Fruit and Hoops

appleby Sara Mead

Yesterday I realized that it had been over a week since I last ate a piece of fruit. In fact, eating fruit has become such a rare event in my life that I could remember exactly when I’d last done so: The previous Saturday, when Matt and I bought some strawberries to go along with the steak we were eating for dinner. And the last time I’d eaten fruit before that? The previous Sunday, when I made strawberry shortcake. So basically, I’m on a once a week fruit eating schedule. And even though I’m pretty good (when I’m not traveling–then everything goes out the window) about consuming enough vegetables to prevent my diet from becoming a total wasteland, this cannot be healthy.

To be clear, my lack of fruit consumption is in no way a reflection of dislike for fruit. I love fruit, especially berries and cantaloupe melon (or what we in the U.S. call cantaloupe). My failure to consume more of it is a combination of cheapness, laziness, general chaos of life, and the fact that decent fruit is actually pretty hard to find.

Cheapness: As Matt can attest, I do not like to spend money. And fruit is expensive, at least relative to other things I could be spending my food dollar on. At my local Safeway, and apple or orange–among the lowest cost fruit options–will run you about a dollar, roughly the cost of a pint of milk, or a half dozen eggs, or a can of tuna, and substantially more than a bag of Skittles. Melons, berries, or more exotic fruits cost a lot more. (Who are these people who are spending $3.99 for a half-pint of raspberries?) It’s no coincidence that the previous two times I consumed fruit, strawberries happened to be on sale at Safeway, for about half the normal price, because they are in season right now.  Increasing my fruit consumption to daily would probably add about $10-15 to my weekly grocery budget. That’s not much money, but it would be a meaningful percentage increase in my weekly grocery spending, and if I started spending more time in the fruit section, buying what looked good, or if I shopped at the farmer’s market rather than Safeway, I could wind up spending a whole lot more.

Laziness/General Chaos of Life: I’m a busy person, both professionally and socially. This infringes on my fruit consumption in various ways.  Work, social obligations, and laziness mean I eat a portion of my meals away from home–and it’s really hard to make fruit a part of those meals.  Further, since I’m often not sure when I’ll be eating at home or free to eat my brought-from-home lunch, vs. eating out or having a lunch meeting, this makes me reluctant to buy fruit. Most of the fruit available at either Safeway or the farmer’s markets around D.C. goes bad pretty quickly, creating  a high risk that it will go bad before I get around to it–not only wasting money but creating a gross mess in my (or even worse, my office’s!) refrigerator. Sure, I could make multiple trips to the grocery store to buy fruit when I want it, but the extra trip and long lines hardly seem worth it for an apple.

Good Fruit is Hard To Find: Not to mention that even if I go commit to going to the store, there’s no guarantee there will be decent fruit available there. The Safeway across the street from my house frequently has produce on the shelves that is unfit for human consumption. Even the fruit that is perfectly fit for consumption is often quite unappetizing. Go at certain times on the weekends, and some common fruits can be out of stock. And at least I live near a Safeway. If I lived in one of the many D.C. neighborhoods that have no grocery stores at all, I might never see another piece of fresh fruit. If I’m at work when I want to eat a piece of fruit? Well, fruit options in the downtown area are: 1) shriveled orange or mushy red delicious apple from sandwhich shop (why do they only sell these gross red delicious apples? would it be that much harder to get galas or fujis? they don’t cost more.), 2) cut fruit (melon, pineapple, etc.) from salad bar place that is slimy, has a slightly ammonia taste from sitting out too long, and costs $8 a pound, 3) a banana (which hardly counts as fruit, IMHO).

A lot of these same things could be said for vegetable consumption, too, but at least my vegetable consumption is kept afloat by the availability of good frozen vegetable options. Not so much with fruit.

I’ve realized recently that my high consumption of candy is, in large part, a substitute for fruit that I would like to be consuming but am not, due to inconvenience, lack of availability, poor planning on my part, and costs. So over the next few weeks I’m going to be trying to eat more fruit. I think I can do it, if I put a little bit more energy into planning and accept the fact that I need to spend a little bit more money on groceries (which I can afford–and frankly it would probably be a good thing for me to reallocate some of the money I currently spend “socializing” to fruit consumption). But I have a lot of advantages that should help me out: I earn a decent income, I live across the street from a grocery store, I have a car that I could use to drive to better grocery stores. If even with all those advantages I find it difficult to consume fruit, think about the difficulties for people who are struggling to make ends meet, who live in the many neighborhoods without grocery stores, who lack access to transportation. It’s not enough to tell people to eat more fruits and vegetables–those products need to be available and affordable.

btw, would appreciate any suggestions people have on ways to eat more fruit!

photo courtsey of flickr user flickrich, used under a Creative Commons license.

