m not convinced that my kids’ health will suffer if I don’t get the organic cereal. And while I love the idea of supporting sustainable farming with every single food purchase, I also love the idea of paying my mortgage.

So why does Organic Mom, through no fault of her own, make me feel inferior–like when the moms at baby music class were carrying Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bags and I had the one we got free at the hospital? Am I secretly worried that by not spending the extra $100 a week, I’m not doing the very best I can for my children? Or am I just jealous of her shoes?

Organic food shouldn’t be some kind of status symbol or badge of good parenting. It should be a choice you make based on science, personal values, and budget. And you should feel good about buying things like fruits and vegetables for your kids, whether they carry the organic seal or not.

So next time I see Organic Mom at the store, I vow to unload my tubs of non-organic, store-brand yogurt onto the same belt as her Stonyfield Farms and try not feel bad about myself or the choices I make. And try to wear better shoes.

To learn more about the dirtiest (and cleanest) fruits and veggies, download the Environmental Working Group’s “Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce“.

For tips on saving money on organic food, check out Thrifty & Green’s “Thrifty Ways to Save When Buying Organic“.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel (Hounds in the Kitchen) September 14, 2011 at 12:57 pm

I so look at others’ carts and judge. It’s terrible.

Whether and when to choose organic is hard. I try to buy whole real foods based on taste and flavor. Out of season, non-organic fresh berries taste terrible, in my opinion, so I refuse to buy them. I usually refuse the organic ones too because they don’t taste much better. On the other hand, I buy brand name non-organic Cheerios because I agree with my daughter that the taste is superior to any organic or store brand.

Alix Jennings September 14, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Sally, your description of Organic Mom is hilarious! I can picture her clearly. I agree about buying organic not being a badge of good parenting — well said! I almost always buy organic milk, apples, and most veggies, and do both organic and non-organic with other items. I also hate it when people equate organic with healthy. The worst is that my kids have started to do it. They both love these Annie’s Bunny Gummies, which don’t resemble food in any way and are really just high-falutin’ gummy bears. When I tell them they can’t have them because they’re junk, they’ll say, “But, Mom, they’re organic!” Nice try.

Jennifer September 14, 2011 at 3:46 pm

I like looking in others’ carts, too. I really don’t think I’m trying to judge. I just find it amusing when someone buys a pack of diet coke and a quart of ice cream at the same time. Thanks for this post. I think we should all do the best we can and don’t take opportunities to judge at all! As a side note, organic cereal is still processed. Maybe non-organic rolled oats would be just as good?

Michelle Daniel September 14, 2011 at 5:03 pm

This made me start buying more organic:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rixyrCNVVGA&feature=share

Erin @ vie balance September 14, 2011 at 7:37 pm

I also look at other people’s carts and try not to judge or compare too much. I do try to buy organic where it makes sense for us – produce (mostly just the dirty dozen), dairy, and meat (we only have meat about once a week if that).

Right now, it is just me, my husband, and our 10 month old so shopping this way is still within our budget (just less money for snacks and such which is actually a good thing!), but as we add more to our brood and I hopefully transition to staying at home we will probably have to rethink how we grocery shop to save some money.

I agree that the most important part is good parenting and part of that is teaching healthy eating habits and that just doesn’t magically happen if you buy organic. I have seen many people in the grocery store (trying not to judge but sometimes you just wonder about other’s thought processes) that are buying organic cookies, ice cream, pizza, etc. but are still missing the fresh produce, whole grains, and other vital nutrients. I think there is so misunderstandings in our society about what organic is and when it is worth the purchase price.

Sally September 14, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Michelle, that was really interesting. (I might just show that in my nutrition class!) I agree that engineered proteins in the food supply are very worrisome–and I hope that, as she says in the clip, food companies (and the govt) respond in the ways they have in other countries. Because these kinds of healthier foods need to be cheaper for the average family to benefit from them. Thank you for sharing this with me!

Sally September 14, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Rachel, I agree-the decision is really hard. It tends to be a food-by-food choice for me. And taste certainly factors in. For example, this summer I was amazed at how much better the organic strawberries tasted compared to the conventional. Personally, I feel more confident in the benefits of eating seasonally and locally–to me, that makes more sense for health than buying organic cheese bunnies and the like. Thanks for your comment!

Sally September 14, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Alix, that is so funny about your girls! And I love “high-falutin’ gummy bears”. Thank you for making me laugh!

Sally September 14, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Erin, thanks for your comment. And I’m with you–an overly processed diet of packaged foods is not a healthy diet, even if it’s organic. I worry that the organic issue–as truly important as it is–obscures the more important message of eating whole, healthy foods for some people. It’s the “health halo” effect. People see “organic” and think it’s good for them.

Sally September 14, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Thanks for reading my blog, Jennifer. I think looking in people’s carts is super interesting too–I live near OSU and always get a chuckle from the college guys with their carts full of ramen noodles, mac-and-cheese, Gatorade, and Miller Lite. :)

I’ve got nothing against processed foods but don’t think anybody’s diet should be dominated by them. We eat different types of regular cereal around here, but I like to alternate those breakfasts with whole grain toast, oatmeal, my own homemade granola, etc. Thanks for your comment!

Tiffany March 8, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Yay for paying the mortgage! I totally share your philosophy of buying organic for specific items. Using science-based information to determine overall food purchases goes a long way and I’m fairly certain Organic Mom may be ignoring a few of the data points. Now who’s judging WHO?!

Kat (Eating The Week) March 9, 2012 at 7:06 am

I have a feeling my grocery cart would look (unintentionally) sanctimonious. I buy a lot of organic stuff, especially produce. But, I do all that shopping usually wearing my sneakers, hair pulled back in a bandanna, wearing the Old Navy coat I got on sale for $25 five years ago, so maybe that helps balance it out.

