If you're budgeting, only buy organic produce that is listed on the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen List (listed here).
When organic produce is completely out of your price range, the alternative is to wash our conventional produce well to remove as much of the pesticide residue off as we can. Unfortunately, there's no way to remove all pesticide residue as some of it is absorbed right into the produce, but we can reduce our exposure and the overall pesticide load by washing them well.
The easiest and cheapest way to wash produce is merely running it under tap water. "There is little or no difference between tap water rinsing or using a [commercial] fruit and vegetable wash in reducing residues of the nine pesticides studied" (study link). Note: it's not the water so much as the friction, so make sure to give the produce a good rub under the water - and use a scrubbing brush on hard skinned vegetables like carrots.
Some fruits and vegetables (like apples) are covered in wax to extend their shelf life. They require vinegar (the plain old stuff) to remove the surface residue. In fact, vinegar alone can reduce surface bacteria up to 90% and viruses up to 95% (study link). Combine 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water and soak produce for up to20 minutes. Rinse under tap water.
"The Steps - How to effectively wash your produce"
- WAIT to wash your produce until just prior to use. This will extend their shelf life.
- SOAK vegetables in a vinegar solution (1:3 ratio) for up to 20 minutes. For delicate fruit like berries, you can make up the vinegar solution in a spray bottle instead of soaking them.
- WASH under running tap water and give them a good rub or scrub, unless they are delicate.