Archive for Locavor


You Can Afford Clean, Healthy Food

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There has been a lot said about organic foods being too expensive and good, clean foods from local farmers at the farmers market costing too much. Well, it’s not really true for many reasons including our health costs, our subsidized AgBiz, our waste of 40% of all we grow in this country, and the hidden costs to us and our planet from all the chemicals used, transportation costs, etc. Now I may be talking to the choir here so I want to focus on how to do it instead of a discussion on any of the other side issues.

There was a time in my life when there were five children at home and one small income. My intent was to give my children the healthiest foods we could afford because we also had no healthcare. So I began by implementing a buying priority system for the family. Here was the question: What do we need to have to eat in order to be as healthy as possible? Where can I cut things out of the budget to save money? I’ll tackle the first question in this blog. Second question, next blog.

The order of the questions was vital to me, actually. How did I boil it down to the absolute necessities for strong bodies? We need vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and some dairy (or the equivalent). The best of each of these is whole and does not have an ingredient label, or the list is very short and doesn’t contain items we can’t understand or pronounce. This changes the grocery list, the menus I used, and the amount of money that is spent at the store.

First get it on sale!  I looked at all the grocery sales and only picked those things that fit into the whole plain foods category. Most grocery stores have sales on organic foods now, and list them. Organic has become so popular that they are found at the discount grocery stores as well. I went to three grocery stores almost every time I shopped – and still do!

Buy in season! This means we are buying the freshest food for less. Last week, organic strawberries were 2/$5.00. Depending on which store you went to the container was either one pound or 1/2 pound…for the same price. I got enough to make a batch of jam which will last me for the rest of the year after giving half of the batch to my granddaughter since she helped me make it.

Put food by. Organic asparagus for $1.99 a pound? Freeze a pound or two. I’ve gotten local, free-range minimally processed whole chickens for $1.99/lb. And how much do you pay for cut up AgBiz chicken??? I can cut it up for that savings! After any big national holiday there are always sales of the ‘main meat’ – ham, turkey, roast beef, corned beef – get it then and eat a meal then freeze the rest in portions. We also spent years as vegetarians because meat is a big ticket item. It is also not essential to a good diet, which makes it a luxury item.

Make your menu from what is in season and on sale, not the other way around. Since I worked full time, I made an enormous meal on Saturday and another on Sunday. The left-overs from these two meals made new meals all week long. When you cook rice, potatoes, and/or pasta make enough for at least one more meal. Don’t get any prepared side dishes, they are very easy to make yourself.

Have meals be a time when the whole family gets together and participates. Kids learn to cook, Mom gets help, everyone gets to talk about their day or whatever is on their mind, and a loving community around food is born. Go to Slow Food events as a family. The movement that started in Italy has gone international and is a great resource for local good eats and finding a larger family type community around food.

Remove packaged snacks from the shopping list. Have a container of cut up fruits and another of veggies ready to go. Make popcorn. Have dried fruits and nuts on hand. Let the older kids make their own snacks out of peanut butter, coconut, dried fruits, and nuts. Roll them into balls and put them in the freezer.

And the last bit for today – have specific things for the kids (and grown-ups) to eat! Portion control is key to maintaining a good food budget and a slim waist line. Never allow ‘free foraging’ in the pantry or ‘fridge! Let your family know you have this for snacks and that for a meal. If s/he eats the food for a meal, don’t go buy more, make do and let them connect money with food with being responsible!

More on saving money while eating well next time! Chao!


Wild Foods & Forgotten Fruits

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In my last blog I talked about finding wild food in the city, and touched on a few choice ‘weeds’. Of course there are many more, and I’ll be going into more detail on my new website – – when it is up and running in a week or so. There will tips, uses, pictures and recipes!

Actually, this is the second part to the last blog, and the focus is Forgotten Fruits. Most of the weeds I talk about are just about everywhere. The desert is an exception (sort of) because the weeds I’m highlighting are brief visitors only after a good rain. The fruits are also very different. On the urban desert scene you’ll find oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, figs, and pomegranates. All wonderful, however at the moment, I’m in a more temperate zone, so I’m going to discuss these urban neighborhoods – specifically older neighborhoods.

