April 23rd, 2008
05:05 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: Paying the Price

Erica Hill
360° Correspondent

Thank you all for your comments on the blog yesterday!

With all that blogging about the environment, there was a lot of talk about organic products. For years I’ve been listening to people complain about the higher cost of some of these products. My answer is often the same, “It really depends where and how you shop.”

While I think it’s no one’s business but your own when it comes to your shopping cart and shopping habits, I can’t let this one go. Organic products are not always more expensive, but they may take you out of your comfort zone. Why do I say this? Because if you want to get a good deal on organics, you can’t always have blueberries in February.

I am from a family of frugal Yankees. We clip coupons, compare prices and live for the Sunday circulars. I love a bargain. I’m the annoying woman in the pasta aisle looking at the price per weight of different brands, and it’s worth it. But even more than a good bargain, I love good food that’s good for me.

Yes, certain organic products will almost always cost more – meat and chicken are great examples - but if you shop with the seasons, I think you’ll find the prices are not so out there. And don’t forget store-brand organics for staples like pasta, milk, yogurt, soup…you may be surprised at the prices. And never underestimate your local farmers and farmers markets – not only are you supporting your neighborhood economy, you may find a fantastic deal on delicious produce.

Why do I care about this? Because I hate to see people swear off good food with a blanket statement. I’m not militant about eating organic, but I notice the simpler, more natural my foods, the better I feel. I’m not a fan of putting chemicals, preservatives and things I can’t pronounce into my body.

I’ve also noticed some important differences – for me, nothing tastes as good as organic milk, apples or tomatoes. Plus, my skim milk isn’t blue – it’s white, like real milk.

Most of us cant afford to buy all organic all the time, but in my personal experience over the past decade, prices are coming down and not all organic foods are as pricey as many think. OK, coming down off the green soapbox!


The protests for a free Tibet reach Mt Everest…and get one climber sent packing. A US citizen with a “Free Tibet” banner was turned back from the famous peak this week, according to a Nepalese army officer. The torch is scheduled for a trip to the summit of Everest next month; in advance of its arrival, authorities are tightening security and cracking down on anti-Chinese activities.

I wonder when – or, sadly, if - all these protests will have an impact on China?


Finally, if you say you don’t smoke, you’d better mean it. Dozens of employees who signed documents for their HR department and health insurance provider claiming they didn’t use tobacco were caught smoking or dipping on company property. If you’re going to try to beat the system, here’s a tip: don’t do it at work. Save that smoke or chew for when you’re at home or somewhere no one from the office will see you…not on campus. At that point, you’re asking to get caught. And now these 39 people could lose their jobs.

Filed under: Erica Hill
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Julie San Diego, CA

    Lorie Ann, you're making me miss my huge fenced Minnesota garden that is bigger than my current California yard – I grew so many tomatoes that we had to put them in a wheelbarrow to share with the neighborhood. Next time I'm up near Buellton I want to see your garden! (Erica how do we share e-mails?).

    We have great farmers markets out here in San Diego county and I live next to Encinitas, the Flower Capital of the World where two dozen longstem roses can be had for $15 if bought directly from the grower. Five bucks will get you an armful of mixed flowers at the Wednesday afternoon market.

    Organic is great if you can afford it. The reality is that the average American household can't afford the cost or the time to cook a home-cooked meal. I cook most everything from scratch due to a dietary restriction and we live next to the growers so organic is inexpensive. A single mom in Iowa in February probably isn't going to have the cash or the time to cook a healthy meal prepared with organic food – the strawberries I buy out here for $2 cost $6-7 in the midwest.

    OK, now who is this "Jacqui Chan" person on the blog tonight? (I'm turning off the tv set, boycotting the politics but I love to see people's responses)...sorry, "Jacqui Chan" just sounds too made-up-cute to be real...hmmm...intelligent questions...much too informed for the average person...sense of humor in picking the "penname"... lack of capitalization...

    I smell a rat....do we know this rat? 🙂

    April 25, 2008 at 1:10 am |
  2. damaris

    hi erica!

    i think organic food is the best and is worth the price. i just got off a master cleanse and am just eating organic food. there are a lot of coupons and specials, so organic is not as expensive as many people think.

    also, i want to add that i think erica should have her own show. i miss her at headline news. maybe it should be "erica hill 360"? 🙂

    April 24, 2008 at 6:43 pm |
  3. J Kellogg

    I am glad that you are standing up and raising awareness on healthful eating. I just finished reading a relatively new book on the market, "In Defense of Food" It is easy to read and has some very interesting information and guidelines. I would recommend it to anybody interested in this topic

    April 24, 2008 at 1:55 pm |
  4. Leena

    You are absolutely right. Shop the climate, shop your geography and you are right – you'll get healthier food that is good for you. I used to shop almost exclusively organic and almost exclusively Whole Foods. But then I would buy those blueberries (organic of course) in February. Just recently – as in just this past year – started shopping at a local farm store in addition to WF. The food may not all be labeled organic but because it is all grown locally and meant to be consumed locally, they don't have the demands for serious storage or long distance shopping and therefore is pretty darned "natural" anyhow. And you're right – no more blue skim milk! It also doesn't have that powdery or something texture when you cook with it. And so good. I've also started eating odd things that I'd never eaten in my life before – swiss chards and 1001 squashes that New England must have a strangle hold on because I've never seen them in any of the "regular" grocery stores including Whole Foods. Some of them are pretty good, too.

