June is here, which means that farmers’ markets will soon be opening.  There are more farmers’ markets in Boston than you probably think.   Here is a link to all TWENTY farmers’ markets that will be operating in Boston this summer, including locations, days, times, and what forms of payment they take.  Scroll down to find the Suffolk County (Boston) listing.      

 Due to some great work by various partners in the past two years, ALL Boston farmers markets now take WIC and Senior Coupons.  Additionally, about half also now have electronic bank transfer (EBT) machines to accept food stamps. 

Farmers markets’ provide fresh local produce to neighborhoods that have limited access to this healthy option.  Everyone should have the opportunity to affordable food, and Farmers’ markets help make local organic produce available.  

 Here are a few reasons for selecting locally grown produce and for patronizing farmers’ markets. 

  • The soil and production methods used on smaller farms tend to increase the nutritional quality of the crops

Small farmers are more likely to use organic and sustainable methods of growing.  Studies have shown that roots in organic soil grow deeper than in soil fertilized conventionally.  Deeper roots mean the crops take up and incorporate nutrients more efficiently, which increases their nutritional content.  These methods are also better for the environment because famers use fewer chemicals and practice crop rotation.

  • The produce is allowed to ripen before being picked, which increases its vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content 

Produce allowed to ripen before harvesting has higher amounts of nutrients than the same kind of produce ripened in storage.  The longer a plant is attached to the soil, the more nutrients it can absorb.  The soil and sun also help the plant create more antioxidants.  Local produce is picked when it’s ripe because it doesn’t have to endure long transportation and storage time.

  • The produce  is usually sold with in 24 hours of being picked, which means that it hasn’t had time to lose a lot of those nutrients

Produce starts losing nutrients the moment it is picked.  Did you know that conventional produce travels an average of 1,500 miles to its retail destination?  The journey usually takes between 2-7 days, and then the time spent on the shelf at the store begins.  Local produce at farmers’ markets travels an average of only 50 miles.  The food sold there goes directly from soil to consumers’ hands within a day or two.   So you’ll be able to buy corn on the cob picked that very morning in many Boston neighborhoods later this summer! 

  • Farmers’ markets usually offer more uncommon and interesting selections than conventional markets, so you’re more likely to try a variety of fruits and vegetables. 

More variety means a greater spectrum of new produce for you to try, but also increases your intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.   Produce sold at supermarkets has been chosen for endurance of long transportation and storage.  Local farmers can grow more of a variety thanks to handpicking and the limited shipment involved.  Farmers’ markets in different areas may also exhibit various products appealing to ethnic groups that live in each neighborhood.  This gives an exciting opportunity to discover plants used in other cuisines.  Ask how the farmer how to prepare the new produce if you’re not sure!                                                                       

So as we approach the season, mark your calendar so you can experience the joy of attending a farmer’s market.  Being at the market is also a fun social interaction time with neighbors, friends, family, and the farmers.  All of these factors work together to increase of appreciation and enjoyment of healthy, nutritious, locally grown food!

Special thanks to Rebecca Brotzman for her contribution to this blog!

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After two months of clipping coupons, lessons learned.

Two months ago I wrote about the advantages of planning meals, clipping coupons and other tips for saving on groceries.

Today, I ‘m sharing my story of how’s it been going and lessons learned.

 First:  I still strongly believe in investing the time to organize, plan a menu and clip the coupons from multiple sources. 

ü  Menu   planning has been invaluable.   I can come home and know what I am going to have for dinner!  On days that I know I will be late, I can start the meal in the slower cooker and then whoever is home first can complete the meal with the vegetable or salad.  There have been a couple of times that I have drifted from the menu and I felt the pinch because we would order take -out, costing me more in the end.

ü  Planning out the menu does not have to mean I’m stuck in bind and have to have exactly what‘s planned.  We all have days that we change our minds and feel like something different.  However, the menu does give the basics, with flexibility to change up and do something a little different.  Check out. http://www.recipezaar.com/     This web site lets you type in the ingredients you have and then gives you a variety of recipes, so you can be creative with your meals.

ü  Finally, menu planning reduces waste.  I can have lunches from previous meals or use extra (leftovers sounds so old) in other meals to create a whole new taste.

Clipping coupons – We could talk for days on the pros and cons, but here are a few tips I have found.

