If you want to take the plunge and start buying organic foods for your family, it may seem overwhelming at first. What’s the difference between 100% organic products and foods made with organic ingredients? What does free-range mean anyway?

In this guide to buying organic, we’re going to break it all down to make it easy for you to buy sustainable, healthy foods for your family.

Common Organic Labels

  • 100% Organic: This product is totally free from hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers.
  • All-Natural: This product does not contain artificial or synthetic ingredients. However, the FDA does not verify this claim on food packaging, with the exception of USDA approved poultry and meat.
  • Cage-Free: Just like the name suggests, the animals weren’t raised in cages.
  • Certified Humane: This means that the product was raised humanely with shelter, space, fresh water, and feed free from antibiotics and hormones.
  • Free-Range: The animal was given access to the outside world, but it doesn’t guarantee that it was free roaming.
  • GM-Free: This product is free from any genetically modified ingredients.
  • Grass-Fed: The animals are raised in a pasture as opposed to fed from high-grain feedlots that contain saturated fat and pesticides. Keep in mind that most organic beef products are grain fed unless they have the grass-fed label.
  • Hormone-Free: Dairy products with this label will not contain synthetic hormones that have been linked to health issues.
  • Made with Organic Ingredients: Contains at least 70% certified organic ingredients.
  • USDA Organic: The product is 95% free of hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and the like.

Now that you have the lingo down, which foods are really worthwhile to buy organic? In most cases, it is best to buy all produce organic, like apples, cherries, grapes, peaches, pears, spinach, and potatoes. Other important items to buy organic include meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, rice, and baby food. If you are hoping to reduce your exposure to pesticides, you can cut back on pesticide consumption by up to 90% by eating organic produce.

However, save your cash on processed foods like cereal, pasta, canned fruits and veggies, bread, and even fish. It’s actually not possible for fish to be certified as organic.

To save money on buying organic, sustainable foods, head to local farmer’s markets and food co-ops in your area. This will give you an opportunity to buy local organic produce that is in season without having to pay sky-high prices at the supermarket.

Author: Bethany Ramos works at home full time as a freelance writer, and she also co-owns her own e-commerce website, The Coffee Bump.