Why are blueberries so expensive?

why are blueberries so expensiveI absolutely love blueberries, don’t you? But I rarely buy them in stores because they are so pricey. And indeed, why are blueberries so expensive?

My mother-in-law owns a small ranch. She keeps chickens, geese, horse, and sheep. She also grows vegetables and some berries, including blueberries. A couple weeks ago, I got the phone call we have been waiting for – blueberries are in, come pick your own. My mother-in-law doesn’t exactly live around the corner, it’s more like a 2 hour trip one way, but it is so worth it! Not only do we visit with family, but we also get to feed and interact with farm animals, including lambs and horses.  And we usually leave with a big bag full of fresh farm eggs, vegetables, and berries – all organic!

When we got to the farm last Sunday, we went straight to the blueberry bushes. The three bushes are about 5 years old, but they have grown huge and have been producing large harvests of berries for a couple years. This year we have had a lot of rain, and, even though it’s only the beginning of the blueberry season, the berries are already large, sweet, and very juicy.

organic blueberries

Now let me share my theory behind why blueberries are so expensive. My mother-in-law says that growing blueberries does not require much effort on her part. She lets the rain water the bushes, she doesn’t use pesticides, and the only fertilizer she applies is hardwood ashes – she spreads a small amount of ashes around the bushes in the fall. However, it does take a lot of time to pick the blueberries. It took me over an hour to pick a gallon bucket full of berries in 100 degree heat. I pick blueberries a few times a year, so I am not very skilled at blueberry-picking. I am sure there are ways to increase your blueberry picking speed, but from what I am getting out of the video below, some of the commercially grown blueberries are also picked by hand, not machines.

Since blueberries have a very short shelf life (about two weeks), there are probably some additional costs associated with quick delivery system from farms to stores and a certain percentage of waste that has to be configured into the price. If you consider the cost of growing, picking and packaging blueberries, then add in the transportation costs, and the store mark-up (often 100% of the cost), $4-$5 a pint blueberries may sound like a bargain. In order to bypass all the additional costs, find a Pick Your Own blueberry farm near you and pick your own berries for as low as $1.50 a pint (be sure to check out the Pick Your Own website – it has a very extensive list of farms by State and County).

In the past, blueberries were on the dirty dozen list (produce with highest pesticide residue). This year, they are no longer on the list, but it still may be a good idea to buy blueberries organic, if you can afford it. If you see DiMeo name on the blueberry packages, buy with confidence – they don’t use pesticides or chemicals on their berries. To keep their production costs down, DiMeo uses blueberry picking machines towards the end of the season, when only few new berries are coming in. That way the cost of picking 12 pints of blueberries goes down to $0.26 vs $4 for hand-picked blueberries. Here’s the picking machine in action.

I think growing your own blueberries would be a fun project to get your kiddos involved in. They can help you with research and planting, and then, of course, with blueberry picking, once the bushes start producing. Even the pickiest eaters are likely to try garden produce if you involve them in gardening.

As for me, I am very inspired to start growing blueberry bushes. It seems to be so worth it!  I found some good tips on growing great blueberries. Since soil PH levels are so important, I will start preparing the soil in the near future and will then test it for PH levels ( I found a soil tester on Amazon for around $6). I would like to get two-three heirloom bushes in the fall. Let me know if you have any suggestions on where I can get them.

 

Easy breakfast recipe for kids

Easy breakfast recipe for kids

Today, I am sharing an easy breakfast recipe for kids. This breakfast sandwich will take only a few minutes to make and will provide plenty of protein for kids growing bodies and tons of energy to take on the day.

All of the ingredients I used for the easy breakfast recipe for kids come from “Trader Joe’s.”  I am probably one of the most loyal customers of  the grocery chain as I drive 2+ hours to stock up on food for 2-3 weeks. In our area, we have a very limited selection of organics, and grocery prices are through the roof  (our grocery store prices are at least double of what “Trader Joe’s” charges for comparable items), so the drive is really worth it, especially if you are trying to go organic on a budget.

Ingredients list: cooking spray, sourdough bread (or whole grain bread, English muffin, bagel, or croissant), Canadian bacon, organic eggs or healthy eggs from farms that follow responsible farming methods, organic cheese or cheese made from milk from cows not treated with artificial hormones.

