Natural Awakenings Twin Cities March 2023
Read the full March 2023 Issue
Featuring: Veggies for the Win, Plant-based Resources, Terry Wahls on Managing Autoimmune Disease with Lifestyle Intervention, Better Sleep for Children, Thriving with Multiple Sclerosis
March is the month of the year at Natural Awakenings that we honor all things food and nutrition. Many of us are adding more fresh produce into our diets, yet the inflated cost of groceries can make it difficult to do so. For many of us experiencing less people in our home due to children leaving the nest or, in my case, transitioning from caring for four adults (who loved to eat) to only my husband and me, purchasing and cooking smaller amounts of food is initially disorienting.
For the past 30-plus years, I have purchased the majority of our fresh produce at farmers markets or, in winter months, the large membership warehouses. Now that we no longer need eight green peppers a week or a 20-pound bag of onions at a time, I have been trying to find an affordable way to purchase smaller amounts of these items. I am surprised by the difference in cost per item and often the inferior quality. It has made me think about how we can still get the quality and cost to which we are accustomed without wasting food we cannot use before it goes bad.
Growing up in a large farm family with limited resources, I learned a lot about properly storing the food we grew, including canning, freezing and dehydrating. These are all fantastic options for extending the life of fresh produce, but your fruits and vegetables are no longer in the raw state. Some of the tricks I have learned to extend the life of our raw produce include:
Nearly ripe bananas – if non-organic, rinse the entire bunch of bananas with cool water to remove the ethylene gas used to ripent them, which will slow the process. Store in a cool space and wrap the stem of all bananas with aluminum foil.
Bell peppers, celery, lettuce and zucchini – clean with a mixture of white vinegar and water, dry completely, wrap in aluminum foil and store in the refrigerator. Cut bell peppers with the seeds removed can also be stored this way to extend their freshness.
Berries, grapes and cherry tomatoes – clean and dry thoroughly and store in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add a paper towel to the bottom of the jar to absorb any moisture. These will last up to three weeks when stored this way.
Whole lemons and ripe avocados – place in a wide mouth canning jar, cover with water and a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator. If you have used only half an avocado, you can store the other half, with the pit in place, in the water as well.
Carrots and cucumbers – clean, cut, place in a glass jar, cover with water and a tight-fitting lid and place in the refrigerator.
Fresh herbs – cut the stems and place in a jar of cold water, cover the tops with a plastic bag and place in the refrigerator. For dill, I prefer to clean, dry, chop and freeze it on a parchment -covered cookie sheet. Once frozen, place in a freezer bag and roll to remove the air. It can be used the same as you would fresh dill and tastes just as good.
Another idea I have recently implemented is to share with friends larger quantity purchases. We have a small number of single people and couples who now purchase some of the produce, eggs and other items I regularly buy from the membership warehouse. I do most of the shopping and divvying up of the items which is ideal as it allows me to continue purchasing at the best pricing sans waste.
With the increasing costs of groceries and living expenses, we need to be more creative and collaborative—Bonus: it is also a great way to build community spirit!