• hello, joe. i’ve missed you.

    October 8, 2009

    Despite the peach incident in my previous post, I had managed to pull away from my Rainbow Grocery-induced trance at the banana stand.

    It was hard not to.  59 cents a pop, printed on every single label.  Since I eat a lot of bananas, I may have gone for these had I not remembered a piece of advice from a trusted source.  19c apiece at Trader Joe’s.

    Ah, Joe.  I fell in love with TJ’s over 10 years ago – the down-to-earth feel, the creative products, the amazing prices.

    A decade on, however, it’s a very different affair.  TJ’s has stayed the same, but I haven’t.  Back then, I didn’t blink an eye at loading up on the blistered peanuts.  I thought nothing of the high-sugar content in many of the cute, little packages.  This time, I cast a careful look at the label.  Some things were great: lots of unsulfured dried-fruit, for instance.  Other things were not: a rack full of sugared mints had me wondering where the natural options were.

    But Trader Joe’s doesn’t market itself as a health-food store, and that’s a good thing.  As always, I’ve found that the best approach to food shopping is portfolio style.  I’m happy to have TJ’s in the mix.

    Next up: one of my favorite SF eats…from Lebanon

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  • fruit & veggie crunching

    June 19, 2009

    I’ll shop for food over clothes any day.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I tried something on in a store or lusted after a pair of shoes in a window.  But almost every day I’ll find myself eyeing up an avocado or giving a mango a squeeze.

    I spread my food shopping across various sources: farmer’s markets, grocery stores, fruit stalls, and, occasionally, vegetable-box delivery schemes – otherwise known as CSAs in the US.  I used to do the box thing a lot, and in fact even started a catering business around it a few years ago.  But the truth is I just love the hands-on food-shopping experience.  I also got tired of so many onions and potatoes.

    Anyway, I thought I’d do a little price comparison this week.  Because I don’t buy the same things at every place – the point is to spread my pickings out – this is, pardon the pun, comparing apples and oranges.  But it does give an idea of how much I spend, not to mention how expensive life in the UK is.  Still, I can’t imagine what I’d be spending if I were eating out all the time.

    First up, a grocery store trip plus fruit stall fly-by.  Here’s what we’ve got:

    shopstall

    1 mini watermelon
    2 small heads lettuce
    1 box strawberries
    1 box blueberries
    10 flat peaches (utterly heavenly)
    6 vine tomatoes
    1 box cherry tomatoes
    Big bag ‘o carrots
    4 limes
    3 romano peppers (how beautiful are they?)
    5 honey mangoes (be still, my beating heart)

    Total cost: £25.79  ($42.50)  YIKES!

    Still, that’s a lot food.  I should point out that the limes are the only organic item here.  The strawberries, lettuce and tomatoes are all British. Everything else except for the mangoes is grown on the Continent.

    Okay, next up, my farmer’s market trip last week:

    farmers

    1 large head lettuce
    1 large bunch asparagus
    4 beets (for bedazzling smoothies, tops and all)
    2 large bunches spinach
    1 large bag garden peas (fun to peel and wonderful raw)
    1 bunch celery
    9 vine tomatoes
    4 boxes strawberries (not shown, see previous pic)

    Total cost: £15.50  ($25.57) DEAL!

    All of the above are grown a few miles outside London. Double deal.

    Lastly, while I haven’t used them in a while, I thought I’d take a quick peek at the prices at Riverford Organic.  Their fruit and veg box contains:

    broad beans
    cherry vine tomatoes
    kohl rabi
    basil
    pointed cabbage
    portobello mushrooms
    radishes
    aubergine (eggplant)
    strawberries
    cherries
    bananas

    Total cost: £14.95 ($25) including delivery.  Wow.

    Everything except the aubergine and bananas are homegrown.  And not an onion or potato in sight.  Well.  This is tricky.  While the Riverford site states that this box feeds 3-4 people, I wonder who they are basing this on and on how many days.  You’ll also notice that my first picture is heavy on the fruit while the farmer’s market trip leans towards the veg.  This box does balance them out.

    My head hurts.

    I’ve never been good at numbers, but I do know one thing: portfolio.  Rotation, rotation, rotation.  Spreading an investment, whether stocks or stalks, is always a good idea.  And you can always bet on the latter.  Result: I’ll continue to not put all my veg in one bike basket.

    p.s.  I’m curious to know how the prices in the US compare, so if any bloggers there want to do a similar thing, that would be very cool – please let me know if you do.  Happy weekend!

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  • all hail strawberry season

    June 11, 2009

    bikeberries

    This was, admittedly, a stretch – even for me.  Yet I, and the berries, somehow managed to make it home in one piece despite carrying an additional eight pounds of apples on my back and keeping an eye on those tall leeks you see peeking out of the corner.  But how could I resist four punnets for 5 GBP (about 8 USD), plus a discount for buying double?  And how cute are those baskets?

    I do love my weekly trip to the farmers market here in West London, and yes – the British climate is such that we have abundant berries and apples at the same time.  I’ll remember that next time I’m inclined to complain about the weather.

    You’ve gotta love strawberries – they’re high in fiber, low on the glycemic index and just beautiful to look at, which has to mean nature really wants us to eat lots of them.  They’re also plentiful and relatively cheap right now, so go out and get some.  In fact, I’m so crazy about strawberries and how good they are for us that I’ve changed the blog’s background photo in honor of them.  Speaking of seasonal, I’ve now also tagged relevant recipes with seasons so you can search them that way, too.

    So, you might be wondering what a girl does with this many berries.  I’ll rinse and freeze about half of them – green tops and all – for ready inclusion in smoothies.  And the other half: well, they’ll go quite fast in this queen bee of un-recipes that ranks way up there on the simple, tasty scale.  It calls for sprouted grains, but fret not if you haven’t yet been converted to the wonders of these little gems.  I’ll soon be posting the secret to successful sprouting every time – and it requires no special equipment whatsoever.  And yes, this recipe violates that golden rule of food combining that says fruit should be eaten on its own, but I find that this combo agrees with my tummy just fine, and since the grains are sprouted we’re talking lots of live-enzyme action.

    Let me know how it works for you, and enjoy the berry bliss!

    new recipe: simply sensational strawberries

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