 Instructions: Ask kids to get all the ingredients ready for you. Even the simple steps make them feel important and involved in meal preparation. Turn stove burner to medium heat (I start with setting 5, and then turn it down to 4). Crack an egg in a bowl, beat the egg,  and add salt and pepper to taste (kids can help with beating the egg or adding spices). Fry the egg on both sides, then add a slice of cheese on top of the egg and let it cook for a minute or so. Then add 2-3 slices of Canadian bacon and turn the egg+cheese+Canadian bacon over and let it fry for another minute, then remove it from the pan. Now fry bread for 30-45 seconds on each side. Make a sandwich and serve warm.

easy breakfast recipe for kids

According to the labels of ingredients I used to make the sandwich, an egg contains 7 grams of protein, a slice of cheese – another 7 grams of protein, and a slice of Canadian bacon – around 3.33 grams of protein. That’s at least 20 grams of protein per sandwich!

And, just in case you are looking for breakfast ideas for Father’s Day, this is the perfect easy breakfast recipe for kids to help you make – Dad-tested and approved 🙂

You can also make this sandwich on a grill, check out this recipe: Camping Food Breakfast sandwich.

This guest post was written by Eva B, Mom of an 8 year old girl.

Organic chicken nuggets for kids

organic chicken nuggets for kidsA few days ago, I promised to share a quick and very easy recipe for organic chicken nuggets for kids. With few ingredients and simple step by step directions, you can make delicious chicken nuggets the whole family will enjoy. You can double the recipe to make plenty to enjoy for dinner and to freeze – for quick dinners or school lunches. If you are going 100% organic, you will need all organic ingredients. But if you are going organic on a budget, using organic chicken and organic free-range eggs  would be most important.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. organic skinless, boneless chicken breasts or chicken tenderloins
  • 1 organic egg
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (preferably, whole-wheat)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika (optional)
  • cooking spray or olive oil

 

Directions:

1) In a bowl, mix Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, salt, garlic powder, and paprika.

2) Preheat oven to 400 °F  (around 205 °C).

3) Cut chicken breasts (or tenderloins) into chicken nugget sized pieces (approx. 2 by 1.5 inches).

4) Crack an egg into a small shallow bowl and beat the egg with a fork until the yolk and white are combined.

5) Grease baking sheet with cooking spray or olive oil.

6) First, dip chicken pieces in egg, then coat them with the breadcrumb/Parmesan cheese mixture.

7) Place the chicken nuggets on greased baking sheet and bake them in preheated oven for 20-22 minutes.

8) Serve organic chicken nuggets for kids with homemade mac & cheese and watch your picky eaters enjoy their dinner!

TIP for parents of picky eaters: let your child help you with beating an egg, mixing breadcrumb mixture, and/ or dipping chicken pieces in egg and breadcrumb mixture. When kids are involved in cooking a meal, they are more likely to try or eat the food they help prepare.

This guest post was written by Eva B, Mom of an 8 year old girl.

Talking to your child about organics

Why organicThis morning my daughter and I had a conversation about cancer and Relay for Life. It started out with a question about what “Relay for Life” is all about and progressed to a Q&A session about organics. I am a firm believer that genetically modified products, chemicals and hormones in food and drinks, and non-organic farming are to blame for a huge percentage of cancer cases. So my naive child asked me why they can’t just stop making non-organic food. Indeed, that would be a very easy and simple solution. Unfortunately, our world is a lot more complicated. The simple answer is because there are too many companies that are making unreal money profiting from non-organic manufacturing practices. “But it’s not fair! What if they got cancer from the food they make?” They won’t, they don’t eat the food. They have more than enough money to afford organics. What they do is they make food cheap and affordable for others. And there are millions of people who are dependent on the food and are not ready to switch to healthier choices. Some people can’t afford it or don’t think they can afford it. Others believe that organics are overrated. If you are on a tight budget, it’s not easy to make a conscious decision to buy a $10-$15 chicken when a $3-$5 chicken is also for sale.

Just think about how much money it takes a farmer to raise a chicken. Big companies are only willing to pay, let’s say a $1 per chicken. So in order for the farmer to make any kind of profit on that chicken, a farmer has to figure out how to make the total cost of raising and feeding the chicken way under a $1. So the big companies come up with guidelines on how to use antibiotics, cheap genetically modified foods, and growth hormones in order to raise hundreds of big fat chickens in a “tiny” chicken coop in a short period of time.

