Think Outside the (Mail Order) Box

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Big Flavor Comes From Farmers Markets

By Mikael Blido | Photos by RJ Goodwin

You have probably seen the commercials: fresh-looking ingredients arriving at your doorstep in time for dinner, ready to be turned into an effortless, Instagram-worthy gourmet meal. Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Plated and almost 150 other meal kit businesses seem to be taking America by storm. But a 2017 study showed that the initial excitement may be wearing off pretty quickly.

The majority of customers, according to the study, order just one meal, and only 6 percent of subscribers continued to order after three months. Perhaps they realized that $8-12 per serving for a meal you have to cook yourself is pretty pricey. Or maybe they wanted more variety, less packaging, and more control over where their food comes from.

The “Click-List” Option

One option for the time-strapped home cook who wants to move away from the box could be to use the grocery store click list services that more and more stores are offering. It is convenient, but you still get produce that may have traveled farther in its life than you have. At least you’re supporting a business in your community and keeping some tax dollars local.

The Flavorful Option

The healthiest and tastiest option is a quick trip to one of the many farmers markets we are lucky enough to have in our region. You can be in and out in five to 10 minutes, but a longer stroll is recommended, and you go home with fresh, locally grown affordable ingredients packed with great flavor and seasonal variety, without all of that packaging and waste.

The closest local market to me is the Forest Farmer’s Market, which is open on Saturday mornings from 8 to noon and is a “producer only” market, meaning that vendors are only allowed to sell what they grow or make themselves. Some vendors even offer online ordering, and customers can pick up their order at the market.

Lynchburg’s Community Market offers huge variety, and the market in the town of Bedford also offers a wonderful selection. For other markets, contact your local government or check online.

The Homegrown Option

Another great option is to grow your own food. If you never had a garden, you can get your feet wet next spring by planting a couple of tomato plants in a large flower pot. Home improvement stores often sell dwarf varieties that tend to do well when grown in a pot.

Recipes

On the following pages are two of my favorite salads that take advantage of the fresh, healthy produce you can find at most farmers markets. They are packed with wonderful flavors–and nutrition–that a subscription box can never deliver!

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