I have an expensive addiction.
Yes grapefruit. At two dollars per piece it quickly gets expensive if I’m eating more than one a day. And it’s not the only expensive produce I’m eating these days. Apples are almost a dollar each. I did recently get a deal on a 10-pound bag of beets at $1.50 but I’ve long juiced and drank all of those. When I’m paying four dollars for a head of cauliflower, I can’t help but feel reluctant… four dollars? If you’re lucky enough to have a cold room or cellar, you can stock up on any bargains you may find.
Admittedly, I do have a few expensive indulgences, like coffee, for instance. But why do I take it so personally when produce is expensive?
Produce is getting pricier and we’ve been hearing a lot about it lately. Especially when the Canadian dollar jumps around. Canada does import a lot of fruit and vegetables, making fluctuations in price a common occurrence. A looming food crisis is an indication this isn’t going to change for the better.
Buying produce can also be a gamble. I burn with buyer’s remorse when I take that first bite of two dollar grapefruit only to find it is either sour or tasteless. Or eight dollars worth of grapes that my daughter won’t eat because they’ve gone soft and leathery in one day, apples that are chalky or oranges that are dry inside.
I find I’m using my senses more than ever when I buy produce, trying to determine if it’s worth the risk. Smelling, squeezing and closely examining each piece of produce, taking 15 minutes to choose, one-by-one, a handful of perfect green beans.
How can we alleviate the risks of buying pricey produce and ensure we get what we pay top dollar for?
Here are a few tips that can help you get that bang for your buck when it comes to buying your fruit and veg.
Don’t be afraid of a few blemishes. Just ensure the fruit has a pleasant smell, feels plump or heavy (full of juice and not dehydrated or too light). This indicates there’s a good chance it’s has had the proper amount of tree or vine ripening prior to being plucked. Ensure the colour is what it should be, with no obvious brown, dark orange or blackening areas.
No longer just a survival tactic! The art of foraging has returned. It is an instinctive behavior that can come in handy and now is starting to become an uber-cool activity for foodies. I was taught how to forage for wild berries, nuts and fruit by my parents and grandparents. It was useful during those university years, and I have fond memories of broke students (Patricia and I) sneaking crab apples off of city park trees and making everything out of wild rhubarb from juice to puree and even soup.
I’ve been teaching my little one to identify edible fruit in local parks and conservation areas, and we find everything from wild raspberries, service berries (Saskatoon berries), grapes and various apples. London, Ontario even has it’s own food forest (http://londonfoodforest.blogspot.ca/). Mushrooms can be tricky and you should study up on a few things before you go full-force. Ensure you refer to reliable resources. http://www.wildedible.com/foraging
We are going to do another blog with more details on becoming a forager in the near future!
Markets, local farmers and food cooperatives
Local is in demand. Many grocery stores are stocking more products that are local, thanks to public demand. In addition, local farmers, markets and food co-operatives are taking up shop more than ever before, making local produce increasingly accessible. It just makes sense that when foods aren’t shipped from great distances, they’re fresher. Make weekly trips to your local farmer’s market or become a member at a local, grassroots food co-operative. Wherever you are, Google a local food co-operative and my guess is, you’ll find one! Also, get to know some local farmers! Meet them at the farmer’s market in the summer and fall, and ask them where you can buy from them year-round.
It’s a garden revival! Many people now recognize the value of home grown produce. Container and community gardens are also possibilities if you don’t have the space. Rent a plot in a community garden or even if you live in a small condo, you can grow herbs or small veggies in containers, even year-round in your kitchen window!
With a few savvy tips, you can get the best fruit and veg possible, even save money and make the right selections to eat well, without having to gamble.