Saturday, July 28, 2007

Buy lots of fruit. Go crazy!

San Francisco is full of all sorts of grocery stores. We’ve got everything from Safeway to Whole Foods. My favorite store isn’t even a chain: Rainbow Grocery is a unique co-op with an organic orientation. It’s an especially great place to shop for fruit. I find more local, organic fruit here and the prices are cheaper than Whole Foods. I just got back from Rainbow today and here’s a list of my fruity purchases and how I like to use them:

Bananas—last the entire week; Michael eats at least one a day.
Strawberries—Michael will finish a basket in one sitting; I can’t chop these fast enough.
Corn—side dish for dinner; baby loves to eat corn on the cob!
Eggplant—toss into an adult stir-fry or use in an eggplant Parmesan recipe for baby.
Grapes—snack food or lunch side dish.
Basil—put in a food processor to make homemade pesto in a snap.
Arugula—lunch for baby and me: smoked salmon sandwiches with goat cheese and arugula.
Melons—great cubed snack; cut melon lasts a couple days in the refrigerator.
Watermelons—Messy, messy, but a yummy cubed snack; cut melon lasts a couple of days in the refrigerator; eat in the high chair if possible; I had to mop after this afternoon’s watermelon snack.
Nectarines and peaches—snack or lunch side dish.
Pineapple—snack or lunch side dish.
Blueberries— snack, lunch side dish, or dessert for mommy.

Look for local fruit or at least produce grown in the state in which you live. I try to stick to California fruit—because I figure the kiwis grown in my state are going to taste fresher than those from Chile. Rainbow Grocery identifies the source of its produce with labels and more and more groceries—even Safeway—are adopting this practice. What’s more, buying locally is an easy way to tell what’s in season. If you buy in-season fruit, it will taste so much better. Also in-season fruit is cheaper. These days I’m buying so much fruit that I’ve gotten to know the prices. In general, I never buy anything over $3.60 a pound. mangoes can jump from $1.50 a pound to $6 a pound, and so I always look at the price before I toss the mangoes into the cart.
I don't restrict myself to only California fruit (yet!) because fruit like mangoes are just too good to pass up. Mangoes reduce the risk of cancer more than any other fruit or vegetable.

I buy organic for my baby because he is fresh and new and I don’t want to spoil him with pesticides and hormones. I don’t want his body jeopardized on my watch. My new habit saves me money because I don’t buy anything that I don’t know. If there’s an ingredient that is unrecognizable, I don’t buy it. This simple rule eliminates a lot, you'd be surprised. Even orange juice isn't so easy to buy. I just want to buy orange juice that says, "Ingredients: orange juice." I really should be using a juicer and juicing my loose oranges but I haven't crossed over there yet. I only do it every once in awhile.

Now, my kitchen is stocked with snack food for the week. I give my baby as much fruit as he wants. I don’t consider it dessert like ice cream. I figure, the more fruit he eats, the healthier he’ll be. Forget the goldfish crackers; instead cut up a juicy cantaloupe—loaded with beta-carotene and vitamin C and A—for your love bunny. If it isn’t substantial enough, cube some whole wheat bread to go with it. How easy is that? Forgive me if I’m starting to sound like Rachel Ray.

Rainbow has an amazing assortment of bulk foods. I especially love the bulk fig bars. For one, they are bulk, which means no packaging waste. Two, they are made with healthy ingredients and still taste as good as the Fig Newtons that I grew up eating. Now, I would never buy that kind because . . . well just read the ingredients. And so, sometimes, I cube the bulk fig cookies for Michael and pack a couple for me too.

Important lesson: Spend your money on unpackaged fresh fruit rather than highly processed kid snacks packaged in boxes. No need to waste time making a grocery list: Just go and buy produce that’s locally grown, well-priced, and fresh and tasty looking.

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