Eat Fresh!

How to Make it More Convenient and Less Expensive to Eat Fresh Fruits and Vegetables (especially organic!)

Many people complain that it’s expensive and/or inconvenient to eat fresh, healthy food, especially fruits and vegetables.  I understand.  Unfortunately, most restaurants don’t emphasize healthy, plant-based food, and most of us can’t afford private chefs.  However, there are a few things we can do to make eating fresh fruits and vegetables more convenient and less expensive.   Buying fresh, local, seasonal produce from a Farmer’s Market each week or signing up for a CSA box is a great way to get reasonably priced fruits and vegetables that are super-fresh and delicious.  Supplement with fresh or frozen organic fruits and veggies from the grocery store or your local price club.  Picking your own produce from a local farm is a fun way to spend time with your friends and family and save money at the same time.  It’s also a novel idea for a date!

The most economical way to obtain produce, of course, is to grow your own.  If you live in a house and have a yard, I strongly recommend having a backyard garden.  This is the best way to get inexpensive produce.  You can make sure that it is organic, you can compost and when you need some greens or herbs, you can just walk outside and pick them!  Talk about convenient!  Even if you rent a home or live in an apartment or live in a climate where it snows half the year, you can still have container gardens and pots of herbs.  Herbs are $2.00 each at the grocery store and let’s admit it, half the time we don’t even use the whole package, right?  But once you start growing rosemary, thyme and other herbs yourself, you can snip off a little bit any time you need it for free!

A Few Tips: When you get your produce home from the market or when you receive your CSA box, do as much prep as you can for the week.  Spend an hour or two washing lettuce and other greens in a salad spinner so that during the week when you’re busy, you’ll actually use them rather than letting them rot in your vegetable drawers.  Make your veggies really appealing and easily accessible to all members of the family.  Cut celery and carrots into sticks and make up one or two tasty, healthy dressings (see menu {insert link}) at the beginning of each week.  That way, you’ll reach for salad first.

When you do buy salad greens prewashed at the grocery store, buy them in plastic clamshell containers and save them.  Use them again and again for storing leafy greens from the farmer’s market or your CSA box that you’ve washed and spun dry.  Line containers with a piece of paper towel or a clean, lint-free rag to keep greens fresh and dry.  They’ll stay fresh all week.

How Do I Find a Farmer’s Market in My Neighborhood?

Many states offer directories of farmer’s markets.  Do a google search and check your local newspaper.  In Sacramento, CA, go to http://www.california-grown.com/

What is Community Supported Agriculture?

Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.  Many CSAs are organic.  This can be a great way to save money on organic produce and produce in general.

http://www.localharvest.org

(This website also lists many Farmer’s Markets.)

Pick Your Own Produce

Go to www.pickyourown.org to find a farm in your neighborhood.

Starting Your Own Garden

William with heirloom tomatoes from our garden Summer 2009.

My husband is the gardener in our family.  He and our son spend weekends mowing the lawn and digging in the dirt, planting and picking kale, potatoes, squash and whatever else happens to be ripe and ready.  Kids love to eat what they pick out of the garden.  They love learning where food comes from and they’re so proud when they get to help.  My son loves filling his little wagon with a load full of peaches, tomatoes or squash with Daddy and pulling it over to the house to give to me as a present!  He says, “Mommy – look what I have for you – tomatoes!!”

If you’re ready to be the gardener in your family, I suggest going to your local co-op or nursery and asking if they offer any organic gardening classes.  Offering to volunteer at a local CSA is also a great way to learn about organic gardening.  CSAs often offer classes as well.  Search libraries and bookstores for info on organic methods (no need to use Roundup  – a simple spray of garlic and chili pepper solution keeps bugs off of kale).  Here in Sacramento, check out the links below.

www.sacfoodcoop.com

www.sacramentogardening.com

“It’s bizarre that the produce manager is more important to my children’s health than the pediatrician.”  -Meryl Streep
If organic farming is the natural way, shouldn’t organic produce just be called “produce” and make the pesticide-laden stuff take the burden of an adjective?  -Ymber Delecto