21 responses to “Fruit and Hoops

  1. vooodooo84

    Talk to the produce clerks about what is good right now, they (if its a good produce department, unlike Safeway) should be able to sample things out to you if you are curious.

  2. Since you’re already eating frozen vegetables, why not frozen fruit? I eat frozen berries all the time (with Grape Nuts, Greek yogurt and honey, yum), and it’s the only way to get a blackberry or raspberry that doesn’t cost a fortune. And it doesn’t go bad.

  3. Bananas are some of the cheapest food in the supermarket; usually they’re less than $.50 a pound. Eat them straight, slice then into yogurt, make a smoothie, bake some banana bread, or slice them down the side, stuff with chocolate, and grill until the skin turns deep black, then top with fresh whipped cream (I like to mix some Jameson into mine).

    Frozen fruit is a great idea, and don’t underestimate canned fruit. Not quite as good for you, but convenient when fruit isn’t in season. If none of that works, just drink more old fashioneds and daiquiris; all that orange, lemon, and lime have to be good for you, especially along with the bourbon and rum.

  4. Frozen fruit in general is not as good as frozen vegetables, but the 365 Everyday Value brand at Whole Foods is exceptionally good and can be eaten plain thawed or can be used as the frozen ingredient in fruit smoothies.

  5. Second the smoothie for breakfast recommendation: an easy way to sneak in fruit. This is what the hated bananas are for. Recipe: half a banana, a handful of frozen berries, some plain yogurt, some protein powder (if you like), and some cow/soy/almond milk. Immersion blend the crap out of it, and enjoy.

  6. I’ve found that a bag of grapefruit is affordable in the winter and spring when I can’t get great local fruit. I don’t mind doing supremes of grapefruit, and it takes me seconds. (OK, I did used to work in a restaurant, so my knife skills are fairly high, but I showed my sisters how to do it, and it doesn’t take them long either.) A whole grapefruit, with just a *smidge* of honey if the grapefruit isn’t sufficiently sweet, is part of my regular evening meal now, and helps a lot with my sweet tooth.

    Of course, we won’t talk about the food miles, but at least they come from Florida instead of South and Central America, right?

  7. Vons–the CA version of Safeway–has the worst produce I have ever wasted money on. It looks like fruit, costs a fortune and tastes like nothing.

    Try ethnic markets if there are any available–they usually have decent seasonal options at good prices. Frozen berries and mangoes are nice too; plus they keep for a while.

    And finally, if you have a Trader Joe’s around, you can find some decent priced quality produce.

  8. Oh, and I forgot dried fruit too. Apricots, mangoes, berries, pineapple, kiwi…

  9. It costs some money, but c’mon — this is important! With apologies for the lack of fruit humility: I consume a ridiculous amount of fruit — generally 3 or 4 pieces a day. As B noted, bananas are the key. But apples are also extremely cheap, and you can usually find something on sale. And really, this is an area where it’s worth treating yourself. Buy some grapes! Or a can of pineapple! Or a fresh mango (you can get them for a dollar per pretty easily)! You’re a successful professional. You deserve it, and it’s worth it.

    Oh, and don’t forget tomatoes. Romas are cheap and effective!

  10. I stock up on seasonal fruit at the farmers market every weekend. Right now that means apples and navel oranges and strawberries. The strawberries are so cheap they are nearly free. Soon it will be apricots and peaches. I eat a piece of fruit when I first wake up then bring one of each kind of fruit I have to work as a snack (back when I was working). Often I’ll mix frozen blueberries or strawberries together with yogurt and granola as a meal. When I was traveling for work, I would actually pack apples, oranges, peaches, persimmons, guavas, and passion fruits in my suitcase. I find it so much easier to eat fruits than vegetables because you don’t have to cook or prepare fruit – you just eat it.