    Not to mention, it is quite an event for a sworn city slicker to take her weekly trip to a farm store!

    April 23, 2008 at 11:50 pm |
  5. Shanni O'Brien

    Erica! I am so pleased to see this blog about organic food! I totally agree with you - it so important to not consume pesticides -dah- and instead put good, healthy food into your body. I love organic food and feel so fortunate to be able to shop for (love that - yes I love grocery shopping!), cook with, serve and eat such bounty. It is also a great service to the actual earth and air to support organic farming, saving it from harmful pesticides which then can also seep into water systems as well - so let's just say the entire ecosystem benefits.

    Thanks for blogging about organic food, glorious organic food!:) Mmmmmm...bon apetit everybody!!!

    April 23, 2008 at 10:10 pm |
  6. Jacqui Chan

    Hey Erica and all,
    I am a vegetarian and I buy organic food and products when ever I can. It is better for the environment but also better for yourself as these products do not contain carcinogens. More importantly these products do not cruelly and unnecessarily test and and torture animals which is the true reason I buy organic.

    **a list if companies who do and do not test on animals an be found at the peta website or many others)

    April 23, 2008 at 10:05 pm |
  7. Annie Kate

    We get a lot of our produce from local farmers and not only is it a good bargain but it tastes so much better than produce that has been shipped over miles and miles of interstate before it reaches the grocery store. Nothing like fresh corn, beans, or tomatoes to name a few. You not only support a neighbor and your community but you get to eat good at the same time!

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 23, 2008 at 9:51 pm |
  8. Karrie

    I've been buying organic foods more and more over the last year. I really look forward to spring and summer when we have a local farmers market every Saturday morning. It's a great way to get fresh produce and support the local farmers in the surrounding community. If demand for organic products continues to grow maybe prices on some items will eventually even out at the larger supermarkets. While I will most likely continue to eat a number of non-organic foods I always feel so much better when I do go organic for meat, fruits and veggies.

    April 23, 2008 at 9:16 pm |
  9. Minou, New York City

    Hey Erica
    thanks for supporting organic foods!
    My co-workers know me as a health nut who eats nothing but organics and runs around with a gallon of water. They roll their eyes at me when I stare at their McDonald's lunches with horror in my eyes. Oh well, everybody is responsible for their own health...
    And I so agree that organic food doesn't have to cost a lot. I'm still looking for organic bell peppers that don't cost 5 bucks each, though, so if you know where to get them please post it.
    I do eat some non-organic foods and I enjoy my bagel , decaf and "white cookie" in the morning without regrets!

    The more people buy organic foods and environmentally friendly household products, the more conventional companies will try to compete on this specific market and change their toxic products into products good for man and earth.
    The automobile industry sets an example here.

    April 23, 2008 at 8:53 pm |
  10. jes from Canada

    Hi Erica, Very interesting blog on buying organic food. That could explain your beautiful skin & gorgeous hair. Next time I grocery shop I will definately check out the organic food section, Monday nighr you mentioned your Canadian roots. I would be happy to welcome you to our beautiful country. Do you ever visit up here?

    April 23, 2008 at 8:43 pm |
  11. Jolene

    Hi Erica:

    Just a few weeks ago I got turned onto Organic milk and I agree with you, there's nothing like it. You would never know you are drinking skim milk. It may cost a bit more, but you can't beat the taste!

    I heard the buzz this morning at work about the 39 smokers suspended. At the Corporate offices, we've had that non-smoker clause on our health care plan for many years. My guess is that if there was lying or fraud going on, it's been going on for awhile.

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    April 23, 2008 at 8:42 pm |
  12. Christine

    Organic foods in Jersey are pretty expensive. – I quit smoking almost 15 years ago and I still think smokers are treated badly. – The only thing to change China is to stop importing. Do you realize the only thing we send to China is empty containers for more of their merchandise? Pretty lopsided ain't it?

    April 23, 2008 at 8:08 pm |
  13. Bill in Nebraska


    Organic foods is one of my big things as well. The more organic the closer it has to grown to you. Less shipping costs and fuel used. Good for the planet as well. SO to that end I built a green house in the back yard and started growing my own veggies and such. Can't get much more organic then that nor can you save the planet much more than just not buying them at the store. The only problem with this is that I am not spending at the local store which drives down employment. So for me to save my family money I may end up costing someone a job. It's not a great thing to think about but in this day and age it is what we need to do to make ends meet.