It’s a lot of information for an elementary school aged child to take in. But I am glad she is asking these questions. I am glad she is OK with not going to McDonalds and Burger King and eating homemade food instead. The other day we made homemade chicken nuggets (I will make sure to share the recipe on this blog in a few days), and they were a hit – the best chicken nuggets my kids had ever tasted! It feels good to make healthy choices. And it is very doable, even if you are trying to go organic on a budget. At a fast food restaurant, we could have spent $6 on kids meals alone. Instead, we spent $8 on ingredients for organic chicken nuggets, carrots, and milk. Money well spent!

I think talking to your child about organics is a good idea. Kids may also want to hear the message from their peers. Here’s a great video you can watch together. Love what the kid has to say: is organic food really more expensive? “You can pay the farmer or the hospital…”

 

This guest post was written by Eva B, Mom of an 8 year old girl.

How to go organic on a budget

how to go organic on a budgetYou may have just watched “Food, Inc.” or one of the other “what’s really in our food” documentaries (available on Netflix or Amazon Instant Video, in case you haven’t seen them), or maybe it’s your friends and co-workers who convinced you that it’s time to join in on the healthy food trend. No matter what your motivation is, you are truly making the right decision by committing to eating healthy. Now the question is how to go organic on a budget. The hardest part is getting started. In the coming weeks, I am planning to share tips on how to save money on organic products and how to make an adjustment to your overall budget to free up money for healthy foods, so be sure to favorite this blog and come back soon. Here are a few tips on how to get started and make the transition to organics easier on you and your wallet. 

1) Make the transition gradual – don’t try to change your diet all at once.

2) Make a commitment to minimally processed foods. Start preparing meals from scratch with simple ingredients like meat, vegetables, fruit, and spices. Start collecting easy to make recipes for meals that your family likes.

3) Shop the perimeter of your grocery store. Fresh produce, meat, seafood, eggs, dairy, and bread are usually located around the perimeter of a grocery store, while ready-to-eat foods with longer shelf life can be found in the middle aisles. It’s OK to run into the middle aisles to pick up rice, pasta, cereal, flour, and a few other grocery list essentials, but a good rule of thumb is to stick to mostly perimeter shopping. Try to stay away from canned and microwaveable foods, chips, and processed foods with extensive lists of ingredients.

4) Consider switching to grocery stores like “Whole Foods” and “Trader Joe’s” – they have a great selection of whole/ organic foods at reasonable prices. If you don’t have a “Whole Foods” or a “Trader Joe’s” in your neighborhood, it may be worth driving to a grocery store in 60-80 mile radius once or twice a month and stocking up on foods. To save more at Whole foods, be sure to print out Whole Foods coupons.

5) Find local farmers through websites like Local Harvest and EatWild and Facebook groups and buy your meats, cheese, eggs, and produce in bulk.

6) Organic chicken and turkey is generally a lot cheaper than grass fed beef, so you may want to include more chicken and turkey in your diet. Also, if you are on a tight budget, switching to organic meat, organic eggs, and dairy is more important then changing any other part of your diet because of high concentration of pesticides and hormones in conventional meat, dairy, and eggs. If you have access to inexpensive seafood, like fish and shrimp, be sure to include more seafood in your diet. But try to stay away from farm raised fish. 

7) Pick and choose which produce to buy organic. If you haven’t heard about Dirty Dozen and Clean 15, be sure to check out this article Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide in Produce. If you are on a tight budget, it’s ok to buy some non-organic produce such as onions, pineapple, watermelon, and sweet potatoes. But steer clear of non-organic apples, peaches, strawberries, potatoes, and other fruit and vegetables on the Dirty Dozen+ list – they are high in Pesticide!

8) I am sure you have heard this one before – start your own garden. Start out small by growing your own herbs, peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes – the money you save on organic produce will really add up. If your city/ town ordinance allows backyard chickens, consider keeping chickens for eggs. Chickens are also great for organic pest control.

9) Shop for seasonal foods and adjust your meal plan accordingly.

10) Make your own preserves – jelly, jam, compotes, salsa, tomato sauce – with produce purchased in season and in bulk. Freezing or dehydrating can also be an option.

11) Save money on drinks by giving up soda and cutting down on sugary juices, consider switching to filtered water.