I live in an area that was settled just before 1900. We have the benefit of all the fruits that were planted as a normal part of backyards and essential to the life of that time. Now we have a generation that has no idea what these fruits are, if they are safe to eat, or what to do with them. This is not a blanket statement by the way, just an observation on the times and the people around me.

In a six block area around my home there are apple, apricot, plum, cherry, crab apple, and peach trees, all producing regularly, and all delicious. There are also June Berries (Service berries, Sasketoons, Shad bush), grapes, raspberries, mulberries, huckleberries, and gooseberries. Most important (to me) I even know where elderberries are!

When there is a bumper crop, these wonderful, organic fruits fall into the street and rot. I am constantly amazed at the ability to step over these delicious ripe fruits while on the way to the grocery store to buy the same thing shipped 1500 miles unripened, arriving expensive and tasteless.

So as much as I can, I go collect this fruit. When I spot a good tree loaded with fruit, I knock on the door and ask. If no one is home, I leave a sticky note with my request, a business card, and my phone number. No one has refused, and I always offer to share the bounty with the home owner – whether it’s jam, jelly, canned, fresh, or dried fruit.

On these long summer evenings, finding food in the city is a pleasant past time and a way to get to know your neighborhood. It can bring food to your table both now and in the winter, and it lets the people around you see another way of providing for themselves. A heartening prospect in uncertain times with questionable food.

So on your walks around your neighborhood, explore the food opportunities and let me know what you find!


Urban Foraging

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Urban foraging may sound like an oxymoron to you – how can you find food in the city, much less find enough to consider it foraging? Actually there is a lot of food to be found without going too far from your doorstep. Now I want to note that I live in Denver, Colorado so I am not talking about New York City, although the neighborhood fresh foods programs and vacant lot or roof top gardens there are becoming far more common than you might think!

I am actually meaning something more basic than growing veggies and fruits in the city. I am teaching people about the plants that are already growing and ready for the picking. The greens are in full swing right now, and you can find enough to eat to make a salad for your family almost anywhere. You just need to adjust your sight to the cracks and crevices, alleys and yards, road cuts and ‘wild’ areas of neighborhood yards and parks.

In a short time, I can have enough of these nutritious plants for a pot of greens or a fine salad. Gone are the days when iceberg lettuce was the mainstay of a tossed salad! Now we are regularly using baby spring greens, arugula, sprouts, red and green leaf lettuces, and (believe it or not) weeds! Dandelions have come back into favor to the point where I can find a large bunch at the natural grocery for an unfortunate price, or go pick my own!

A short story of the lowly dandelion: these plants were so well thought of by our Founding Fathers and Mothers that they were brought over on the Mayflower as an essential food and medicinal plant. It was known as an indispensable addition to the yard/garden, table and medicine cabinet. All of it is edible and nourishing. The flowers can be dipped in batter and fried like squash blossoms, the young leaves are delicious in salad, and the old leaves make a good pot herb like kale or collards. The roots can be boiled, diced up in soup or stew, as well as roasted and ground for a hot drink. The uses go on and on!

There are some caveats to foraging that I want to make very clear before I mention the next lovely foods for the table. First of all, know where you are picking and whether the plants have been exposed to pesticides or herbicides, car exhaust or old dumping sites for toxic materials. Second, never gather wild foods unless you know what you are picking. There are very few poisonous wild plants however the few that are poisonous are really deadly. Third, stop using chemicals on your lawn and try to get your whole neighborhood to stop as well. The last item is to use 50% of your regular greens with the wild ones since this is not yet a common table item for you. Always start slowly or you will really clean out your system! Not such a bad thing…if you expect it!

I will only mention a few more very common wild plants here today. They will go very well with the dandelions in a salad. Find a good book or a knowledgeable person to show you the first time. My current favorites are: lambsquarter, sorrel, clover flowers, especially red clover, chickweed, and purslane. Each is a good foil for the more bitter dandelions, all can be eaten raw, and each has an abundance of nutritious qualities. As an example, purslane, a low growing tasty succulent, is good raw or sauteed, and has more Omega 3 fatty acids than most fish!

This is local, organic, sustainable, nutritious, and tasty at it’s finest! Eat your weeds, Friends, and enjoy!