    April 23, 2008 at 7:57 pm |
  14. Heather

    I have a rare medical condition that gives no choice but to eat organic. If I dont I have horrible bladder pain. Yes its more money but I would rather avoid the chemicals.I cant have artifical colors,flavors,preservatives and whatever else in my bladder.Plus the organic food industry has gone to great lengths to on their own to ensure and enforce strict regulations on what can be labeled organic and how the individual companies operate. Being taken seriously and having the publics trust is very important to them. I know I can trust the label when I go to Henrys Farmers Market owned by Whole Foods that I dont have to worry.For me buying organic is matter of pain in my bladder.and not so much pain in my pocket book.

    My nephew was lucky ebough to spend a year of high school at Bejing University. He even had a blog with pictures he took so all of us could share in his experience. I am so proud of him.He is majoring in Chinese studies at UC Santa Cruz and plans to spend another year in China. Ive had mix feelings about China with Tibet.Without question there is a huge cultural difference between the west and the east.However they have a growing economy and ongoing rising population. I think China government has become any economic bully.I think the educated class in China are the key to go relations. I dont think China realizes that you can treat Tibet badly and expect the west to ignore it because you are investing in companies and bailing out our country. We have principles and we demand people to be socially responsible and honorable. I think my nephew needs to go work for the head of that bank in China who was on 60 mins. My nephew is fluent in chinese!

    April 23, 2008 at 7:42 pm |
  15. Tammy

    Thanks for covering organic foods. I used to choke on the prices when I first switched. Then I thought of the costs of cancer and other medical problems from chemical exposure...Organic blueberries are way cheaper.

    I have never smoked so I can't relate to these smokers need to be dishonest. My dad quit when I was in high school which sent a huge message. And seeing my paternal grandfather cough up pieces of his lung blackened from years of smoking as he was dying in the hospital pretty much sealed the no smoking deal for me. I do think fraud is fraud. My parents owned businesses so I know what employee health insurance costs for employers. Lying employees deserve what they get in my book.

    April 23, 2008 at 7:31 pm |

    I think it is really a said state of affairs that with the economy in the state that it is in and every day a bleaker picture,that folks would rather vote republican than to have a black man as president,if indeed Obama is the nominee people need to look really at what is driving this thought process and come clean.2008 and we still can't get pass our insecurities.

    April 23, 2008 at 7:22 pm |
  17. Lilibeth

    Hi Erica! I try to buy organic when I can. We have a new store opening up in our area that's supposed to specialize in organic foods. Across the street from it is a regular supermarket, so between the two, hopefully there's enough competition to keep the price down. At least this is what I'm hoping...

    Thanks, Erica. I hope to see you tomorrow night.

    Edmonds, Washington

    April 23, 2008 at 7:16 pm |
  18. Judi Smith

    I have smoked for over 30 years I started when it was cool to do so! How I wish I had never started yet I am one of the healthest people that I know I am trying to quit right now and I will this time. But the people who work at that place should not had lied about it I don't know how the company can tell you what to do on your own time – sounds a little like big brother is watching to me. These people are in an insurance plan that if it was recorded that they smoke would have had to pay $500.00 more on that company's insurance plan, so they they should have not worked there to began with if they did not want to pay the extra pemium money.

    April 23, 2008 at 6:21 pm |
  19. Eugenia

    What's crazy to me is that we purchase organic from our local farm stand and if you were to go to Whole Foods they completely jack up the price. The whole organic thing is very touchy subject. I have heard stories from both sides of the pond. One side who works for our local Mosquito & Veccor Control and states that we need to use sprays and the other states that the chemicals are bad for you and the enviroment. I think the safest bet is to buy organic if you can or just for foods that are grown close to the ground and wash the heck out of all of them. Also buy milk that does not have the growth hormone BST.

    San Francisco, Ca

    April 23, 2008 at 6:06 pm |
  20. E.Campbell

    OMG I still smoke and guess what I really enjoy a cigarette after a meal. I make no apolgy for my habit. BUT, lying on a application is fraud and you deserve to get fired. No Sympathy here.

    April 23, 2008 at 5:52 pm |
  21. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    Hi Erica,
    Thanks for the info on organic. I personally am in love with my home grown veggies. My tomatoes are already planted. I can't wait.
    As far as coupons go..I clip and use. I am becoming much more aware of not overspending on items..A sale is worth the looking for.
    I'm not quite as fugile as my sister, she'd strangle every last dollar to save a penny, but I'm trying.
    On the other topic, I'd say even though I'm a non smoker, I feel a little uneasy about people losing their job for smoking. Today, the evil is smoking. Tomorrow what will it be? Unhealthy food, lack of exercise, risky hobbies? It does make you wonder how far an employer will reach. Take Care

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    April 23, 2008 at 5:46 pm |