Amanda Hart – Food Lover, FACS Teacher, Purdue Alum
How many times have you gotten up and checked your fridge, only to realize its shelves are just as empty as they were 15 minutes ago? At this point, most people would just order take out and call it a day. But not you, my friend! You are an adult! Well, you did cry at the end of Toy Story 3, but that’s no big deal! Now’s the time to get up, get yourself to the store and buy food that’s good for you. (No, a box of macaroni and cheese doesn’t count as “good for you”.)
You make it to the market, you grab your trusty basket and head to the produce section, only to be greeted with a wall of…. well…. green things. Why is it all so leafy? What the heck is kale anyway? This place looks odd, foreign, alien almost. Don’t lose hope, my friend! Just pick up a few vegetables that are in season and you’ll be good to go. Using produce that is in season is one of the easiest ways to get high quality food for a lower price. This means it’s good for you, and your wallet too!
Eat Locally & Seasonally
When you eat foods that are in their growing season, you get the peak flavor, texture and nutritional content that piece of food has to offer. That’s the whole point of eating after all; to get your body the nutrition it needs and to have fun while doing it. If you have a choice, try to pick foods that were grown and processed within the Midwest, or ideally here in Indiana. Pay attention to the displays in the grocery store and they’ll tell you where your food comes from.
Now you know what food is local, but how do you know what’s in season? Option one: Find an app. There are a few choices, just search for a seasonal fruit and vegetable app and you’ll find something that gives you a general breakdown of what foods are prime produce each month. . Otherwise you could get a handy-dandy chart like this one found at Cooksmarts.com:
In Indiana, our summer produce includes carrots, asparagus, cucumber, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes, corn, zucchini and summer squash, eggplant and green beans and a variety of greens. Since we have these vegetables in such large quantities, the price is SUPER low when they are in season. Good luck trying to get fresh corn in January for $3 a dozen.
Check Out Farmers Markets
The Lafayette area has a couple of great farmers markets that run from May-October. They have a great selection of local produce, meats, baked goods, jams, craft jewelry, coffee and so much more. The growers are super friendly, and they enjoy talking about the items they’ve put so much time and effort into growing. They are great at giving advice on how to prepare or store their produce. It’s my favorite place to spend a Saturday morning.
Try Something New
So, what should you make? Look, I know it’s easy to get overwhelmed with new things. And let’s face it, some vegetables just look weird. Your job now is to pick one new thing and try it out. If you bought produce, but you don’t know what to do with it, check out The Produce Mom or Epicurious for ideas. One of my favorite websites is Cooking for Engineers. Even though I am in no way an engineer, I like how the recipes are in a step by step pictorial layout and in chart form. You can also just Google the list of foods in your fridge/pantry and see what comes up.
If you are a picky eater or are in charge of cooking for one, your goal #1 is to hide those vegetables! Check out this tomato sauce recipe from Jamie Oliver. If you put it on baked spaghetti squash, you won’t even realize it isn’t your normal pasta meal. If you are looking for more up-front, in-your-face kind of dish, try a simple cabbage salad as a side dish, a stir fry or a vegetable soup as your dinner one night. Throw a handful of spinach in your morning smoothie, or even cook some vegetables in with your ramen noodles for lunch. The point is, a wonderful, veggie filled future awaits if you’ll just take a bite.