How to Shop for Real Food at a Produce Stand

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How to shop for real food at a produce stand

Before real food came into our lives I was a one-stop-shopping kind of girl. Publix, my big name conventional grocery store, was my store.

Back in those days, I did not buy much produce. I bought the basics: lettuce, a tomato, baby carrots, some apples (pre-sliced, of course), a few berries, bananas, and broccoli (pre-cut in the microwave bags). I was not cooking from scratch so we did not have the need for lots of fresh produce nor did we snack on anything fresh.

Who has the time to cut veggies when you can open a bag of “veggie” sticks?

Our switch to real food brought the need to diversify my food shopping. One of these new sources was a local produce stand, just minutes from our house. A small little building I had passed by hundreds of times.

Homemade Caramel apples real food style

I don’t find a lot of organic produce at my produce stand.


Yes, you heard that right… it is not organic.

Okay, breathe and relax!  Before I loose a reader or two, let me share with you why I am not overly concerned about buying conventional (non-organic) produce at my local stand.

I prefer to buy as much of our produce as organic as possible.

You know, the stuff our grand grandparents called food.

We try to buy around 90% of our produce organically grown. My local co-op has been a huge blessing to our family as we are able to do this within our $600/month budget. I personally, like to support as many local organic farms as possible and our co-op allows me to do this. But sometimes the organic option just is not feasible financially, That is when I buy conventional produce at my local produce stand.

how to freeze peaches the easy way

Here what I think about when buying organic vs. conventional:

1. How much does my family eat? Our family consumes a lot of cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, celery, kale, grapes, and apples. These are veggies and fruits I know need to be a priority when buying organic since we are consuming large quantities. Particularly with small children in the house with bodies that can not handle large amounts of pesticides.

2. Do you eat the skin or is the skin thin? Fruits and veggies such as cantaloupe and watermelon have incredibly thick skins. I would much rather choose to buy these conventional than an apple, strawberries, grapes, or peaches which have thin skins or skins we will be eating and consuming pesticides with each juicy bite.

3. Genetically Modified? Right now there are just a few veggies which are most commonly sold as GMO.  I avoid buying these unless organic: soybeans (we avoid soy), corn, papaya, zucchini, and yellow squash. Tomatoes are also slowly being added to this list.

4. How does it rank on the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Clean and Dirty Lists? Each year the EWG comes out with an updated list of the “dirtiest” or most heavily sprayed crops. This list is a a wonderful resource for staying on budget and buying fresh produce. The produce on the “dirtiest” side tests high in pesticides. Some containing 40 or more different pesticides.  The “clean” side are veggies and fruits which are the least sprayed and can be purchased conventionally…hello produce stand!

What to buy organic produce

After buying organic fruits and veggies with these considerations I turn to my local produce stand where I buy conventional produce to fulfill the rest of our family food needs.

My stand carries a huge variety of produce that not only is fresh (much fresher than the grocery store), but lots of locally grown choices.  On a recent trip I was able to pick up: 2 pineapple, 1 cantaloupe, 4 plantains (I am a sucker for fried plantains in coconut oil), 1 lb. of asparagus, a few kiwis, and a huge bunch of parsley for $10!

I am regularly able to pick up inexpensive produce, some locally grown, while supporting this local family business. My produce stand saves our family money allowing me to spend more on “dirtier” fruits and veggies and most importantly pastured meat and dairy.

How to shop for real food at a produce stand

Do you shop at a produce stand? What do you buy?

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  1. says: Michele

    Generally if it’s not organic, we don’t buy it. The usual exception is if it’s local and the grower assures me that it’s no spray and GMO free. Today I picked up some bibb lettuce for 50c a head and radishes for 75c.

    One exception I sometimes make, because it’s particularly hard to find organic, are Brussels sprouts and artichokes. Every once in a while it’s hard to find organic onions so in that case I might pick up a few conventional to bridge the gap.

    1. says: Kristin

      Commercial organic is even sprayed just with “organic” pesticides. Always good to know where you buy your food, like you recommended, so you can know exactly what is on your food. Thank you for the comment. Good advice.

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