03/19/2012 03:26 pm ET Updated May 19, 2012

Getting the Most (Organic) Bang for My Buck

By Lauren Coulston, Integration Manager, Women & Co.

Certified organic. All natural. No preservatives. Hormone free. Antibiotic free. Grass fed. I feel like I need an advanced degree to determine what I'm buying in the health food section at the grocery store these days. I want to buy the best for my family and it's increasingly complicated given the abundance of health food jargon and labeling. Not to mention that going organic can be more expensive. If I'm spending more money then I want to be sure that I'm getting my money's worth.

What foods are best to buy organic? I decided to do some research for myself instead of getting caught up in the health food maze. As spring approaches we're eating more fruits and vegetables, so a great site for produce is Environmental Working Group (EWG). They report that consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating only the cleanest. The EWG has this handy Shoppers Guide to Pesticides. It tells you the "Dirty Dozen" that are best to buy organic and the "Clean Fifteen" that are low in pesticides.

I think another top must-buy organic item is milk. With a young child at home, we go through a ton of milk so this is a big one for me. In doing this research, I was shocked to learn the brand of organic milk that I have been buying for the past three years is one of the worst in terms of organic standards, not to mention one of the priciest. Here is a useful scorecard from The Cornucopia Institute, a nonprofit small farm advocacy group, that helps identify the best organic dairy brands. I used this scorecard to find a brand of milk that received a high organic rating and was less expensive than my previous brand. Money in the bank and organic -- score!

A few other things that popped up in my non-scientific Internet research of what to buy organic: beef, peanut butter, coffee beans and baby food.

While I'd love to give my entire kitchen an organic makeover, such a move isn't completely necessary. Instead I'm going to use this research to be strategic in my organic purchases and get the most bang for my buck.

Have you found that buying organic is more expensive? Do you have any healthy or organic resources to share?

About the Author:
As Integration Manager, Lauren manages Women & Co.'s strategic partnerships to syndicate content and build integrated programs on websites frequented by women. Lauren brings over 15 years of financial services experience and a passion for helping women feel financially empowered. Lauren holds a B.S. in Finance from Tulane University's A.B. Freeman School of Business. In addition to her role at Women & Co., Lauren is Events Chair of the Citi Working Parents Network NYC and serves on the Citi International Women's Day Steering Committee.