After making the transition to meats and dairy, the next step is to look at your produce. Certain fruits and vegetables absorb more pesticide residue than others, so if you are on a tight budget it is only necessary to buy certain items that are organic, conventionally grown items are fine for a lot of produce. Thinner skinned fruits typically contain more pesticide residue while thicker-skinned fruits/veggies have extra protection from the pesticides reaching the flesh. The Environmental Working Group conducts studies on pesticide residue each year and puts together a list of the "Dirty Dozen." According to the group, you can reduce your exposure to toxic residues significantly if you switch to organic when buying these twelve items.
Dirty Dozen +: Apples, Strawberries, Grapes, Celery, Peaches, Spinach, Bell Peppers, Imported Nectarines, Cucumbers, Potatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Hot Peppers, Blueberries, Lettuce.
The one item on this list that I typically do not buy organically is grapes. They are hard to find around here and when I do see them, they are very expensive. I will only buy them if they are on sale. I do buy organic raisins though (Whole Foods sells them in bulk for much less than pre-packaged)
What's not necessary to buy organic?
The Clean Fifteen: Asparagus, Avacado, Cantaloup, Cabbage, Sweet Corn, Eggplant, Grapefruit, Kiwi, Mushrooms, Onion, Papaya, Pineapple, Sweet Peas, Sweet Potatoes. Conventional bananas are also a safe bet. When washing fruits and veggies, especially conventionally grown, wash them thoroughly with a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water. (Keep some in a spray bottle for convenience sake.)
Oh, and another helpful hint when shopping for organic produce, know the codes:
Happy Organic Shopping!