Bountiful Baskets

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Plant-based living, in general, is not cheap. While I am still coming out ahead of my omnivorous days, no longer purchasing sirloins and brie, to eat high quality, fresh, organic “real food” can still be costly. Consuming sometimes twenty different fruits and vegetables in a day requires real diligence in seeking out the best prices for produce (as well as whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds).

Travis’s parents introduced us to a farmers’ co-op called Bountiful Baskets. I’ve mentioned BB before, but today, plan to go into a bit further detail about what a value it really is.

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Each week, the sale opens online on Monday and closes on Tuesday for pickup on Saturday. Popular items—like the organic fruit and vegetable basket—sell out quickly, so you have to be on your game. We head over to the BB website to place our order. You have a choice between a regular basket ($15) or organic ($25), plus extra add-ons like whole grain bread, tortillas, granola, and bulk produce. These add-ons change each week, as do the contents of the baskets. You can count on a 50/50 mix of fruits and vegetables, but the rest is a surprise.

I love the surprise element of the basket because every once in a while, it contains a fruit or vegetable that I have never heard of before or at the very least, never eaten or prepared myself. This challenges me to research typical preparations and uses, as well as flavor and nutrition information. This week, there is nothing out of the ordinary, but I am elated to see beets in the organic basket…stay tuned for a beet hummus recipe that you just have to try. 🙂

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Anyway, the add-ons that we selected this week were pineapples (twenty-one pounds, to be exact) and what the BB website called a “Freezer Pack.” The FP contained a large quantity of broccoli, carrots, and asparagus. We are keeping half of these vegetables and two of the eight pineapples fresh in the fridge and chopping the rest to go in the freezer. Below, you can see that we filled one-gallon food storage bags with chopped vegetables that will be ready to dump into a pot of vegetable stock for a quick soup. The pineapple chunks, since they will inevitably freeze into one solid unit, are in smaller baggies, the perfect size for smoothies.

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When add-ons like these—or similar bulk deals in the supermarket—come along, we always stock up and get creative. A couple of months ago, for example, we paid BB an extra $20 for twenty-five pounds of organic tomatoes which we promptly turned into homemade marinara sauce. This was frozen in food storage containers in perfect portions to accompany a box of pasta (or the equivalent in fresh eggless pasta). Today, we are cracking into the last one.

Living a plant-based lifestyle, for us, is still cheaper than being omnivores, in part because we seek out deals and find creative ways to preserve produce that we have stocked up on. Many of the deals come with the seasons and holidays. I don’t often purchase pecans and walnuts, for instance, because they are among the more expensive nuts, but my farmers’ market had longstanding sales on these around Thanksgiving and Christmas, at which point I bought a whole bunch that lasted us for months.

In addition, since we don’t buy prepackaged frozen food, our freezer typically always has room to store produce that we have peeled, chopped, or otherwise prepared ourselves. We freeze fruits and vegetables in convenient portions for the anticipated future application. This forethought comes in especially handy when it looks like there is “nothing to eat” and then I open the freezer and remember that I have soup-in-a-bag ready to go.

The photos in this post display $57 worth of produce, most of which is organic. The fresh produce will last us a week or two, but the frozen weeks or months beyond that. The fact that this is a smokin’ deal not enough for you? The extra produce and forgotten pickups are donated to local fire stations. 🙂 See if you can find a farmers’ co-op program in your area!

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DIY Trail Mix

Trail Mix II

Trail mix is one of my favorite snacks.  I prefer to make my own for both nutritional and monetary reasons.  Many premixed trail mixes are high in added sugars and oils, or include products like milk chocolate that I no longer eat, or raisins that I will never eat (I loved dried fruit, except raisins…I have no idea why!).  I also find that all too often premade mixes do not contain a ratio of sweet to savory that works for me, usually being either too sweet, too salty, or sometimes, too spicy.  Finally, while the premixed trail mixes boast clever names and yummy flavor combinations, they have a price tag to match.

The key to DIY trail mix is finding what you like, buying sale items in bulk, and combining them on your own, which takes very little time.  I am logging the trail mix that I made for this post under More Recipes because for the life of me, I couldn’t decide on a formula.  This is mainly because what I put in my trail mix in a given week depends on what is on sale in bulk at my local grocer.

Nuts, seeds, chocolate, and dried fruits are expensive, so I never go into making a trail mix with set ingredients in mind; I build a trail mix based on what is on sale.  I typically seek out mostly nuts and seeds, as they are a primary protein and fat source for me.  Chocolate and dried fruits are less of a priority (I eat tons of raw fruit), but I grab them when the price is right.

Whenever possible, all of the nuts and seeds I purchase are raw, as to avoid excess fat and salt.  Today’s mix includes all raw nuts with the exception of roasted, unsalted cashew pieces that were so incredibly marked down, I couldn’t pass them up!

Additionally, whenever possible, the dried fruits I purchase are free of added sugars, oils, and preservatives.  Sulfur dioxide, which is often added to dried fruit to preserve color, is known to cause allergic reactions, so I never buy dried fruit with it listed in the ingredients.  Today’s fruits include dried cranberries that have a touch of added sunflower oil to prevent sticking together and dried pineapple that has no added oil, but does have a little added sugar to balance the tartness.

Trail mix is quite often the only dessert-like item I consume in a day, week, or sometimes, even month, so I add dark chocolate when it’s on sale.  With the decadent milk variety available everywhere, I was never a fan of dark chocolate growing up.  Now that I’ve gotten used to the flavor, I eat it here and there for its antioxidants, and truthfully, don’t much care for ultra-rich, super sweet milk chocolate anymore.

I eat ¼-½ cup of homemade trail mix every day.  It’s filling, delicious, and nutritious (mostly!  🙂 ), and satisfies my sweet tooth with less fat and sugar than a traditional dessert.  Enjoy!

SWEET AND SAVORY TRAIL MIX

  • ½ cup raw almonds
  • ½ cup raw red walnuts
  • ½ cup roasted, unsalted cashews
  • ¼ cup dried pineapple
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries (these were flavored with 100% blueberry juice)
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate covered peanuts
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate covered edamame

Combine all ingredients and store in your pantry in an airtight container for up to two weeks.  If you anticipate going through your trail mix more slowly, store in the fridge as the oils in nuts can spoil.

Trail Mix