Prep Your Way to Better Food

Getting fresh, whole foods into your diet doesn’t have to be burdensome. It requires a little planning and some wrist action. The long-term benefits are tastier and better-quality food.

Here’s how to make it happen:

Fresh peas from Woodside Greenhouse are a huge draw at the Jones Falls Expressway Sunday market in Baltimore.

Fresh peas from Woodside Greenhouse are a huge draw at the Jones Falls Expressway Sunday market in Baltimore.

Shop at local farmers markets for the freshest food.
Unless nearby grocers have a specific program to buy from local farms, then much of what ends up in the produce section has traveled, on average, anywhere from 800 to 1,400 miles. Imagine how much health-giving “oomph” those greens and fruits lose every mile they are trucked! Also, when plants are bred for long-distance and storage, other qualities, including taste, are often sacrificed.

Prep fresh food right away, or as soon as you can.
Direct-to-eater foods tend to spoil quickly, and even if you compost what spoils, your wallet and your health still take a hit. You can increase the number of greens in your diet by prepping everything at once. Rinse, de-stem and chop Swiss chard, cut up kale or collards. Slice crookneck squash or zucchini. Rinse and spin-out lettuce. Large storage containers that fit in the fridge hold the greens and whatever else. That way they are ready when you want them. Doing food prep separately from cooking and cleaning makes a huge difference in the amount of time and labor spent at one setting. It makes it a little easier if your spouse or partner likes to help out in the kitchen, and it’s a great way to teach children the value of fresh food and how to take care of themselves.

Prepping two bunches of chard takes 15 to 20 minutes, once you establish a routine and rhythm.

Prepping two bunches of chard takes 15 to 20 minutes, once you establish a routine and rhythm.

Stock up on fresh fruits for winter eating.
Canning, freezing and drying are the main ways to save what’s in season for the seasons ahead. If you have space, freezing tends to be easiest and may help preserve nutrients and taste. For fruits, such as berries and figs, wash them, cut off stems, if applicable, and place on a sheet of wax paper or parchment on a cookie sheet. Place in freezer. Check a half-hour or more later, depending on the fruit, to ensure that the fruit is solid. Then remove from the tray and place in a bag and date the bag.

Make and freeze seasonal soups, such as asparagus or tomato, to eat during the winter months.
Quart-sized yogurt containers work well for this. I chill the soups down first in glass Mason jars in the fridge before transferring them to the containers, which are labeled and dated.

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