One of the perks of summer is the greater availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, of which I try to take great advantage. The kids love picking the fruit from trees and it’s become an annual highlight; the family record of picked fruit was 2005 when we picked more than 300 pounds of varying fruits and vegetables. But I’ve had to learn to pace myself in purchases so that I don’t waste and have to throw out spoiled food.
We live in a semi-rural area with a large number of farmer’s stands and pick-your-own orchards. It’s easy to drop by and become overwhelmed by the variety and amount of fresh food available and on more than one occasion, I’ve engaged in impulse buying that has been a waste of food and money. So what do I try to do when I’m shopping for summer foods?
- Farmer’s stands and orchards are no longer "hey, I’m here so I might as well stop" occasions. They are purposeful stops.
- I have to have a good idea of what’s on the calendar for the next several days, and even weeks, before I make larger purchases. This is especially the case if purchasing larger quantities of fruit which have to be cut up and frozen or preserved before going bad. If we’re going out of town in the height of the peach season – late July/early August – then I simply forego the peach preserves until the next season because I won’t be able to get all of the fruit handled before it spoils.
- Some fruits will simply be ignored because they’re too time intensive when there are children around. Case in point was 2005 when I took my three and three other kids to a local orchard and gave them a half-hour in which to pick fresh Queen Anne cherries. The kids had a blast but I simply didn’t think that they’d manage to pull in 30 pounds of cherries, all of which had to be subsequently pitted before they could be cooked down. That evening, five of us sat at the kitchen table and manually pitted the cherries – a monotonous task only made bearable by great conversation and good beer.
- Not only do I try to know what’s on the calendar for the next several days/weeks, I try to have a reasonable menu that varies from evening to evening. This evening will be grilled eggplant and green pepper along with corn on the cob and chicken.
- Remember to keep cash handy since most, if not all, of these places won’t take check or credit.
Getting your food fresh is not only healthier but also cheaper and can be both fun and educational for the little ones with you.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to mix some olive oil and balsamic vinegar for the grilled vegetables.