Buying Organic? The New “Dirty Dozen”

As I have mentioned, eating organic is important to our family for many reasons. But it is not the most frugal choice. As a rule of thumb, I select organic vs. non-organic produce based on the “dirty dozen” list whenever possible.

This annual list published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), warns consumers about fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide levels. The 2011 list was just released, and it includes a few changes over last year’s.

Dirty Dozen 2011

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes (imported)
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries (domestic)
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/collard greens

New this year, apples top the list as number one and lettuce is now present. Yikes! From what I read, even washing these items does not reduce the pesticides to a “safe” level. Thankfully, the report also gives us the “clean fifteen” – those with the lowest levels of pesticides.

Clean Fifteen 2011

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplants
  9. Cantaloupe (domestic)
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms

I love seeing watermelon and avocado on that list!

The EWG points out that if consumers simply chose their daily recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables from the least contaminated list over five from the dirty dozen, they would reduce the amount of pesticides ingested by 92% – without having to shell out extra money for organics. *source

Notice it is not completely necessary to purchase organic. Simply choosing foods off the clean list will help reduce pesticides in your diet. I often find organic produce marked down as a manager’s special for lower than the cost of conventional produce.

You can receive a PDF version of the guide here to print out and keep with you for easy shopping.

What do you think?  Does this list help you save money when selecting produce for your family?

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About Alyssa Francis

A thirty-something wife and mother of four! Two daughters by birth, one son by marriage, and a sweet baby boy born in April of 2009. Oldest sister of four girls raised by a single mom. California native. Grew up in Hawaii. Somehow ended up in North Texas. Once a single mom. Former agnostic. A survivor of abuse and addiction. Forgiven by a great big God. Married to my best friend.


  1. First of all, I love your website and appreciate all your money-saving tips. For me, the nutritiousness and diversity of the fruits and vegetables I buy is more important than organic vs. non organic. So, I tend to buy local (from fruit stands during summer), buy flash frozen when on sale or I have a coupon, and grow a small vegetable garden. That way we have a very healthy, diverse diet without breaking the bank! :)

  2. Thanks for the list. I’m going to make a cheat sheet on an index card…to keep in my purse. I was surprised to see avocado on the clean l ist. Avocado skins are so thin…I guess that’s so mething I’ll just continue to buy organic…but that’s good that I can buy regular avocadoes if necessary :) :) Have a great week. Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  3. that is fantastic information and a great idea…I’ve heard SO much about the dirty dozen but this is the first time I’ve ever read “clean 15″ and it is so smart to buy more of those items instead of trying to buy organic of the dirty ones. Brilliant! Thanks for the info :)

  4. Alyssa Francis says:

    @Becca, Glad you found it helpful, Becca. I will buying more off the “clean” list as well.

  5. Except for the berries on the dirty list that must be why the clean products are more expensive. sigh

  6. I love that this new list came out. I am a vegan – and therefore eat alot of fruit. Probably one of the few who may eat too much. :) Eating organic is important to me, so I grow my own when I can. If you are lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s by you then your lucky like me!

    They have very reasonable prices on organic grocery. Sigh – have to hunt for those good deals nowadays.

    I am learning to live frugally myself – check it out here –
    Beth´s last blog post ..Dear Lonesome FollowerI almost slipped

  7. I really need to print this out and keep in my purse because I always forget! So happy to have stores close by with good organic prices like Trader Joe’s, Costco, and Sprouts.
    Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates´s last blog post ..No-Bake Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

  8. I love buying organic. If you are lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s around you it is possible to buy nearly everything organic and not have to sell you car to do it. I love that place – especially for produce.

    Fifi @

  9. Love your blog and all your helpful info but want to add GMO’s esp corn add pesticides no matter what if they are not organic, non organic seeds are gentically modified to contain their own pesticide built in, the reason we are now seeing an increase in superbugs, you can also do research and find that altered brocolli cauliflower cabbage (which I loooove) and brussels can actually raise cholesterol. Look for article named eating greens alters genes. Coupled with the fact the monsanto is patenting these seeds and dominating our food supply, all the more reason to support un altered organic :)


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