Vegetables 101

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Do you find yourself committing to eat more healthily and exuberantly filling your grocery cart with vegetables only to find those same vegetables have turned to mush in the crisper drawer a week later? Does the thought of prepping vegetables overwhelm you? I have a few solutions.

Each Wednesday I make a run to Sprouts. It is my favorite store for produce. Each week they have rock bottom sales on a variety of fruits and vegetables. Wednesday is double ad day, so the sales for the week that is ending and the week that is beginning are all valid.

King Soopers usually has the next best sales on produce, but there are not as many deals each week. Costco has a few good buys on produce, but for the most part produce is still expensive, and you have to buy a large quantity. Unless you know you are going to eat it all, I suggest buying smaller quantities at another store, even if you are not getting as great of a deal.

Here is what to buy at Costco:
Sugar Snap Peas
Baby Carrots (5lb. organic)
Spinach
Spring Mix

I find that Walmart’s produce is mostly more expensive than the produce that is on sale at other stores. Occasionally they will have a deal in store on seasonal vegetables things like avocados or corn. The good thing about Walmart is that you can price match produce, but they don’t always have comparable items, and sometimes Walmart prices produce like apples and oranges individually instead of by the pound. Good luck getting a cashier to take the time to figure that out!

If you can build a basic stock of vegetables, you will have the base for almost any meal. Depending on the season and the sales, I usually have the following produce on hand:

Lettuce
Tomatoes
Carrots
Celery
Cucumbers
Sweet Bell Peppers
Onions
Potatoes

Any other produce I have follows the seasonal sales. This week I have celery, an assortment of bell peppers, cucumber, broccoli, and lettuce in my refrigerator.
What to do with produce?

Prep it

I like to cut up fresh veggies and store in the refrigerator for easy snacking. I find that if I bring a container of carrots and celery for my kids to snack on while we are running errands instead of packaged crackers or granola bars, they eat a lot more veggies than they would if I only served the vegetables at meal time. While I am cutting veggies for snacking I will prep the vegetables for lunch and dinner.

Plan your Menu

Plan your menu around the fresh produce you buy. Not sure what to do with leftover veggies? You can put anything in a stir fry or a soup. Think outside of the box. Vegetables are not just for lunch and dinner. You can make yummy breakfasts with a variety of veggies. Just about any vegetable can go with eggs.

Freeze it

The freezer is your best friend when it comes to saving produce! If you are like me, I sometimes go a little crazy when there is an amazing sale on fruits and vegetables. If I know that I am not going to use all of the produce before it will spoil, I will chop it and freeze it. I cut corn kernels off of the cob and freeze in freezer bags. Instead of throwing celery leaves away I chop them up and freeze them until I want to make a soup. I slice bell peppers to have ready for fajitas. In the fall I roast pumpkins, puree them, and freeze the puree in 2 cup batches (the same size as a can of pumpkin).

Freezing will alter the texture of your veggies, making them a little softer. It is better to use the vegetables that you freeze in a cooked dish so that the texture difference is not noticeable.

Using the above techniques I hardly ever throw away a vegetable because I let it spoil. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Freeze a vegetable you wouldn’t normally think to freeze. Substitute a vegetable you have on hand for one you don’t in a recipe. Reach for a vegetable to munch on instead of a granola bar when those hunger pangs hit in the afternoon.

What are your favorite vegetables and your favorite way to use them?

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