Alternatives to Fresh
As the weather turns colder for much of the United States fresh produce becomes less available. In the NorthEast many CSAs (community supported agriculture) stop delivering shares soon and farmer’s markets will soon pack up until next year. Although the grocery store always imports produce year round much of it doesn’t taste or look the same off season. Strawberries, blackberries, zucchini etc just aren’t quite the same, at least around these parts and the prices can make them less appealing knowing they aren’t as good.
Also as the weather turns colder there is a shift in the types of food you crave. Many people move towards those richer comfort foods that “stick to your ribs” on the cold days. Let’s face it, crockpots and ovens are being turned on everywhere even as you read this post (unless your reading this next summer ha)! I mention this because often fresh produce is a huge staple for a lunch packer.
I am a big proponent that half of each meal should consist of a variety of fruits and vegetables. I miss the mark sometimes but it is something that I at least try to consider for my family’s health when preparing food. If fresh produce is less available you may have less in your refrigerator and therefore question what do I pack? So let’s consider some options that are easy to have on hand when fresh produce is less available:
Frozen fruits added to the lunchbox in the morning will be defrosted to eat by lunch or bake them into some of your favorite muffins. Choose from mango, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, cherries etc. all available year round in your grocer’s freezer section! Frozen veggies can easily be tossed into egg omelets or baked egg muffins, chilis, soups, stir fries and of course be served as is. Try carrots, peas, broccoli and corn in your lunch boxes! Bonus if you go for organic selections! You may want to remember to pack a fork for easy lunch time eating!
Easy to have on hand and has a long shelf life, canned items are a great year round option. Consider mandarin oranges, olives, applesauces, corn, pumpkin to bake into items, tomato soup for your thermos and so on. Most of these are available in organic options. Canned veggies are just as easy to toss into meals as their frozen counterparts!
I LOVE dehydrated fruits and veggies! Whether a softer version like the pineapple featured in today’s lunch or something crunchier like carrot, green bean or banana chips dehydrated produce is a great cold weather alternative. The shelf life is long and the drying process generally leaves a concentrated and sometimes sweet flavor. Look for pineapple, apricots, mango, prunes, raisins, carrot or green bean chips and more. Great on its own as a snack or mixed in trail mixes. These are super easy to have on hand. Consider a monthly delivery service like Naturebox which often includes a nice selection of dried fruits and veggies.
Admittedly pickled veggies is not one of my favorites but I do just love seeing those beautiful and bright summer colors perfectly preserved in mason jars. What a great way to save summer’s bounty. Pickled veggies are great right out of the jar or served on sandwiches and salads. Extra extra bonus points if you pickled them yourself!
Cold Weather Selection
Finally consider that there are actually great fruits and veggies that are in season or continue to be easily imported in the colder weather from more moderate climates. Beets, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, kiwi, celery, clementines, grapefruits, kale, winter squashes and more all continue to be readily available through out fall and winter.
I hope one of the alternates above will inspire you to keep your lunch packing up year round!
Packed in a Laptop Lunches Bento Box this lunch (pictured at top) contains:
- Peanut butter & cherry berry preserve waffle sandwich
- Cucumbers & black olives
- Carrot & sweet potato chips
- Dried Pineapple from Naturebox