The Daily Beet

23 Jan Getting Fired Up! Your Challenge Questions, Answered: Small Town Living.

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We are getting fired up for the National Engine 2 Challenge which will start on February 3rd! Stay tuned for updates, new meal plans, shopping lists and more! You can also check with your local Whole Foods Market to see if they are hosting the challenge!

We are answering some of your questions and concerns about the challenge. Todays question comes from E2-er, Carol, her concern is:

Living 2 hours away from the nearest Whole Foods!

For a few years I traveled full time around the country. I lived in large cities and very small cities. I mean, VERY small. I once lived in a very small Arizona mountain town of 400 people and once lived in a small coastal town, where the number of employees in the grocery store always outnumbered the shoppers.

I have yet to find a city that I could not be plant-strong. Every single store has a plant-strong section! Go in, turn right (generally) and there you will find a plethora of plant-strong goodness in the produce section! My biggest advice? Keep things simple. You don’t really need speciality products to be plant-strong. Being plant-strong is based on whole foods, not packaged foods.

Here are some tips on small town living:

1. Make a list of the things your local store does well.

For instance, most stores have a pretty good frozen vegetable section and frozen fruit. Believe it or not frozen can be even fresher than ‘fresh produce’! It is flash frozen in the field and so a lot more is perserved. So if there is a frozen vegetable/fruit section you are in luck! Even if you can’t get fresh produce, more than likely you are better off with the frozen for most of the year anyway.

*On that note- look around for some CSA’s, many small towns have a local CSA in which you can get a big box of produce, generally for a great price.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes are also found in most stores. Potatoes are GREAT and an inexpensive base to any meal.

Brown rice – whole grain brown rice is another great one – the Uncle Ben’s quick boil or success rice are whole grain rices that are pretty inexpensive and found almost anywhere.

Beans – most stores stock low sodium canned beans. However you can also buy them dry and cook them in a slow cooker or pressure cooker. Beans are a great thing to have on hand. You can even freeze them and use them later!

Corn tortillas – these are a great inexpensive thing to have on hand. You can make lots of things with them – from chips for nachos to wraps to tacos! I’ve even made “tortilla” pie – which is a lot of fun.

Whole grain pasta: Most stores have their own brand of whole grain pasta, generally another inexpensive thing.

Lentils – I love lentils, they are inexpensive, and SO versatile! And they take no time to cook.

Boxed tomatoes  such as Pomi  – another great thing to have on hand.

Oats! Oats are great – and you can make so much with them.

Salt free spices/herbs.

Parchment paper – so you don’t have to buy cooking spray!

*If there is something that they don’t carry – ASK! I  have done this in a few cities and have had a lot of luck. I was living in a very remote part of North Carolina and the local store did not carry quinoa, so I asked, and a week later they had quinoa. If they know there is someone who will buy it, they are more likely to stock it, especially in a small town.

2. Use online sources.

When I have been  in really remote places I use Amazon for a lot! I  have an Amazon prime membership which costs 79 dollars a year, and I  split that with 5 people because you can have 5 people on the account! This means I  get free 2 day shipping on groceries. I order things like dry beans, POMI tomatoeswhole grain cereal, non-dairy milk, flax seed, nuts, brown rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta. Pretty much anything dry you can think of can be found online. And it is usually a much better price than what you can find in the stores.

3. Check out Jeff Novick’s Fast Food DVD:

I love Jeff’s approach to healthy eating and cooking, and his DVD is perfect for anyone who wants to learn how to make simple meals with ingredients you can find anywhere for about 5 dollars a day. Jeff also has a fabulous collection of recipes online found here: http://t.co/wrryqMsb these are all made with ingredients found in any store – cost about 2-3 dollars per meal (makes A LOT) and only require a can opener,  scissors and a pot! Jeff is a great resource if you are online as well.

