Thursday, August 12, 2010

One thing you can do

A friend and neighbor, mother to three young, energetic boys and about to welcome a girl, recently confided in me that she would like to change her family's eating and buying habits. She wanted to eat more seasonally available, locally produced foods. "But I don't know where to start!" She said this as we watched her kids and mine graze on the last of the broccoli, picking it right from the stem, then hunting for more. I knew very well how she was feeling because I could easily recall having the very same conversation with another neighbor a few years before -- but then I was the one trying to glean as much information as I possibly could. Having been a grocery store girl from childhood, and not deviating much as an adult, I had very little knowledge of what was harvested when. And planning a meal around that? Forget it! It was too complicated! And you know what? I still find it challenging. But little by little I'm learning by doing and each year it has gotten progressively easier.

So, I told my friend that there was one very easy thing that she could do right now that would get her started. There is one thing that will make an impact on her winter eating habits and make her excited for Spring to arrive in next year so she can continue a rich family tradition that she can start right now.

I told my friend to make a habit of going to the weekly Farmer's Market. I told her where she could also find the best farm stands. Make it a regular family outing, I recommended. Go a few times a week if you are able. Try and guess with the kids what you might find for sale today. Because if it is for sale at the farm stand then it is in season. Then, when the beans or the corn or the blackberries or whatever are in season -- buy as much of it as you are able, take it home and freeze it. I brought home 12 dozen ears of corn last week for $32. We made a party of shucking corn in the back yard and now I have a stock of organic corn in my freezer and I supported the local farmer who grew it. What a deal!

It helps to have a spare freezer, but if you have the room you can pick one up for around $200. After a year of buying, freezing and eating locally produced, organic foods, you will wonder how you ever lived without it. Otherwise, just start smaller. Stash away a bag or two of corn and green beans in the back of your freezer. You won't believe how good it tastes when you cook it up next November or December. Make room for a bag of blueberries, blackberries or peaches and add them little by little to your Sunday morning pancakes.  Trust me, it will leave you wanting more.

But beyond just healthy eating and supporting local farmers (which is so important, by the way!), there is another very important reason why you should do this one thing if you are able. Your kids. Watching all that oil spill out into the gulf made me acutely aware of the fact that our individual choices and actions matter. If we teach our kids when they are still young how to responsibly consume food then when they are adults they won't be buying processed foods because they lack the knowledge they need to make other choices. It won't take them 40 years and a lifetime of bad habits to figure it all out.

So what are you waiting for? Go forth and buy locally. You will not regret it!


  1. Excellent post, Christine. This is our first year of focusing on buying locally and we are truly enjoying it. Because of this miserable end of pregnancy, I haven't been hitting the farmers market as much (my husband does) so there's been no stocking up, but that is plan for next year!

    The neat thing about the CSA is that we really have tried a bunch of new veggies we wouldn't have otherwise tried. And with all the potatoes we get, we've been trying a lot of new potatoes dishes that incorporate other veggies and that has been interesting (and tasty!) too.

  2. Friends, who are on vacation this week, have a small vegetable garden in their backyard. My son and I went over to pick tomatoes and cucumbers, basil and anything else we could find. And yes, it makes me very hungry for more. I think we've forgotten how food is supposed to taste. From the farm, from the garden--what a difference!

  3. We do this on a much-more-limited basis. I frequent the farmer's markets near us (there are ones I can go to on Saturdays and Sundays easily, and one on Wednesday afternoons in the summer near my office), but I rarely 'remember' to buy extra and freeze, even though we have some limited extra freezer space (an old fridge in the garage). Mostly, it's because I don't know what can and can't be frozen. Anyone have a good resource (book?) for how to freeze veggies--and, more specifically, which ones you CAN freeze and which you can't?

  4. A very inspiring post. This is how I want to eat, how I feel best eating. Hope one day to get my boys out of their limited diet onto something more healthy!