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According to the Environmental Protection Agency, animal-based products, like meat and dairy, have higher levels of pesticides than plant-based ones. “Animals are exposed through their feed, and the pesticides can accumulate in their bodies,” explains Geagen. Many are also given growth hormones and antibiotics, which can be found in conventional meat, milk, cheese and yogurt.
Play it safe by going the organic route—and consider buying in bulk. “Family-sized packs are more economical, and you can freeze the extra,” advises Geagen.
“Speak with your local farmer about his or her growing practices,” suggests Geagen. Some small farmers can’t afford the fees for a U.S. Department of Agriculture organic certification.
Meanwhile, others might be undergoing the process: Farmers have to prove that they haven’t applied pesticides to their crops for the past three years. Although their fruits and vegetables may not have an official label yet, they can still be chemical-free—and a little cheaper to boot.
Check out your favorite brands’ Web sites and Facebook pages for coupons. For instance, Horizon Organic offers a $1 coupon if you sign in to their site. You can also search for other discounts at organicdeals.com and organicfoodcoupons.com.
Can’t afford organic? There are smart ways you can reduce your exposure to chemicals and pesticides:
Trim non-organic meats. Certain pesticides collect in fat, so remove the skin and fat before serving that protein.
Wash conventional fruits and vegetables beneath running tap water for at least 30 seconds. According to a study from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, scrubbing is effective at removing pesticide residue.
Related: Eat Better for Less