This is part 1 in a series on whole foods for the family. Click through to read part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5. Also click here for a super-simple quiche recipe that will put those whole-foods skills to good use! And if you’re looking for a FREE whole foods, 5-day meal plan, click here!
Ask my husband about my cooking skills when we were newlyweds, and he’ll laugh and tell you a story about spinach salad. We had it A LOT … as in three or four nights a week. Thankfully, my cooking skills have come a long way in eight years, and so has my awareness of the standard American Diet and the way food impacts our health.
As our family has grown and we’ve added three little ones, I’ve become more informed of the adulterated state of our food supply. As a result, I’ve slowly and intentionally moved us almost completely over to an unprocessed, organic, whole foods diet. I’ve learned quite a bit in the process (including how not to break the bank and how to make this lifestyle work with young kids), and I’ve amassed a variety of resources. Now I want to share those with you.
So today begins the first part in a series that I’m dubbing Whole Foods for the Family Table. But before diving in, let me share what this series WON’T do. It won’t give you all the evidence for WHY. There’s an overwhelming amount of research available to you with just the click of a mouse, so I’m not going to repeat it all here. (In short, we choose to eat mostly organic for two main reasons: reduced exposure to toxins and an increased nutritional profile. Studies have shown that organic fruits and vegetables have up to 40 percent more antioxidants than non-organically grown produce.) What this series WILL do is give you the tips and resources to incorporate a whole-foods lifestyle into your own home, even when young kids are tugging at you. I should also state that we don’t currently follow any specific diet. We simply eat a variety of unprocessed foods, including full-fat dairy, real butter, meat and whole grains. Sound good? Ready, set, go!
Sourcing Fruits and Veggies
Let’s begin this series by talking produce. After all, fruits and vegetables really should be the staple of a whole-foods, unprocessed lifestyle. Roughly 80% of the produce I serve our family is organic (it’s just not feasible for me to serve 100% organic). I buy our produce from two main sources: an organic co-op and a natural-foods grocery store. If you’re not familiar with a co-op, let me demystify it for you. In short, it’s basically a group of people who combine their purchasing power to get the best deal. We’ve been members of the co-op for four years now, and once every two weeks, I pick up a bin of produce from a local pick-up site. The produce varies each time, but I get an e mail prior to pick-up telling me what is in each bin, which helps with meal planning.
The specific co-op we belong to charges a yearly $25 membership fee; each bi-weekly bin is $50. Sometimes that price equates to pretty good savings, and sometimes (to be completely honest), it’s barely competitive with my favorite natural-foods grocer. But here’s why I really like the co-op. When we were first diving into unprocessed, organic, whole foods, I needed some support and encouragement. Through their online message boards, e mails and more, I was welcomed into a community of like-minded individuals who could recommend recipes, suggest other local resources and field questions. The co-op also helped to diversify our tastes and introduce us to fruits and veggies I likely wouldn’t have purchased otherwise. Take beets for instance. I just wasn’t a fan. But when they arrived in our bin several times, I started to serve them. We now love them roasted with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. The kids even request them. If you’re local to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I recommend checking out Your Health Source and Urban Acres co-ops.
Similar to a co-op is a CSA, which stands for community supported agriculture. In this group, members get a regular box of farm goods from a local farmer. More than simply paying for their produce, membership fees support local growers and CSA members get to build a relationship with the grower while receiving local, organic bounty. Many CSA owners will even allow members out to their property. My local area offers Elizabeth Anna’s Old World Garden and Cold Springs Farm, among many more.
Greenling takes the co-op/CSA idea one step further by delivering local, organic produce straight to your door. They also offer dairy, meat and other grocery items. If you’re in Texas, check them out.
During the summer, I also occasionally shop at the farmer’s markets. I love being able to talk to the grower’s personally, and this is a great place to ask about the availability of a CSA if you find a grower you particularly like. In my personal experience, my local farmer’s markets are a bit pricey. But keep in mind, that these are smaller operations, who don’t have the purchasing power of a large farm.
If you’d like to consider becoming a member of a co-op or CSA, here are a few tips:
- Check Local Harvest, a fantastic site that lists local farms, co-ops, CSAs, U-pick operations and more. Simply type in your zip to find options in your area.
- Visit farmer’s markets and ask the vendors if they offer a CSA or know of another vendor who does.
- Create your own co-op or CSA. If you happen to know of a farmer who might be interested or you can organize a group of people and then solicit a local grower, you could certainly create your own. Just arrange pick-up logistics and pricing, and you’re on your way.
- Talk to like-minded people who can point you in the right direction.
- Check to see if there’s a local Slow Food chapter in your area. They can be a great resource.
There’s so much more to share, including tips I’ve learned for getting young kids excited about whole foods, advice for making this work with your budget, and some quick and easy recipes that we love to frequently serve, so be sure to check back over the course of the next week. I’ll also be sharing additional resources for local dairy, eggs and meat; and I’ll be reviewing a fun, easy-to-read book that gives applicable advice for getting kids to eat a whole-foods, unprocessed diet. For now, if you’d like some further reading, check out the following resources:
- The Unhealthy Truth, by Robyn O’Brien (a great primer on conventional food supply in America)
- Deliciously Organic
- Kitchen Stewardship
- Nourished Kitchen
- 100 Days of Real Food
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver (an engaging read about one family’s journey to eat only locally sourced food for one year)
What about you? What are your favorite sources for whole foods? How do you incorporate these into your family’s meals?
READ PART 2 HERE.