ü  One clever strategy for grocery-store coupons from The Simple Dollar: Sit on your coupons for a month, and then spend them. Coupons are often the leading edge of product promotion, which features some savings. By waiting a month, you can apply your coupons to the same product which has now been discounted for even more savings. 

ü  Manufacturers’ coupons, which come in Sunday newspapers, are usually good for a month or two.  Coupons from specific grocery stores are usually weekly specials.  The two types of coupons are compatible. If you match up a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon, you can get some great deals.

ü  Check out other resources in addition to the weekend papers.  Go on line and sign up for coupon discounts.  I did open a whole new email account just for the coupons: this way you don’t flood your regular email account with all the advertizing.  Here are a few good websites for coupons that other bloggers have sent in:

http://www.mygrocerydeal.com

www.smartsource.com

ü  Don’t forget to check your receipts for savings.  Often the backs of grocery store and drug store receipts have discounts for savings on your next purchase.

As much as people go back and forth on the value of saving coupons, I found that if you stick with it, they do save you money. 

Here’s my greatest tip I’ve learned.   On the times that it all works well and you see the numbers on the bill drop at the grocery or drug store, BANK the savings.   There have been times I was so excited about the savings that I treated myself  to something ‘special’, such as flowers.  I would usually spend more than I saved from the coupons!  The new strategy I am trying is to go back to keeping a log of my savings, trying to contain my excitement, and looking at the total saved at the end of the month.  That way I can make a better decision about what I want to spend my savings on.

Let me know how you have done with strategies for saving at the grocery store.

 

 

 A blogger asked the question,

How can you shop and cook for one on a budget? 

Here are some cost effective tips for the single person:

Avoid recipes that have rare ingredients you won’t use often. It is, of course, easy to cut a recipe in half or in quarters to serve just yourself. But if the recipe calls for a bunch of an expensive ingredient that you can’t buy less of, you may waste it. If, for example, a recipe calls for several different fresh herbs, just buy one that you love and use more of it.  Here are some healthy recipes for one or two http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/collections/healthy_cooking_two_recipes.html

 

Shop in bulk bins section. This allows you to buy a tiny scoop of nuts or a little bit of a few different grains. You get fresher ingredients that you can use up on a single meal, and you save money.

 

Consider the egg. Eggs are a good protein source for a single meal. A fried/scrambled egg over some sautéed vegetables such as spinach   on top of whole grain noodles or toast makes a quick dinner.  Boil one or two eggs ahead of time and they make great sandwiches or quick grab and go breakfast item.

Purchase some fresh vegetables or whole fruits but frozen can be cheaper. Purchase them in the bag, rather than the single box.  This way you can take out what you need, retie, put back in the freezer and have no waste.

Buy a little bird such as Cornish hen or a chicken breast.  Try roasting in a pie plate or a small pan with a potato, carrot, turnip, or other vegetable cut up underneath. It’s like a downsized roasted chicken.

Use greens in more than one way. Greens are the first thing to go in the refrigerator, and yet you can’t really buy half a bunch. So if you have a bag of spinach makes a salad and also you can add it to your main dish.  Try laying some in a foil packet add one piece of fish and bake or stir it into soup.

Make soup or pasta. Not a groundbreaking idea. But both are great warmed up (or even cold, in the case of pasta), so no harm in having extra that can be frozen in small portions.   On a day you’re not up for cooking, just defrost and you have quick meal.

For pasta, try to buy the whole grain type –  that way you are getting fiber and more nutrients for your buck.  If adding sauce, purchase the small 4 oz tomato sauce cans so you will have less waste.

If you purchase canned soup, try the low-sodium varieties to keep salt consumption in control.  Soups can be a good base for a  hardy meal.  Add more frozen vegetables, or cut up leftover meat or cooked pasta to the soup. 

Check for the individually frozen fish or meats, which allow you to one and put the others, back in the freezer.  Pair with frozen vegetable and sweet potato and you have a meal that could all be cook in the microwave.

Don’t forget beans, they are a quick no –meat meal packed with protein and fiber.  You can use kidney beans with chili powder and tomato sauce for easy chili to warm you up on cold evenings. Or look for vegetarian chili already in the can. Try lentil soups and rice and bean combination found in the in the instant rice section.

If you open a can of beans and don’t not use them all, try adding the beans to a wrap sandwich.  For example, black beans make a great addition to a grilled chicken wrap.  

