It might be an important tool in the attempt to eat healthy. It might be a good way to save money within a family where the kids eat more and more every day. It might be a positive step toward supporting local farmers and decreasing my so-called carbon footprint. It just might one of those things, or some combination of all of them . . . but it’s probably simple, good old-fashioned laziness.
I haven’t been to the grocery store in almost two weeks.
Oh okay, yes, I did go to Target for a pair of shorts a few days ago and came out with a gallon of milk and a couple boxes of cereal, but it is true that I haven’t officially been for groceries in 12 days and counting. I haven’t used a cart, walked down each aisle, thrown in supplies from every category and walked out with six bags full of food that had to be stacked in the trunk and brought into the house in three separate trips.
What’s allowing me to accomplish this amazing feat? A plant-based diet and a produce stand off the side of the main road. While my car is full of dust from pulling off the road and driving through a field, our house has been full of in-season produce that has given me one of summer’s great challenges: how many different meals can be produced from 5-6 basic seasonal fruits and vegetables?
Tomatoes are the cornerstone of the all-produce meal. They feel substantive, and when in season, they are filled with so much flavor, they nicely cover up for a lack of meat or bread. I’ve been getting two or three different kinds and colors, slicing them, adding snipped basil from the backyard, and pouring some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sea salt on top. At the beginning of the week, we had fresh slices of mozzarella on top as well. When that ran out, I found some crumbled blue cheese, which was a hit with two out of three kids (a percentage I’m willing to accept). Now, I am pouring a few extra drops of balsamic on the tomatoes in lieu of cheese.
When watermelon is sweet and juicy (and despite all the best inspection methods, I find that it’s still a crap shot to get the best ones), it compensates for the lack of almost everything else. If anyone is still hungry—have more watermelon, I reply.
Variety (or at least the perception of variety) is the key to taking advantage of using the produce stand as a replacement for trips to the store. If I have a tomato dish and sliced melon, I like to throw a green salad in the mix. I tear up lettuce, shave some carrot on top with a potato peeler and throw in some canned beans for protein. Dried cranberries are great for adding sweetness. Last week, I had a beautiful, but stray, peach that I sliced up on top for sweetness. Olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper are all that’s needed for dressing.
How long can I drag this out? By replacing watermelon with Tuscan melon, cutting up vegetables into a macaroni salad, and making a big pot of soup, I just bought myself two more days. Eventually, we’ll feel the need to cut through the healthy eating and we’ll find ourselves at the grocery store buying potato chips and string cheese, but I’m pretty sure the produce stand is good for a couple more meals before farmer’s market mutiny breaks out at the dinner table.