What's Out: Buying Organic. Pregnant with my first child about four years ago, I did what most first-time parents do: I boned up on baby books. I also started to obsess about food and where it came from. Was the animal grass-feed and allowed to roam free? Was this pear sprayed with pesticides? Did this cleaning product contain harmful chemicals?
Organic became my family's mantra. We weren't alone. The U.S. organic industry grew from $14.6 billion to $17.7 billion between 2005 and 2006 and is estimated to jump to $21.2 billion in 2007, according to the Organic Trade Association. So when I could, I would trek 18 blocks to the nearest Whole Foods or scour my local supermarket for my fix of brands like Seventh Generation, Kashi, and Horizon.
What's In: Buying according to Price Let's be honest: in today's economy, our paychecks are not going as far as they used to. Where once a pound of organic, grass-fed ground beef cost me $5.50, it's now climbed to $7.70. Where once my favorite organic yogurt retailed at 79 cents, it is now 99 cents. As a result, I'm weaning myself off my organic habit. When it comes to vegetables, meat and milk, I am still willing to pay a little more for the peace of mind that I am doing the best for my daughter.
But I'm learning to be not as rigid with fruits, pastas, cereals and other dry goods. With many other families also reassessing their spending habits, it's not surprising that organic retailers are taking a hit. According to market research firm, Nielson Company, sales grew only four percent over the previous year for the four-week period that ended Oct. 4 compared to 20 percent other years. Even Wall Street darling Whole Foods is facing the toughest time in its history. The Texas-based purveyor of all things organic reported that fourth quarter profits dropped because of their acquisition of rival Wild Oats and the slowing economy.
If prices go down, I will be one of the first to get back on the organic bandwagon. But with my husband and I working in journalism, an industry that never paid well to begin with and is now shedding jobs in every outlet, I have to be more discerning.