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Posts Tagged ‘produce’

So I’m in the kitchen section of the MoMA Store in SoHo when I see flip & tumble’s 24-7 reusable shopping bags on display. I turn to my husband and tell him that I really wish I could find reusable produce bags without having to order them online. I turn to another display, and what do I see but a set of five reusable produce bags for $11. Shopping magic.

I’ve learned that when I spot something awesome and affordable while out of town, I should go ahead and buy it so I don’t have to order it later. These were a little more expensive than similar bags that I had seen online, but there was no shipping fee for me to pop them into my carry-on and tote them back to Alabama.

So far, I’ve taken them to Publix twice and Earth Fare once. The only problem I’ve found is that if the produce is extremely wet, the mesh allows the moisture to escape onto surrounding items on the way home. Not a huge tradeoff, overall, for leaving the grocery store with no flimsy plastic bags in tow.

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In the end, it was nobody’s fault but my own that I brought home a monstrously large plastic box filled with salad greens. I already had my requisite $5 worth of Earth Fare hipster food (quinoa and steel-cut oats) in the cart, and the free salad coupon was burning a hole in my pocket. I sighed when I saw the packaging, but I put it in the cart anyway.

I didn’t truly realize how large the box was until I got it home and had to rearrange my entire refrigerator to make it fit.

I try not to buy produce in big plastic boxes like this, but other people obviously do. On the New York Times Freakonomics blog, James McWilliams maintains that this kind of packaging extends the life of produce, meaning that people are more likely to get a chance to eat it before it goes bad. Granted, this box of lettuce stayed reasonably fresh for the better part of two weeks. Had I been able to choose the amount of salad greens I was going to purchase, however, I never would have bought that much at one time. (And note that Earth Fare does offer a fresh mix of greens that you can purchase by the pound. Or ounce, in my case.)

Clamshell packaging just seems like so much overkill.

McWilliams points out that consumers could alleviate the need for food-extending packaging by learning how to shop strategically (don’t buy too much food at once), a skill that, admittedly, may be easier for a two-person household with a reasonably predictable routine.

Luckily, the box was No. 1 plastic, meaning I could put it in my recycling bin. I note, however, that a lot of houses in my neighborhood don’t put out a big blue recycling bin every week, so I fear that a lot of this packaging is not being recycled. Even if it is recycled — and even if the company uses 100 percent recycled plastic in the packaging — more plastic clamshells must be manufactured.

I guess what I’m saying is no more huge clamshell produce containers in the Haggerty household, free coupon or not. And I’m thinking that some sort of washable produce bags, like these, are in my future.

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I finally made it to Huntsville’s new Earth Fare location last weekend, although I failed to spend the requisite $100-plus some customers have brag-complained about.

Earth Fare is like any other grocery store in its basic layout: If you stick to the perimeter, where the produce, dairy products, meats, cheeses and breads are located, you’ll spend less money and get healthier food for your family. Head to the interior aisles, however, and you may spend more than you should on things you don’t need, like frozen waffles,  cereals, prepackaged mixes and fancy juices.

Yes, eventually you’ll have to venture to a middle aisle, if nothing else than to find Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew, seriously the only soda I waste calories on anymore. But consider another pass through the produce area instead of grabbing a couple of boxes of all natural fruit chews off the shelf, especially if you intend to grouse about prices later.

Earth Fare’s biggest draws for me, in order: the bulk bins (grains, not candy), the produce selection, the fresh peanut butter grinders (husband thing) and the olive bar. The olive bar is a tad pricey at almost $10 a pound, but it’s great when you just need a few olives of a certain type for a recipe, or you get a craving flung on you for a few spoonfuls of marinated mushrooms.

Some folks want to criticize the store for carrying non-local produce, and I admit I was momentarily disappointed to find watermelons from Honduras on display. What I forgot for a second, and what a lot of people forget when they rant about produce being shipped into their regions, is that we don’t HAVE watermelons locally in May. Local tomatoes don’t exist in March. Local citrus … uh, no.

If we want all fruits and vegetables the whole year round, we have to accept the fact that they will not come from any place close by. I do hope to see local produce in Earth Fare as the summer progresses, however, and the natural crop cycles play out.

In the meantime, my supply of steel-cut oats has taken a beating this weekend (they take a ridiculously long time to cook, but emerge from the pot chewy and creamy, subtly sweet after I add just a hint of brown sugar and a scattering of raisins), and the freshly ground peanut/dark chocolate mixture my husband requested seems to be dwindling as well. A return trip to the outer edges of Earth Fare may be in order.

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