Try the whole grain instant rice packets these often come in individual sizes that microwave in a short time, some as quick as 90 seconds.   If you do prepare rice, use the extras in soups, or even make a great dessert, rice pudding. http://www.recipezaar.com/Rice-Pudding-For-One-12687

Plan your menus. Just because you’re eating for one or two, don’t think you shouldn’t plan ahead.   Planning what you will have for meals every three days or weekly (depending on your storage capacity) will save you time and money.  Think of meal combination in which you “cook once and serve twice.”  

 

Sample menu options:  

Monday – Prepare Cornish hen for dinner.  

Tuesday use some leftovers for sandwich for lunch

Wednesday have something different such as vegetarian chili…

…and on Thursday add the remaining chicken to pasta with vegetables or to a can of vegetable soup.  

Friday, try individual homemade pizza (see comment from Gabby)

 

 

I used to save coupons when the kids were small and my budget was really tight. I did pretty well then and somehow over the years I had gotten out the practice.  Now I’m back to using coupons again and I have to admit that some things have changed but the basics for clipping and saving with coupons have not.

I first like to think of coupons as money to keep myself motivated to bring them to the store!   If I am going to purchase a product and there is a coupon for a small amount off, then that‘s money saved.  It may seem like too much work for small savings but if you maximize your coupon use over time, the savings do add up. Here are some strategies to get you organized and on your way to saving and achieving that great thrill when you see you grocery bill get reduced by using coupons.

Clipping coupons:

Timing Try to choose the same day and time to clip your grocery or store coupons each week.  This will help you establish a routine.  I like to do mine at the beginning of the week, either on Sundays or Mondays.

Method when it comes to clipping your free grocery coupons, here are several methods to choose from…

* Clip them all out.  This is a quick way to clip the grocery coupons and is also an easy job you can assign to an older child.  Later, you can sort out which coupons you need to keep and which coupons you can share with a friend.

* Clip out only the coupons you know you will use.  This might take a little more time as you will need to look at (and think about) each individual coupon as you cut them out, but will save time later when filing them away and when going through them for use each week.

* Don’t clip out any of the coupons, but save them in their whole page form. This method takes longer in the end, but it will do when you’re really pressed for time.  I once had a month’s worth of coupon flyers to go through before leaving for the grocery store, not very fun!

* Find savings on the internet. The Sunday flyers are always a good place to start for clipping, but you can also look to the internet.  For online coupons, sign up using an email address and there may be small surveys on products to complete. Once that’s set, you will receive great coupons for products that are specific to what you selected. Here is the link: Print Coupons. 

Storing Coupons: This where the organization really comes in handy. Decide how you want to organize your coupons so that you can see what you have on a regular basis. Here are some ideas:

* Small index boxes or shoe boxes. You can usually find these at discount stores.
* A binder with clear plastic inserts is a great way to see your coupons. Add dividers either to sort by different products or by expiration date.
* I like to use a photo album. It’s smaller than a standard binder and I can carry it more easily in my bag,

Saving with coupons:  Maximize your coupon potential.

* Scan store sale flyers to find matching items. One of the best ways to save money with coupons is to match them with items that are already on sale. The key is use coupons on products that you typically purchase.
* Only purchase new products with the coupon when it is lower priced than comparable store brand.  
* Check with the store for their coupons. Grocery stores generally do not list everything they have on sale in their weekly sale flyers, so while matching your grocery coupons to the store flyers is a huge help, there will also be some additional sales you may have coupons for. Simply bring your coupon organizer with you to the store each week, and this way you can take advantage of the specials without forgetting to bring your coupons. If you can match it with a manufacturer’s coupon, then the savings really feel good.

Last tip:  When the end of the month is drawing near, I like to take a quick look through my coupons for any that might be expiring soon. Manufacturers set many of their coupons to expire on either the first or last day of the month, so keep an eye out for both dates and take any that you need to the store that week before they expire!

Share your coupon tips with us!

 Weekly Food Forecast –

This week, stores are running specials on canned soups.  This is an opportunity to save by using coupons offered in this week’s Sunday flyers with the matched sale.  Stock up for quick, easy meals, pairing the soup with whole grain bread and a salad.  Try and select the low-sodium varieties whenever possible or increase the water and add vegetables to regular soups to help keep the sodium (salt) level down.

I saved on soups when I purchased four on sale and used a $2.00 off coupon, so I actually only paid for two.  Now I have a quick lunch to bring to work that only cost me about 3.00 (that’s adding in crackers and a piece of fruit for dessert).