Finally, don’t stress about reading every label and going 100% organic. It’s the small steps that count!

 

 

The confused consumer – confusing food labels

Interpreting labels

Interpreting labels

Are you a confused consumer? Do you feel overwhelmed with food choices at grocery stores and often unsure as to whether you are making the right purchasing decisions? If you are trying to eat healthy, you are probably putting some effort into reading food labels. But, unfortunately, labels are often confusing and sometimes misleading. Even a line of products under the same brand you consider organic can include products with different certifications. Let’s take Born Free eggs, for example.

Born Free Family is a Radlo Foods brand. Radlo foods is committed to bringing foods from sustainable American family farms. On organic egg scoreboard by the Cornucopia Institute, Born Free eggs have a “3-egg” rating (1501-1800): “Very Good”—Organic, Complying with Minimum USDA Standards. Eggs from brands in “3-egg” rating category “either come from family-scale farms that provide outdoor runs for their chickens, or from larger-scale farms where meaningful outdoor space is either currently granted or under construction. All producers in this category appear committed to meeting organic standards for minimum outdoor space for laying hens.”

If you ever wondered why some of Born Free BF Family eggs are more expensive than others, the explanation can be found on BF family products page. Born Free Cage Free and Organic Free Roaming Eggs with Omega-3 brown eggs are certified by Humane Farm Animal CareAll Natural Omega-3 eggs and  All Natural Vegetarian Fed come from hens that are “cared for according to Animal Husbandry Guidelines developed by the United Egg Producers.” According to UEP Certified website, “UEP certified eggs originate from farms dedicated to following responsible, science-based farming methods designed to ensure optimal hen welfare.” Obviously, Radlo Foods is committed to providing healthy eggs at a reasonable cost. Some of their BF family products meet higher standards and, therefore, are more expensive.

“Natural” and “free-range” labels without any additional certifications often mean nothing and are just used to trick consumer into thinking that they are buying products that are good for them. Organicauthority.com has a great article about 5 Food labels that mean nothing. Here’s what they have to say about “free-range” label: “the law states that chickens must be “allowed access to the outside,” yet there are zero specifications as to how big this outdoor area must be. There might be one door that goes to a 4’x4’ yard for 100 chickens or more that are all eating hormone-fueled, pesticide-drenched food.” We strongly recommend that you check out the article – it’s a great read. The 5 labels that “mean nothing” are “natural”, “local”, “free-range”, “made with whole grains”, and “lightly sweetened.”

And speaking about “lightly sweetened” and confused consumer, there’s another great article that is a true eye-opener: 9 drinks worse than a candy bar. Sure, Mountain Dew soda is on the list, but so is the Vitamin Water…

 

Salads for toddlers

food for picky eaters

Salad for toddler

Toddlers are well-known for being the pickiest eaters.  Coming up with a healthy diet for your family is difficult enough, and cooking a separate meal for a kid after a long workday is not exactly something you may have time or desire for. If a salad is on your dinner or lunch menu, here’s a simple idea on how to make salads for toddlers without making a special meal just for him or her. If your child refuses to eat a mixed salad, try a different approach – cut salad ingredients and arrange them on a plate, without mixing them. Toddlers do like finger foods and may be more willing to try things if they are presented in a way that appeals to them. Although they may not eat everything on the plate, they are very likely to eat at least a portion of the serving.  If you are persistent and continue offering favorite foods along with new nutritious choices on a regular basis, without forcing your child to eat it, you will be able to avoid power struggles and encourage your child to try new  foods. It takes little kids time to accept new textures and new tastes, so allow them to make the decision on their own – they might surprise you. Does your child have a favorite dressing? Ranch, maybe? Serve the salad ingredients with ranch on the side and encourage your toddler to eat with fingers or a fork and dip veggies in dressing. Two, three, and four year olds like to feel at least a little in control,  they like choices. You may have to offer new foods at least ten times for your child to show any interest in eating them. But presenting your child with choices satisfies your child’s need for control over what they do.  And, since it’s up to you, as a parent, to decide what food options your child is presented with, you accomplish your goal of raising a healthy eater but avoid the power struggles.

 

salads for toddlers

Salads for toddlers

Be sure to check out this article 5 Kid Friendly Dinner Salads for more ideas for salads for toddlers. If your toddler goes to preschool, you may also like Organic snacks for kids lunches.