Readers! As Casual Kitchen's readership continues to grow, I've been receiving more and more great questions via email, comments and Twitter. Some of these I'll turn into full posts, but from time to time (uh, like today) I'll run an "Ask Casual Kitchen" column to tackle a few questions at once.
As always, I welcome your feedback, so please let me know what you think!
Q: Which food/categories are worth 'paying up' for organic? And why?
A: I wrote a post on balancing the cost and value of organic foods several weeks ago, and it drew quite a bit of controversy--mainly because there are many people out there who won't (or can't) accept any middle ground in this debate.
But from a purely cost/value perspective, you'll probably get the best value out of your organic dollar by focusing your spending on foods which are normally grown using pesticides, are difficult to wash thoroughly and which are typically eaten whole (think fruits like strawberries, raspberries and peaches). You'll get the least value with fruits or veggies that have thick rinds and thus can be eaten safely no matter how much pesticide use is involved in their production (think melons, grapefruits, oranges, lemons, limes or bananas).
Keep in mind that there's a philosophical (sometimes I want to say a religious) aspect to this subject that skews peoples' views. If you rigidly object to any use of pesticides or chemicals at all, no matter what the reason, then you'll have to stake out different ground on this debate. However, if you are conversant with the small but growing body of scientific studies that argues that there is little to no incremental health benefits in organic foods at all, then you may not find any value whatsoever in going organic. Read up on the issues, decide where you stand, and then buy accordingly.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for how to deal with the baggers at my grocery store who repeatedly put raw chicken in grocery bags with other foods? These kids have no idea about the risks of raw chicken.
A: You shouldn't have to explain the concept of not wanting chicken goo smeared all over your food. But in my experience, most grocery baggers tend to be young kids who don't do their own food shopping, and thus are often oblivious to how to pack groceries appropriately.
One easy solution is to grab one of those clear plastic bags from the produce section and put your chicken package in there. The register/scanner will still be able to read the label, yet the extra bag will protect your other food. Barring that, you can also look for a grocery store in your area offering a "bag your own" checkout aisle.
Readers, what thoughts would you add?
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