WHERE TO SAVE
IF YOU CAN PEEL IT, BUY CONVENTIONAL
Since you'll be tossing the peel, which is the part exposed to most of the pesticides, going certified organic isn't worth the extra money. This holds true for avocados, sweet potatoes, kiwis, mangoes and grapefruit. But if you can eat the peel -- like with apples, pears and grapes -- organic is a smart splurge.
SKIP BAGGED ORGANICS
Packaged organic veggies and lettuces are extra pricey because you're paying for the convenience of prechopping and prewashing. If you're willing to do some prep work, you can afford organics: Switch to heads of lettuce and whole veggies.
BUY CONVENTIONAL RICE, BREAD AND PASTA
Instead of shelling out for organic grains, focus on whole grains (like brown rice and whole wheat pasta), which aren't as processed as white carbs. They have a bigger impact on your health than organic varieties.
BUY STORE-BRAND DAIRY
Many chains (like Kroger and Walmart) have switched to buying from farmers that pledge not to use artificial growth hormones in their store-brand dairy, which is typically half the price of certified USDA organic. (The jury is still out on the health dangers of growth hormones -- aka rBST and rBGH -- in dairy, but staying away from them seems like the safest bet, especially if you have young kids.)
WHERE TO SPLURGE
BUY ORGANIC EGGS
Eggs with the official USDA seal contain less saturated fat and more omega-3s and betacarotene than their conventional counterparts. (One note of caution: Don't pony up your pennies for eggs labeled "cage free," "free range" or "all-natural" -- those terms aren't as closely regulated.)
BUY GRASS-FED MEAT
"Pasture-raised" or "grass-fed" red meat can be about twice as expensive, but it contains more heart-healthy omega-3s and other good fats. Counteract the higher cost by eating red meat only once a week and choosing budget cuts like chuck, flank or skirt steak -- you won't be paying for fat or bone.
BUY ORGANIC CHICKEN IN BULK
Organic chicken offers some of the same health benefits (more nutrients and less fat) as organic beef, but it's much cheaper. Save up to 20 percent on the supermarket price by stocking up at club stores like Costco and buying the whole bird instead of breasts or thighs.
A big thanks to Sara Snow, TV host and author of Sara Snow's Fresh Living, for offering her expert advice.