4. Keep things simple.

One of the best things you can do – is to simplify your food life a little. There are 100′s of fabulous taste combinations made with simple ingredients like:

▪ Sweet potato, kale, white beans, brown rice.
▪ White potato, black beans, tomatoes, corn, spinach.
▪ Quinoa, mixed greens, red beans, cauliflower
▪ Brown rice, chickpeas, peas, zucchini,  curry powder, turmeric
▪ White beans, fingerling potatoes, brussel sprouts, garlic, kale.
▪ Whole grain pasta, zucchini,  brocoli, peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes
▪ Lentils, collard greens, brown rice, artichoke
▪ Potatoes, portobello mushrooms, green beans,  spinach, black beans
▪ Whole grain  pasta, lentils, strained tomatoes (or tomato puree), garlic, brocoli
▪ Whole grain bread with portobello mushrooms, grilled zucchini and oil free hummus.
▪ Wild rice, onion, red lentils, greens
▪ Brown rice, salsa, frozen southwestern veggie mix, black beans
▪ Sweet potato, topped with black beans
▪ Brown rice, black pepper, asian style veggie mix.
▪ Cauliflower soup – cook cauliflower, blend add chickpeas.
▪ Whole grain pasta cooked and chilled, cucumber, tomato, beans, balsamic vinegar
▪ Mashed chickpeas, onion, garlic, chopped celery, cucumber served on whole grain bread ▪ Lentils, chopped tomato, lettuce, spinach, salsa, served on lettuce or served in corn tortillas
▪ Roasted vegetable mix & quinoa
▪ Beans & brown rice ▪ Spinach salad: strawberries, raisins, balsamic
▪ Chop salad: chopped cucumber, celery, carrots, zucchini, tossed with quinoa.
▪ Big salad: Whatever fresh vegetables you have on top of greens. (the whatever salad!)
▪ *Salad is always a good option if you have fresh vegetables/greens laying around. You can use balsamic vinegar for a dressing, salsa or even just lemon.
▪ Huge plate of steamed vegetables with spices.
▪ Breakfast: oatmeal or quinoa with fruit and ground flaxseed
▪ Breakfast: Rip’s big bowl (of course!)
▪ Looking for an easy dressing? I use low sodium salsa, oil free hummus or balsamic vinegar.

5. Make a list.

I have found that when I make a list I spend far less on groceries, than when I go into a store unprepared. When I go into a store unprepared it feels a little bit like going into battle, I start going up and down aisles and just throwing stuff in the cart because I just want to get out of the store. I  have become very systematic about my lists. I put things in categories so that I can only head to the aisles I absolutely need to go to. So my shopping list will start off with “Produce Section” and I  put every thing I need to get in the produce section, and then the “Beans/grains Section”.

Living in a small town can present a few challenges, but it definitely can be done! I hope that this helps you a little in your plant-strong journey. Even if you don’t live in a small town, the above tips will help you to save money on your next shopping trip.

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Natala Constantine
  • Milton

    Great blog Natala!! I live 25 miles from the closest grocery store and proper planning, including a list, is the key. In fact, your five points are great, no matter where you live.

  • C Lang

    What is the best things for comfort food when the stress comes on at work. We have an M&M dispenser in our work area, and Minature chocolates that are not far from me. Are raisens good option or maybe bring a few vegan oatmeal cookies. I always bring an apple and an orange, and some Low fat blue corn chips, but that just isnt enough most days and I go for the candy. Help, I lost 30 pounds on Engine 2 about 2 years ago. The problem is I never keep track of what I eat and I did so well. The past 6 months my husband and I did alot family functions and jersey shore, dining out alot. I need to start writing things down. So any suggestions for health snacks. 50 yr. and gaining.

    • Sunny

      If you like sweets, try natural peanut butter, melted in a pan with real maple syrup or a little mallasses, then add uncooked whole oats, all the seeds you like (sesame, flax, whatever) mix all together and press into a glass dish. Chill in the fridge for 40 minutes or so. Cut into small bars. These are higher in fat so you’ll want to take it easy but so yummy.
      Just think of all those chemicals in those candies you’ll be avoiding. Good luck!