It may sound like rival gangs from the old west, but the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 are lists created by the Environmental Working Group each year relating to pesticides and produce. The Dirty Dozen are the crops that have the largest traces of pesticide residue residing on them. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the Clean 15 which have the least amount of residue.

Buying organic is a conundrum for me almost every time I’m at the grocery store. I’m constantly torn between wanting to do what’s healthiest for my family and saving money. Milk and eggs I buy exclusively organic. I try to do as much organic meat as I can, but it’s honestly about 50/50. Definitely chicken and ground beef. Pork seems to be less accessible and steaks are often out of my comfort zone financially, so we typically buy mainstream on those. Produce is where I really second guess myself. Do I spend the extra $2.50 for the organic blueberries? Is it worth it? Should I buy everything organic, or just a few key items? I’m sure I’ve acquired a few odd glances as I stare back and forth at the two bins of celery weighing the odds.

These two lists definitely help me navigate the produce aisle with a clearer conscious. I’m still an advocate for buying organic produce whenever possible, but when the budget is tight I know where I can skimp.Strawberries are at the top of the list every year, so I have been buying these guys organic for a while. In a test done by the EWG, “one strawberry sample contained an astounding 22 pesticide residues and one-third of all conventional strawberry samples contained 10 or more pesticides”*.

In a pinch for produce decisions, I think of a rule advising that if you eat the skin, go organic. If you don’t eat the skin, buy regular. This doesn’t always hold true, but it has helped me at times. It’s also worth noting that corn and papayas are common GMO crops. Although they are on the clean list, the best way to make sure you’re not purchasing a genetically modified version is to buy organic.

Read more about how to eat healthy on a budget here.

*Cited from