If you're shopping in the organic food aisle because of the superior nutritive quality offered by organic foods, here's a tip: save your pennies and move on over to the regular aisles. As far as nutritional density goes, an organic orange is no more enriched in Vitamin C, no more full of dietary fiber, and no more good for your family than any other tomato. Reviews of the scientific literature indicate that a conventionally-grown cabbage is not any worse for you than an organically-grown cabbage, and since they're both going to taste like cabbage when you eat them anyway, you may as well eat the cheap one if your main concern is your kids' health and nutrition.
You may be dismayed with me right now at spoiling the image of those gorgeous, ripe organic strawberries that you just bought at the grocery store: of every molecule just teeming with essential nutrients you just can't get from a conventional strawberry, but them's the breaks: strawberries are strawberries. If, by the way, another mom tries to shame you for feeding your kids conventionally-grown carrot sticks instead of organic spinach (or organic marshmallow fluff, which is apparently a thing for some reason), I'll have your back while you stare her down with each chomp of your ranch-dipped orange poison stick of death.
All that said, I will add that a large part of the produce my family eats is organic, despite the arguments for nutritional advantages being totally bunk. How come?
Well, for one thing, the nutritional argument isn't the only reason to consider buying organic. Another aspect that I take into account is the ecological issue. Organic agriculture takes (or should take) into account responsible land and water use, and the effects of fertilizer or waste runoff on the local environment. To be fair, this issue isn't entirely clear-cut either: it takes more land to produce an organic pear than it does to produce a conventional one. So if you measure environmental damage per land, organic farming wins, but if you measure per plum, then that's not necessarily the case. One way to offset environmental damage is by buying things grown close to where you live (whether you buy organic or not): less gasoline used to transport your food equals less pollution, which is a win no matter what. Of course, it's December in Wisconsin right now, so I understand very well that locally-grown, in-season food is not always an option.
Stewardship of antibiotic use is also a big deal to me when it comes to choosing organic farming: while conventional meat producers often cram healthy animals full of antibiotics because it makes them grow faster, the other thing it makes grow faster is bacterial antibiotic resistance. While I'm generally pro-hamburger, I have to say that a cheap burger patty is probably not worth dooming modern medicine to the status it enjoyed before the discovery of penicillin.
And while the digestive health of your own family isn't going to matter too much however your vegetables are grown, there is someone's health that you should consider: that of farm workers. It's not as if organic produce is pesticide-free (more on that later), but think of the people who have to spray crops down, maintain the fields, and harvest the produce - and all the pesticides they're exposed to during that time frame, year after year. A lot of conventionally-used pesticides are linked to cancers. And while - depending on what you're eating - your exposure shouldn't be too bad if you wash your produce before you serve it, that kind of stuff does not need to be breathed in and applied to the skin day in and day out.
And as promised, here's the thing about organic food and pesticides: an "organic" label does not mean "pesticide-free". It means the growers can use natural pesticides - things that have been minimally processed before use. If you're imagining these natural pesticides as fairy dust and rainbow sparkles, try copper sulfate, herbicidal soaps, and potassium bicarbonate instead. Plus, since organic pesticides aren't generally as effective as the conventional stuff, farmers have to use a lot more - which means there may be a lot more left behind on the produce you buy. I once watched someone pop some grapes into her mouth without washing them. "It's okay," she said, "they're organic!" 1. No. 2. God, no. 3. Have you heard of a little thing called bacteria before? 4. NO.
Washing your produce thoroughly, however it was grown, is important. (I can't believe I need to say that, but there it is.) And for certain types of produce whose thin skins or porousness makes them natural pesticide slurper-uppers (grapes, celery, lettuce), it might be a good idea to shell out extra to buy organic if that's feasible for you. But really, wash the crap off of your food no matter what you're eating. Please.
So, no. Buying organic is not the cut-and-dried discussion some people would like to make it out to be, but for the most part, I lean that way. My first choice, though, is buying locally where that's possible - keep in mind that organic companies, or their parent mega-corporations, trucking boxes of organic macaroni and cheese all around the world isn't that great for anyone (definitely not for anyone's health, although you will pry mac-and-cheese out of my cold, dead Wisconsin-girl hands). Kellogg owns Kashi, Annie's is the property of General Mills, Burt's Bees belongs to Clorox - so keep in mind where your money is really going when you seek out that organic label.
And of course I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up the fact that practical and financial considerations put organic food out of reach for a lot of people, too - which is maybe the best reason of all to put the rest the notion that organic foods are inherently more nutritious and delicious. So if anyone's giving you a hard time because you can't afford organic blueberries, feel free to call me in to screech at them over Facebook or Twitter.