Food is one of those weird commodities where the more that's done to it, the cheaper it seems. This is especially the case when it comes to organic food--why are you paying more for the farmer to do less?
Well, that's not strictly true. Fact is, food grown or raised without chemicals is more prone to bugs and weeds, and of course your yield will go down. The exact decrease depends on the type of crop in question, but suffice it to say that the increase in prices reflects some of the decrease in yield. On average, the yield decrease is about 20%, but if you're really concerned about the living planet, there's no question that organics are better than pouring nitrates and phosphates into the soil.
How to integrate a wholesome way of eating--of organic food--into our busy, frantic lives? Sure, we'd all love to be the Barefoot Contessa or any of the celebrity chefs who have minions hunting down the best of the local/exotic/organic produce at the farmer's market, but most of us just want to have dinner on the table without cooking up a storm, and preferably without mortgaging the house.
The biggest change you can make to your health, actually, is to forego the organic question entirely and just focus on eating food. Real food. Baked potatoes, rather than Baked Lay's; chicken broth, instead of Campbell's Condensed; homemade bread rather than the fluffy white insubstantial stuff you buy from the store.
If you look at what most people put into their shopping carts, it's mostly stuff loaded with crap, for lack of a better word. Bread that doesn't go stale after a week, potato chips spiced and flavored into a color that indicates POISON in many species, prepackaged meals that you can just reheat months later. What exactly gives these things the properties they have, of long shelf life and fluorescent colors? Chemicals, i.e., crap.
Richard Hittleman gives a good description of "life force" in food. It's mostly fluff, in my opinion, but it makes intuitive sense: food is a living thing, and if you process it, you "kill" it (which, incidentally, is why you shouldn't eat meat, according to him--it's dead). Eating "dead food" drains you of your own energy, rather than giving energy back to you. Needless to say, I dislike the fluffy language, but there's no question that processing--heating, chopping, packaging, freezing--damages food, destroys the vitamins, and eliminates much of the fiber.
Organic does not necessarily mean healthy. Organic potato chips may be processed without preservatives and real oil, but they've still been processed, and they'll still keep forever on your shelf. Real food doesn't have to advertise its health benefits, because it is healthy.
Next: Cooking and keeping real food