Eating fresh isn’t always possible when buying produce at the local supermarket. Most of what lies on the store shelves today have been treated with pesticides, herbicides and chemicals to make the produce look good, but without many of the essential nutrients that help you maintain health.
While everyone knows they should be eating organic, it’s not always easy to hunt down a reputable source where you can get fresh fruits and vegetables that haven’t been treated or genetically altered in some way.
Most cities, however, have farmer’s markets where you can get fresh produce and bring home food that can help you and your family stay healthy and happy. Farmers, like anyone, are in business and like any business they want to turn a profit. So before you buy, you need to ask questions as to the freshness of their products. Generally, organic fruits, meat and vegetables cost more than commercially grown products, but the health benefit they provide makes the cost worthwhile. One of the best methods is to establish a good relationship with a farmer who you buy from regularly. If he knows you’ll be buying from him, the cost for fresh and organic produce will be less.
There are some rules to keep in mind when you plan on visiting the next farmers market to buy those fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses and fish.
* Buy locally. Produce is always fresher if it isn’t trucked in from a faraway region. If the farmer you buy from lives just out of town, you have better confidence that the produce is fresh and unlikely treated with preservatives. Buying locally also stimulates the economy and that provides the farmer with the incentive to produce better quality food.
* Buy in season. Lettuce, radishes, strawberries and asparagus are available and cheaper in the spring than kale, potatoes, cabbage, peppers and tomatoes that are picked early to late fall. This requires you to take more trips to get seasonal fruits and vegetables.
* Buy at the right time of the day. Generally you want to do your shopping in the early morning hours or on cool or rainy days when the heat of the day won’t wilt what’s on display. You can take advantage of lower prices at the end of the day as the merchants are more likely to get rid of their remaining inventory. But you need to be more selective and pick only those items that haven’t wilted and discolored while on the shelves. Some foods stay fresher longer.
* Buy only what you need. Some fruits will last for days if stored properly. Vegetables like romaine lettuce, green onions and celery will wilt unless used in your next meals. The fresher the produce, the healthier for you and your family. Unless what you buy can be dried, canned or frozen, avoid the temptation to buy what you won’t be able to use. Eggs can be refrigerated for a week. Meats and cheeses can be frozen. As most people set aside a certain day every week to do their shopping, you can combine your buying at the farmer’s market along with your regular shopping. However, weekends are busy affairs at the supermarket, but if you plan your itinerary right, you can do all your shopping in a single day.
* Buying bulk works only if you are planning to do a great deal of canning, freezing or drying. If you have a dehydrator, you can dry those extra purchases for healthy snacks for you and your children.
* Rather than buy a big bunches of parsley and sage, consider growing your own herbs. It saves you money in the long run as you only use what you need. Herbs are so easy to grow and you don’t need a full-sized garden to grow them. A windowsill planter box is all you’ll really need.
* Be selective at the supermarket. They are becoming aware of the need for freshness. You may be able to find organically grown apples, oranges, bananas and asparagus. Check the little sticker for a five digit number code. If the first number is a 9, that indicates the fruit has been grown organically. If that first digit is an 8, it has been genetically modified. If the sticker only has a four digit code, it’s been grown the commercial way and may come with pesticide residues.
In today’s world where diseases like cancer and diabetes affect more people than ever before, you can do your health a favor by finding fresh and healthy produce at the farmers market. Other than growing your own, it’s the best way you have to stay healthy and happy.