Years ago, when Dustin and I first realized our way of eating was…well, not to sound too judgmental…wrong, the first change I implemented was buying organic versus conventional food.
At the time, organic labeling was just starting to pop up on produce. While the produce department was just beginning to catch-on to the organic demand, the junk food aisles didn’t suffer from any shortage of reinvented organic, “healthier” cookies, chips, and salad dressings.
As a young bride with the new responsibility of changing our drive-thru going ways, I was determined “organic” always equated to “healthy” and “real.” I would spend hours scouring our conventional grocery store, filling my cart with organic foods. Slowly, my grocery bill started to creep higher and higher, but I found myself justifying our increasing debt with the fact we needed to exclusively purchase organic food.
Honey, we need organic cookies!
It took several years for me realize that buying organic isn’t always the best route and doesn’t always benefit a real food lifestyle. Now, hold on, let me explain!
As a young real foodie, I believed every food stamped with an organic seal must be good–cookies, crackers, chips, fruit roll-ups, salad dressings. Years later my lightbulb moment occurred…
Real food can mean organic. I love organic food and believe buying organic is important. I source organic produce (now from our local market, a produce delivery service, and a health food store where organic produce is much more abundant and cheaper than the conventional store), but organic is not the be-all and end-all.
Real food is about a lifestyle change, moving away from processed food (even organic processed food) to creating our own homemade meals. A change from relying on boxed cookies to spending ten minutes whipping pastured butter, sugar, and flour to create a homemade treat. Real food is about nourishing ingredients that naturally come from the ground or healthy animals, versus focusing on one little word that’s now stamped all over food, even processed food.
I realize there are practices like spraying pesticides and developing GMOs. But I also believe that one shouldn’t be defeated by a real food lifestyle just because of an organic label. I’d much rather purchase a box of conventional blueberries than organic, if that choice means the difference between eating something fresh or processed. There are times I opt for the conventional lettuce versus the organic so that I can source grass-fed beef or raw milk. Those are a few of the choices that make real food a doable and affordable lifestyle for our family.
Each year the Environmental Working Group produces a guide identifying the “dirtiest” fruits and veggies on the market. This list is my go-to resource for knowing what food to prioritize when purchasing organic produce.
PS: If you own the Real Food Planning Challenge, you can find this printable on page 85. Along with a seasonal produce guide and how to store produce printables.
Whether I purchase organic or conventional, I always wash our produce with a DIY produce wash made with three simple ingredients already found in my kitchen– vinegar, water, and fresh lemon juice.
Vinegar is the major player in my homemade produce wash, reducing both pesticides (yes, even organic produce can be sprayed with certain safer pesticides) and bacteria. Lemon juice is antimicrobial, working to destroy bad germs and bacteria. The combo of the two kills any bacteria that may be found on produce and rinses away dirt and any pesticides.
DIY Produce Wash
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup white distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 1 lemon juiced (optional, vinegar is the key ingredient in this mixture)
- 1 bottle I reuse a glass vinegar bottle
- In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Pour the ingredients into a bottle(s) using a funnel. Store the DIY produce wash in the fridge until needed (this is necessary due to the fresh lemon juice).
- To Use: Spray on the produce directly, then rinse the produce with cold water. Or, if you want to wash a bunch of things, pour the mixture in the sink and fill the sink with cold water to let all the veggies and fruits soak in the mixture for a few minutes. (If you're just looking to soak your veggies and fruit, you don't even need to make this in a bottle if you don't want to use it as a spray later for other produce items. Just add vinegar to cold water in the sink and soak the produce for a few minutes.) Then rinse and dry before storing. Want to see how I store all my produce? Check out this fridge tour.
Mom, whether you buy 100% organic produce or just a few items, know that you’re doing an amazing job on this journey of real food. Keep stocking your home with fresh, real ingredients and preparing meals that nourish your family.
Hi! I’m new to your blog and love your ideas/approach! I’m wondering if you have a do and don’t list for veg/fruit that can be washed well, versus that shouldn’t be washed in advance?
Hey Josie, thank you! You’ll find my food storage/washing tips here: https://livesimply.me/category/healthy-eating-basics/storage-tips/ I don’t wash most things until I need to use them, with the exception of strawberries: https://livesimply.me/keep-berries-fresh-water-vinegar-bath-tutorial/
Love this! Easy and items I have on hand all the time. Thank you!
Thank you, Melissa.