Checking out other people’s carts counts as professional development for me – since I’m in school to become an RD, it’s like market research on potential clients. That’s the story I’m sticking with, anyway!

Sarah August 2, 2012 at 8:32 am

She was in front of me at Whole Foods the last time I went. I was looking for the new flavor of Mrs. Meyers all purpose cleaner, eschewing organic foods the whole way.

She was talking on her cell phone and ignoring her baby who was trying to climb out of the cart. I felt smug.

Kelly Shay October 20, 2012 at 9:16 am

I too am guilty of checkin out other peoples’ carts. Living in the campus area makes it all THAT MUCH MORE interesting. These poor college kids who have never learned to cook always make me shake my head. But I have to remember that I was once them. AND I had horrible stomach issues & bad acne too :) Is there a correlation there?!….. I think so.
I agree that it is challenging to eat exclusively organic. Being a single mother, I find that a large portion of my budget is spent on food. Not because I have a large family, it’s because I do buy mostly organic.
And I think that if more people were more educated on the importance of this, then the more available AND affordable it would be.
The prevelance of GMOs in our food supply is extremely troublesome. There are NO long term studies on this. And WE AND OUR CHILDREN are the test subjects!
For me, this is unacceptable and I will not volunteer my child for this study.
It is extremely interesting and disturbing that 20 years ago, we did not have all the food allergies, ADHD, IBS, and a slew of other ailments that we have today. What was different then? Well, for 1 thing…. 20yrs ago is when we started ‘experimenting’ with the food supply. It’s when GMO’s were introduced.
For example…. GMO corn. It’s in EVERYTHING. The Bt that is in the corn, causes the insects who attempt to eat it to explode!! Literally!!! Their stomach explodes upon injesting Bt corn!!! Do we honestly think that when we injest this stuff that nothing will happen to us?!
I have to apologize for getting on my soapbox. I just feel very strongly about this.
It is so challenging to do what we think is best for our children. And food is sooo expensive!!!
There yet another food movie out if you want to check it out. It was free to view until last Thursday. Maybe they extended it.
Go to naturalhealth365.com.

annie March 1, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Ha! And I thought I was the only one who looked in other people’s carts!

I do buy a lot of organic stuff but not a lot of processed food. It always surprises me how many boxes and how few whole foods people buy (including how often all that boxed food is “organic” because I think in that case they are seriously missing the point) but apparently everyone else is surprised by my cart. I regularly get comments like “what are you making with all those onions” or “what are all those dried beans for?” I’m always like “that’s just my week’s food, folks!”

OrganicMom May 12, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Have any of you heard of G M O?? Genetically modified organisms. We’re not a science experiment and that’s why I choose organic foods; no preservatives, no artificial ingredients, no GMOs! Simple. Laugh all you want, but at least I know what’s in my food! Regular cheerios = GMO.

Sally May 12, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Yes, I’ve heard of GMO. And I’m not laughing at people who buy organic. I’m laughing at myself for feeling inferior about not buying everything organic. While I do buy many organic items, I don’t have the budget to buy exclusively organic. I wish I did, because I would like to completely avoid antibiotics, synthetic pesticides, and GMOs too.

Sasha May 30, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Please don’t take all moms as some swipe against you. I’ve gone organic after studying nutrition for me and my child. Does this mean hardcore every single day? No. Does this mean I feel superior to others? NO.

From my personal experience though. There are moms who are highly competitive and like to put other women down to prop themselves up. They will use anything from “I feed my child better” ” I do this and that better”. Then there are the mothers that are instantly insecure the moment they notice another mom is thin and they aren’t. The insecure ones are often frenemies and will be a complete two-faced type towards women they secretly look up to but have this issue with trying to dominate which leaves them lying about women behind their backs so they can have leverage.

I know of a mother who is the fake organic mom. She pretends she’s really into that lifestyle but only when particular people are in her company.

CoolMom June 1, 2013 at 10:00 pm

WOW! organic mom was indeed reading. Funny thing is, they don’t just do it for their kids’ health, they do it for the world to applaud them. I know people like that, indeed, I have a very close relative who I have to see often (more often than I wish) and not only she’s gone 110% NATURAL on EVERYTHING: births, vaccines, food, cloth diapers, homemade mattress, no TV, NO WI-FI at home because it gives you brain cancer and paying $500 dlls a month for a water filter (really, my car payment is not that high) even when that meant staying behind on electricity bill and other expenses, but she secretly JUDGES everyone who doesn’t do what she does. One time during a conversation (I must confess I avoid them because we don’t have anything in common – even though I breastfed my kids for 18 months and feed them well) she told me how she didn’t buy bell peppers for SIX MONTHS because she could not find them organic. I’m sorry, that’s a bit too much. I buy natural and organic milk, eggs, fruits, etc. when I can and when finances don’t allow me, I’m ok we still eat. People like that feel superior and yes they make you feel inferior and that is annoying. Nobody wants to be around a person who thinks they’re better than you. If they never mention anything to you that’d be a different story, but they become so closed-minded that all they talk about is they’re natural lifestyle. It’s sad. When this person comes to have dinner with us they carry their own salt. Gimme a break. She recently commented on facebook that she doesn’t care if people laugh at her now because in 20 years she’ll be the one laughing, when her kids are some of the few who didn’t grow an extra arm. Really? so everyone who’s reading and who can’t afford $350 dlls a WEEK on groceries like she does should indeed feel guilty uh? I loved reading this, and I hope one day all food is organically grown so it’s possible for all of us to buy and these organic freaks don’t have anything to talk about anymore.

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