Thursday, November 13, 2008

Eating Fresh On A Two-Week Grocery Plan

When folks hear that I do our grocery shopping every six to eight weeks, they are often flabbergasted.  Without exception, their first gasping question is always, "How do you have fresh produce?", as if it were the Holy Grail of feeding a family. Granted, fresh produce is very healthy for us. Even conventionally grown, non-organic, pesticide-laden produce has produced good results in scientific studies. It is what was used in all the studies showing that eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables can help reduce risks of cancer and other disease. (Remember Five-A-Day?)

While I concede that the ideal situation would be to live in the garden of Eden, or as a distant second, to have our own backyard gardens with seasonal produce ripe for the harvesting four seasons of the year, ideals are rarely reality. Having our own garden supply all our produce needs for the year is our goal, but we are not there yet, and something must be done in the mean time.

Although I am about to share my plan for how to eat fresh produce without living at the grocery store, I would like to state for the record that having fresh produce all year 'round is not an inalienable right. It is simply a blessing that we have in this country - a blessing for which I am grateful.

On to the plan. Every six to eight weeks, depending on how much is going on in life, or how much company we have had, we do our stock-up grocery shopping trip. This is where I refill the pantry and freezer with any frozen fruits and vegetables and shelf-stable items like canned goods. Once a month our health food co-op delivers our meats, grains, beans and baking supplies. That just leaves the fresh produce to pick up every two weeks, which for us, looks like Mr. Visionary making a stop on his way home from work.

We shop this way because it keeps us out of the stores more (so no impulse buying), it saves trips to town (so saving time, gas and stress) and it forces frugality (we make do with what we have on hand). It is not brilliant, it is just a fruit of planning ahead.

During the first week, we focus on the fresh produce that goes bad the fastest. This is the time to eat lettuce and bananas. During the second week, we focus on the fresh things that keep a bit longer like apples and carrots.  We rotate the produce we eat seasonally, to take advantage of what is in abundant supply and cheaper during each season. That means we rarely eat fresh tomatoes and watermelon in January (they taste yucky then anyway), but instead focus on the citrus fruits, leafy greens and root vegetables that are in season. We only have pomegranates in October and November, but enjoy them fully and often while they are in season and actually affordable. Two great books that discuss eating this way are Simply In Season and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle .

Week One Produce:

Lettuces, berries, avocados, pomegranate, bananas, peaches, tomatoes, pineapple, spinach, pears, kiwi, etc.

Week Two Produce:

Carrots, celery, potatoes, cabbage, green peppers, apples, oranges, sweet potatoes, beets, turnips, refrigerated bananas (put them in the fridge during week one- they will turn black on the outside, but still be white and fresh on the inside), leafy greens like collards and kale, and romaine lettuce usually keeps well in the second week, too.

Week two can also be supplemented with frozen fruits, since they are not blanched, and are still raw. We use frozen fruit in smoothies and mixed in our yogurt. The children also like frozen banana slices with peanut butter on top as an afternoon snack.

Both weeks we supplement with lots of lacto-fermented vegetables, which are not 'fresh', but they are raw. Each week can also be supplemented with fresh sprouts grown on your kitchen counter. Alfalfa sprouts, while popular, are not good for you, so we like to make mung bean sprouts (the kind used in oriental food a lot). My kids love these lightly sauteed in butter with a sprinkle of soy sauce. They are crunchy, yummy...and fresh.

So, that is how we do it. My goal as a Mommy Chef is to serve something fresh or raw three times a day, and this is the best way I have come up with to pull it off so far. If you have other tips, I'd love to hear them!


  1. This is something I am working on right now. I am hoping to make it until January without entering a grocery store. Our no spend months challenge that I am chronicling on my blog is forcing some serious creativity and discovery. I am looking forward to some oranges, though :).

  2. Wow, I am so impressed. I want to learn how to do this! I have noticed that about refrigerated bananas too. Weird. I'm going to try to move to once every 2 weeks, instead of weekly shopping. Let's see how it goes! : )

  3. Hey Mrs Julie, i was reading your family's way of getting groceries. and eating healthy? def a good idea. just wanted to encourage you to keep up the good work.
    shalom from Israel, ~Meghan

  4. This is one area I struggle a lot in - I made it a New Years Resolution to introduce new and healthy recipes to my family this year. I was raised on Hamburger Helper and was never trained up in a healthy kitchen environment.

    Way too often I have no idea what dinner will be until 3 in the afternoon...
    Do you plan your menu out a month in advance?

  5. Ali~

    I don't plan out our menu a month in advance. We have a *schedule* of sorts that says, chicken on Tuesday, fish on Wednesday, etc., but within that , we leave ourselves room for eating what we're in the mood for.

    Chicken could be soup, a casserole, burritos, fried chicken, barbequed, etc.

    Fish might be chowder, fried, baked, salmon quiche, etc.

    My *goal* for menu planning is to be thinking/planning at least two meals ahead.

    For example, when I am making breakfast, I try to have something planned for lunch, dinner and if I am really doing well, breakfast the next day. Doing it this way, I give myself time to have something thawing/soaking/cooking so I don't get too behind.

    Now, this does not always happen. ((grin)) That's why I try to have always have *convenience* foods ready, too. This looks like:

    ~ already cooked, chopped chicken or beef in the freezer, along with frozen broth and frozen veggies so I can toss a soup together at 5 o'clock

    ~spaghetti and canned or frozen sauce with already browned hamburger from the freezer

    ~frozen casseroles

    ~already shredded cheese in the freezer and turkey pepperoni for last minute pizza

  6. Great Post!
    I just tried to email you a related forward I got awhile back, but it didn't go through, so I posted it on my blog. Check it's really cool! :D


  7. I think it is so important for us to get out of this habit of going to the grocery store every 2 seconds! We take our "easy access food" for granted way to much! Thanks for the encouragement.

  8. Found you just by bumbling about the internet. Loved this post - and would love to hear more details, including menus and anything else you would have for someone who doesn't quite "get it" in the how-to department yet. Bookmarking you now.

  9. Julie-
    I am learning more and more that there are people out there that believe the same things I do about a God's role for women and the family. It is an encouragement to me to know that I am not alone in this society we live in. I too grocery shop once a month for my husband and I and our children. We live on 8 acres and grow a garden and have a few immature fruit trees. I wanted to ask you about your chickens. I have never raised chickens and I only want a few for eggs. What can you tell me about the reality of their maintanance and upkeep? Is it worth it? Also, people aske me the same questions about our grocery shopping and my respoce to them is that it is much cheeper! We feed a family of 4 on $250/month and if you met us you would know we are not hungry by any stretch of the imagination! I also buy powdered milk to cook with as my children are avid milk drinkers. Thank you for the encouragement you have given me!

  10. Somehow, I missed this great post. Wonderful! I'm with you on all of it, you spend less all around and you have less of a headache! Thank you for encouraging us in our roles as mothers and wives.


Before writing your comment, be sure to read the Fine Print!