What are some tips for buying natural foods?

When fruits and vegetables are in season, they tend to be more affordable. A 12-month plan to reduce or zero waste When it comes to packaged foods, products labeled as organic must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients, while those labeled 100 percent organic must contain only organically produced ingredients. Food labels that say “made with organic ingredients” must contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. When we buy food at a local farm, farmer's market, or community-supported agriculture (CSA), we have the opportunity to connect with local producers, many of whom are certified organic or implement organic farming practices.

When we buy food at the farmers market, we also have the opportunity to support our local farmers and our local economy; in fact, the farmer takes home about 95 percent of what we pay at the farmer's market, compared to just 5 to 15 percent at the supermarket. The ideal is to buy local and organic food. Ask your friends, family and co-workers to recommend organic markets or CSAs in your area. You can also search Local Harvest to find local and organic foods near you.

Whether you buy your food directly from the farmer or at the supermarket, don't hesitate to ask questions. Asking if the products are certified organic, if they are grown organically, or if they are produced locally shows farmers and store managers that these issues are important to you. See the freezers section Whether organic or conventional, frozen products are less expensive but just as nutritious as fresh products. To freeze fresh organic products yourself, wash them, let them dry and then pack them in a freezer-safe container.

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Nitrogen-based fertilizers, which are often used in conventional agriculture, are a major contributor to air and water pollution, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. In the case of meat, poultry, dairy products or eggs, animals receive only organic feed and are raised without antibiotics or added hormones in “habitable areas that promote the health and natural behavior of animals,” according to a fact sheet from the Department of Agriculture. Buying seasonal foods, buying in bulk and splitting shares in the local CSA are ways to buy quality organic food on a limited budget.

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