  11. more fruit, fewer black jellybeans!

    candygirl….
    this is not good.
    how come, with a sweet tooth, you are not finding more enjoyment with fruit?
    ……the sugars in fruits are processed differently than the sugars in candies….and if you can start to have more fruit, you will see that the candy cravings begin to wane, and you will feel great satisfaction from eating more fruit.
    i eat a sweet organic banana and a yam every morning. not only do they satisfy my craving for something sweet, they are remarkably filling and filled to the brim with things that are so good for us.
    now with spring upon us, perhaps you can go to the farmer’s market and start getting some delectable fruits for yourself.
    also ,do you like sugarsweet, organic pineapple? soon, there will be wonderful, fresh peaches and apricots and watermelon.
    if you start eating more fruit, you will find that the sweetness in candy becomes less appealing and too intense.
    also, bananas are very calming. they have sedative properties and will make you feel good…and they are wonderful for your whole digestive system.
    if you have a sweet tooth, i think yams can find their way into your heart, also.
    take good care of yourself, candygirl:-)

  12. in praise of tutti frutti

    also,
    for those of us with a sweet tooth, may i suggest a cantaloupe, ripened to perfection?
    not only are ripe fruits bursting with sweetness and flavor, they are so amazingly healthy for us and so very beautiful.
    if you befriend fruits, they will more than return the favor.
    and they are alive!
    our bodies know what to do with them….
    might i sugget to get a beautiful, giant ceramic (lead~free) bowl and fill it with colorful matisse~like seasonal fruits?
    they will even make your kitchen look more beautiful.
    each time you pass by, you will be enticed by a ruby strawberry, a velvety apricot….a handy banana.
    soon, you will passing up tootsie rolls and frooty jelly beans for the real thing!!!!!!!

  13. I always have a stock of apples in the fridge…I’m missing the Pacific Roses right now, they seem to have just gone out of season. I pick up strawberries when they’re on sale, too.

    Lately, I’ve been making a fruit salad of one apple, one grapefruit and four or five strawberries, sprinkle a little raw sugar on it, and divide it in two for two lunches. So much more satisfying than snagging some jelly beans from a co-worker’s candy bowl, and worth every penny.

    When the weather is nice, skewered and grilled strawberries and bananas with a caramel sauce is the best summer dessert.

  14. Step 1: Find a grocery store that isn’t Safeway. Seriously; Safeway is a scourge upon the grocery world. Of the five stores I visit “regularly”, they have the highest prices and the lowest quality. Even a farmer’s market can probably be cheaper for certain item.

    Step 2: Look for sales and/or pre-bagged produce. Whole Foods is usually pricey, but their sale prices are very reasonable and often you end up buying organic for less than you’d pay for non-organic in other stores. Case in point: two weeks ago, I bought a 5-lb bag of oranges for $5, and there were probably a dozen oranges in there. Or the 3-lb bag of apples that cost $3 and lasted me a week and a half.

    Step 3: Make fruit a part of the daily routine. I usually have at least one or two pieces of fruit with breakfast, and another one or two with lunch. Fruit makes an excellent mid-morning or afternoon snack as well. Plus most fruits have the advantage of coming in convenient single-serving sizes already and require minimal fuss to prepare (melons, mangoes, and hard-to-peel citrus excepted, I suppose). If you keep an apple on your desk, you will be much less tempted to hit the vending machine when you get the post-lunch hungries.

    Obviously I’m unusual in this regard, but I usually eat anywhere from three to five pieces of fruit a day, although almost exclusively before 3pm. I bring my lunches to work and by packing lots of fruit (and usually, say, a bag of carrots), I can fill up while eating much more healthily than I would by going out every day.

    Good luck with your fruit-eating endeavors!

  15. steadwoman

    I love clementines and mandarin oranges, which make great snacks. They last for awhile, they’re not as messy as regular oranges and they’re usually nice and sweet.

  16. Those 3 lb bags of apples at the grocery store are a great deal–at the Giant near my house, they’re $3.49 for conventional, and $3.99 for organic, and have at least 10 apples, usually, meaning one apple every workday for two weeks, at a cost of about $0.30. Get the granny smiths and keep them in the fridge. They last a long time and never get mealy.

  17. When I’m working in an office, I leave 2 or 3 pieces of yummy looking fruit in plain view, on my desk, and make it my “snack” food.

    I make sure to have a variety (apple, pear, banana, orange, peach, plum, etc…) basically anything but berries which are time consuming since you have to rinse right before you eat instead of being able to clean in advance of setting on said desk.

    Also, canned pineapple is one of my favs – but only the non-syrupy kind. Only canned fruits in their own juice for me. I love it cold out of the fridge.

    I also find that if I empty the can into a clear container, when I open the fridge to look for snacks, it looks mighty tempting to me.

    Finally, you will have to get over the cost stuff, do the best you can, and keep in mind that you need to feed your body good fuel so it will keep you going for a long while.

  18. wednesday

    candygirl

    hope you are on the path of starting your day with fruit now:-)
    dont forget about yams and bananas for your sweet tooth!

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