Are you looking for ways to purchase fresh produce while staying on a budget? Many of us are looking for a good variety of fruits and veggies without putting a big dent in our paychecks.  Here are a few tips that I’ve learned along the way.

1.    Weekly sales flyers: I used to toss those flyers straight into the trash can, but now I scan the produce section to find any good deals first in my local grocery store.

2.    Produce co-ops: These organizations are becoming more and more popular. Basically, you pre-pay for a “mystery box” of produce and arrange to pick it up at a set location. It can be an inexpensive option, if you don’t mind not knowing what you’re getting until you pick up the box. Consider trying out a small co-op and see if it’s a right fit for you.

3.    Farmers’ Markets:  This is the go-to spot for farmers and it’s a great option for everyone else, too. Note: Some farmers only sell in bulk, so you may want to take along a friend. Farmers usually let your taste the food before buying, which is a great perk, especially when trying new things!

4.    Community Market: A gathering of community-inspired vendors that sell produce, fresh meat, freshly baked bread, and all types of goodies in an urban setting. This is a great option for folks in the city; they can get the farmer’s market experience on a regular basis when something like a farmers’ market isn’t conveniently accessible.

5.    Road-side markets: These small fruit-and-vegetable stands sprout up in the Spring and Summer before harvest time. You can usually find a good deal on the produce because it’s usually ripe and ready to be eaten. These markets are usually found through word-of mouth, so ask around and see what’s in your local area.

6.    Festivals: Some communities sponsor special events where produce vendors are invited to sell their harvest in support of that particular festival (i.e., peach festival, strawberry festival, okra strut, etc.) These events are usually filled with live music, great food, and friendly people.

Today, there are a variety of options for getting produce at a low cost, so you can stretch your dollars a little further.

-Delores McCarter

farmers market

Hello, I’m back from surgery! Back from writer’s block, too.

Diagnosed with breast cancer that wasn’t really  breast cancer (loads of stage zero, go figure!), I was lucky enough to have kind, talkative surgeons, wonderful, giving nurses and great support from my family and friends. Although the diagnosis necessitated a mastectomy, my surgery was complicated by non-health threatening issues and I’m scheduled for more surgical fun in the future. For now though, I’m pretty much as cancer-free as anyone can expect to be.

Looking back on the experience now (I’m nine weeks out of surgery, back at work for three), I understand what people mean when they say that cancer is a gift. I’ve learned how deeply many people care about me and that my world is filled with some incredibly thoughtful, loving people. A bonus is that I’ve gotten some of the best, world-class hugs from friends and acquaintances that let me know I can count on them for anything in my time of need. I’ve never been a big hugger, but now I’m signing up for the club and plan to give 110% to anyone who needs a hug, like it or not!

With this in mind, what do you do for others when they’re not feeling “up”?produce basket

Never underestimate the power of the small gesture; a hug, a phone call or a visit when they’re down. You might think you’re intruding (call first?), but the gesture will be a thoughtful one and remembered kindly. The time honored gesture of food is usually welcomed, especially when someone can’t cook for themselves.

When I arrived home from the hospital, the house was filled with flowers and cards, but the thing that made me cry those happy tears was a huge, woven basket filled with colorful fresh vegetables from our local farmer’s market. Fresh, organic and beautiful, there were so many lovely items! The coolest? Zucchini blossoms! The gesture alone was beyond thoughtful and what it did for my family was create a situation where they all could discuss what to do with the veggies and then cook them together. After that, we all sat down to a wonderful dinner. So many benefits from one simple, thoughtful gift! I still find myself thinking about it and know that when the time comes that I want to make someone happy or feel better, I’m going to make a basket of market fresh delights to give to them (along with a big hug). If you’re making a gift of seasonal produce, you might want to include something the person doesn’t usually eat, like artichokes. I recently cooked artichokes and amazed The Man Who Walks Beside Me. Had I never cooked them at home before? Maybe not because I probably felt he wouldn’t have tried them, but as you may know, he claims that he now eats “everything”… but I digress.

The treats in my basket were the aforementioned zucchini blossoms, something I hadn’t had in years, and they created quite a discussion regarding how to prepare them. Naturally, battering then frying them came up, but we considered some other healthful options and my Girlfriend-In-Law* baked them. Her love, my son, made a chimichurri sauce and we decided that we needed more so we could stuff them with all sorts of things. Mushrooms, tofu, vegan cheese… this made for my first big walk outside after surgery to the farmer’s market, where we bought some more zucchini blossoms and made a few more memories. My Thank You note to our neighbor was fairly over-the-top with thanks for her gift, because I loved her thoughtfulness, the food, and all the great stories it made for my family of post-surgical-at-home caregivers, otherwise known as the best family a woman could have.

-Suzanne Hetrick

*note: we are not really a marrying type of family and need to think up creative names for our significant others because we are committed to them.

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Healthy Food Prank

What would happen if you tried to give a bunch of kids fruits and vegetables from an ice cream truck instead of ice cream? The word angry comes to mind, and that’s just what some people got when prankster Roman Atwood pulled up to their neighborhoods with ice cream truck music playing and handed them broccoli on a stick. But even so, some reactions might surprise you.

How would you respond if an ice cream man gave you a free veggie instead of your favorite ice cream cone?

I used to eat a lot of salad with a lot of salad dressing. I started buying salad dressing in bulk just to make sure I never ran out of it. I didn’t even realize that I had so many bottles until recently;  there were bottles in the fridge, in the kitchen cabinets, on the pantry shelves, and even in the fridge at work and in my desk drawer at the office. Did I really need this much salad dressing? Does anyone?

After I started using my NutriBullet, I took a little break from salad. I finally noticed the bottles of salad dressing because they were taking up so much room in the fridge. When I’d move things things back and forth, the bottles of salad dressing danced around like musical chairs.

I checked the nutrition label on one of the bottles and was far from impressed. One of my favorite bottles of salad dressing had a long list of ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce. Even the pre-made dressing mix had a lot of additives in it. There were only four things that I recognized: buttermilk, garlic, onion, and parsley. Everything else could have been written in a different language because I didn’t understand any of it.

I realized that I didn’t want to go as far as eating healthy, delicious salads and then adding that stuff on top of them anymore. It didn’t matter if I had four bottles or forty; I wasn’t going to be using them anymore. I decided to start making my own dressing.

It wasn’t hard to find the ingredients because most of them were already in my house:  yogurt, oranges, vinegar, lemons, garlic, mustard seed, nut butters, and a variety of seasonings.

One day, I took the slices of a juicy orange and placed them in the NutriBullet. Then, I added  some peanut butter, vinegar, fresh parsley and minced garlic. Ten seconds later, I had a freshly made salad dressing. Another day, I took some plain yogurt, apple cider vinegar, fresh parmesan cheese, and fresh herbs and it made an entirely different but equally delicious dressing.

Since then, I’ve never looked back.

-Delores McCarter

Salad Dressing

You don’t need us to tell you that the NutriBullet isn’t a juicer – you know what it can do! Extracting nutrients from your food without discarding precious and healthful fiber, it does more than your typical and more expensive juicer. Now we’re challenging you to use some of the fruits and veggies you’ve reserved just for juicing in your NutriBullet!

BuzzFeed published a list of the Top 10 Best Things You Can Squish Into a Juicer and we think they all sound delicious. Give some of these a try and then let us know – what are your favorite juicer-turned-NutriBullet foods?

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