My favorite fruit/veggie wash in Sal Suds! Have you used Sal Suds for that? I only need a drop or 2 to wash a sink full of fruits/veggies. Most of the time, I run the water in the sink then add the Sal Suds, simply because it bubbles so much. But if I’m washing apples or pears or carrots, etc, I will let it bubble up because it doesn’t matter as much. It does take a little extra rinsing, but it works great! I learned that from my very natural and organic sister-in-law YEARS ago!
That’s awesome, Andrea! I’ve never tried Sal Suds as a produce wash–thanks for sharing!
How long do you soak your fruit and veggies in the produce wash (say a bunch of apples) for before rinsing and air drying? If you use the spray method, how long do you let the produce sit with the spray on it before rinsing it out?
Hi Tasha, Kristin is currently traveling outside the US, but I will alert her of your comment so she can come back with helpful tips for you when she returns. ~Rachel, commenting on behalf of Kristin while she’s on vacation.
Hi I was wondering if could use apple cider vinegar since that’s the only one I have at the moment.
Hey Angela, Yes, you can :).
Could you use Lemon Essential Oil instead of the Lemon juice to make it “non-refrigerator” friendly? Just a thought. Thanks 😉
Hey Dana, You definitely could. You’ll just want to use it within a month, and keep an eye on it since the product is made with water.
I was using a vinegar (Heinz) wash for produce. Then I found that it is made from gmo corn! I switched to white wine vinegar. Costs more but Braggs is too expensive for this application for my family. I still use the cheap vinegar for cleaning and laundry but not for food. Any other suggestions?
Hey Laura, The only other choice is an organic white vinegar. I know Spectrum makes an organic white vinegar, but it’s also very pricey.
Hey Kristin, how long is the shelf life for this wash, and how should it be stored?
Hey Marah, I recommend storing the produce wash in the fridge. It will keep for about a month in the fridge.
I’ve had to throw away some fruits and veggies lately. If I use this solution, what is the best way to store items so they last.
Hey Ginny, For greens, I recommend using this method: https://livesimply.me/2015/07/17/prep-day-how-to-wash-and-store-lettuce-kale-spinach-and-other-leafy-greens-in-advance/. You can use this produce wash in the soaking water. For berries, I recommend using this method: https://livesimply.me/2014/07/16/keep-berries-fresh-water-vinegar-bath-tutorial/. For everything else, it’s important to know what should be stored in the fridge vs. the freezer.
I love your site!!! So many good ideas. How long does the fruit and veggie spray keep and does it need to be refrigerated? Thanks again for sharing your ideas.
Hey Shauna, Thank you! My solution usually lasts 6 weeks (maybe longer–I just use all the produce wash within that time frame).
This works awesome! I can’t believe how much dirt is left in the bottom, and it smells so nice while it’s working. All of your cleaning solutions really are my favorite, and they always lift my mood when I’m cleaning. Thank you!
Hey Bethany, I’m always amazed by the amount of dirt left behind, too! Thank you so much for the sweet compliment–I’m so glad you’re enjoying all the cleaning solutions!!
Hello! I love the idea of reusing vinegar bottles but where do you find the spray tops (or pumps?) long enough for these Heinz bottles? I found a couple of plastic spray bottles at the local big box store but the spray tubes are still about 2.5 inches too short in the vinegar bottles. Any thoughts?
Hey Elizabeth, I’ve found most of my tops (on the long skinny plastic cleaning bottles) at Target. 🙂
I love all your cleaning DIY recipes!! Would you please do one for natural air freshener? We live in a small building currently and though we keep the windows open all the time, it can be so hard to freshen the air. I know that so many room sprays have awful chemicals in them and would love an alternative.
Keep up the amazing work, Kristin!
Thank you so much, Daisy! I’ll add that to the list…it’s actually a DIY that’s been floating around in my head for a while (two kids, two dogs, eight chickens…enough said ;)).
Hey kristin thanks for the post and especially for the encouragement at the end. I’m sure there’s lots of mamas out there who felt a bit of the weight lifted being reminded to consider all the good that we are doing for our families and not dwelling on what we aren’t getting done! there are plenty of bricks to carry…its so nice to know that we can encourage one another and know that we’re all in the same boatjust trying to do the best we can with what we have and steward it all well. Thank you!
Hey Tami, You’re very welcome. I think we often stress out more than we should when it comes to living real and natural; and the internet, books, movies, etc. certainly don’t always help :). It’s truly my goal to encourage parents that this journey isn’t about perfection, but the joy of creating and nourishing, whether that means 100% organic or not.
Where did you get the tags/labels that you wrote “Produce Wash” on? Way cuter than just writing with a sharpie on the bottle!
Hey Alyssa, They’re chalkboard labels–I believe they’re from Michael’s Craft Store and Amazon.