The Secret to Meal Planning: Part 5 “Make it work!”

By Shanna Demers, neighborhood market manager:

About 10 months ago, I decided to give meal planning one more shot, determined to MAKE it work. I can happily say, it’s here to stay! I’m rarely stressing at 4:30 about what we’re having for dinner, I have reduced our food waste, and we’re saving money! Meal planning is one key to my family’s happiness each week.

Over the last four blog posts I wrote about my family’s meal planning secrets:

1. Throw away the rules (not the fresh veggies)! Find a plan that works for your family. Chances are, prefabricated plans will not fit your life perfectly, and that’s okay. You CAN change it!

2. Before you shop the grocery store, shop at home! Before you go shopping, know what you have and what you ordered from Seasonal Roots. Being aware of inventory is a step towards saving money and reducing waste.

3. Each week, know your family’s schedule! Schedules are always changing. Maybe you have an odd evening appointment coming up. Instead of forgetting about it and scrambling, be aware and prepare.

4. Each member of your family can be helpful in the process. If your spouse/partner doesn’t enjoy cooking, have them help with shopping or choosing meals. Get your children involved and help them learn valuable life skills. Involvement gives ownership regardless of age. Don’t forget, teamwork makes the dream work!

Implementing these four things helped us transition from a family that eats on the fly to a family that plans. Hopefully it will help you too!

Check out the Seasonal Roots Pinterest page and newsletter this week for some of the recipes I use in our meal planning rotation — including one for the delicious stuffed gluten-free sweet potato pictured with this post!


TROPICAL FRUIT IN VIRGINIA?!! — Tropical fruits are an important part of a healthy diet, as pirates and other seafarers discovered when they got scurvy! But citrus doesn’t grow in Virginia. So as part of our commitment to eat food from the closest farms possible, we’re partnering with V&B Farms in Florida. Coming from nearby in our region, V&B’s tropical produce will travel far less than produce from California or Central and South America. That means it’s fresher, riper, tastier, and still packed with nutrients. And it’s better for the environment, since less travel equals less pollution. The farmers behind V&B are Tommy Vick and Brandon Boyd, who have known each other since they were in diapers…

Read more below or view as a PDF.
newsletter 2017-01-18 p1
newsletter 2017-01-18 p2

Eat Better Live Better

The Secret to Meal Planning: Part 4 “Teamwork”

By Shanna Demers, neighborhood market manager:

Teamwork makes the dream work! Five words that never fail to bring my family smiles and remind us that we are in this together. But if teamwork is so important to our family, why was meal planning and cooking ALL on me?! Involving my family in the planning process was a game changer.

I was selecting all the meals when I was following prefabricated meal plans. It was easier this way, but I found myself frustrated when my family (mainly my daughter) wasn’t interested in eating what I had prepared. We all have unique palates and I was only cooking to mine. Meals became more enjoyable for everyone once I started asking my husband and daughter for their input. This is yet another example of why following someone else’s meal plan is not always sustainable. Simple changes really do make big differences.

My family helps plan meals each week, which keeps us on track because we are all invested. Involvement gives ownership. This is important for children as well. Including children in the planning process helps them to learn healthy eating habits and will make them more excited about what’s on the table for meals. They’re more likely to try new things if they helped choose them.

My daughter helps me choose the items in our basket every Friday when the Seasonal Roots menu comes out. Not only is she helping me plan, she is learning where our food comes from. Many children are not aware of how our food production system works. Food doesn’t come from the grocery store — that’s simply a place where we can purchase it. When we order from Seasonal Roots, we can choose our items and see which family farm it’s coming from.

Knowing where our food comes from and how to prepare it are important life skills. I’m helping my daughter learn by inviting her into the kitchen. In turn, she’s more willing to try new foods and eat what we prepare together. A win-win situation!

So this week I’m challenging you to get everyone involved with as much of the planning and cooking as possible. Teamwork makes the (meal planning) dream work!

10 Ways This Simple New Years Resolution Will Help You Live Better

By the Seasonal Roots Veggie Fairies:

If you make a New Years resolution to eat local, sustainably produced food in 2017, you won’t just live better – you’ll actually help change the world. So without further ado, here are the top 10 ways this one simple New Years resolution will change you and your world. (Just wait till you get to #1!)

Resolve to eat local, sustainably produced food, and you will…

…waste less of everything, including time.

The short distance between a local farm and you means less storage, no middleman, and that means less wasted food and packaging. And with home delivery from an organization like Seasonal Roots, you’ll save time, too.

…relax and enjoy the view.

Use some of that time you save to relax and enjoy the open space you’ll be helping preserve. That’s because buying local food saves nearby farms from getting turned into yet another suburban development. Since our farmers use sustainable methods (unlike factory farms that plant miles and miles of monocrops), our farmers create ecosystems that are good for the soil, water, and air, a rich patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, and ponds – the perfect habitat for wildlife and a peaceful space for recreation.

…reduce unemployment and taxes in your community.

When you buy local, your food dollars stay in your community instead of going to some faraway corporate headquarters. Buy local food and your dollars create jobs at local farms, food processing facilities, and distribution systems. Plus, studies show that, compared to development, farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services. Chickens don’t go to school and rutabegas don’t call 911. That helps keep taxes from going up.

…achieve peace of mind.

Local food is safer and more secure. You’ll get to know the farmers who are growing and handling the things you eat. They’re not anonymous, and neither are you, and our farmers take that relationship seriously as they grow and handle your food. Plus, if there’s ever a breakdown in the global food system – which relies on fossil fuels to produce, package, store, and distribute food – your local farmers will still be here, still supplying you with safe, fresh food.

…eat more delicious food.

Most Seasonal Roots food comes from farmers and artisans within 150 miles (one-tenth as far as supermarket produce). Because local food doesn’t travel very far, farmers can grow varieties for their flavor, not for shelf life and ability to withstand getting drop-kicked halfway around the world. And since the stuff our local farmers grow will be eaten in days instead of weeks, it can be picked at the peak of ripeness — mmmmm. As for locally made products like cheese, bread, and coffee, they’re handcrafted for best flavor and not pumped full of preservatives and artificial flavors.

…be super cool.

Compared to the global industrial food complex, food from local farmers and artisans uses less fuel and produces less CO2 – 17 times less! So local food belches fewer greenhouse gases and fights global warming. That’s cool.

…support family farms.

Our family farmers treasure the land as a legacy for their children. They farm with future generations in mind, not short-term profit. That’s good for all of us, for all the reasons listed here.

…be kind to animals.

Unlike factory farms, our family farmers raise their animals humanely. Chickens, cows, goats, and pigs live happy lives in open pastures. It’s good for the animals, who don’t need constant antibiotics and hormones to grow and stay healthy, and good for us people, too. Grass-fed meat, milk, and eggs are much more nutritious than the conventionally produced kind.

…get healthy.

Fresh, local, sustainably grown food is better for you. Take meat, dairy, and eggs from animals raised sustainably on pasture. Grass-fed beef, for example, is higher in “good” cholesterol (and lower in “bad”) than factory farmed beef. Grass fed dairy is higher in vitamins A and E, lower in fat, and contains more antioxidants. As for produce, as soon as you pick it, it starts to lose nutrients. So Seasonal Roots delivers it to you within 48 hours, dirt to doorstep™. (Supermarket produce is typically a week old and has lost almost half its nutrients before you even get it home!) Sustainably produced food also means less (or no) agricultural chemicals (such as pesticides), antibiotics, or hormones.

#1: (Drum roll, please…)
…bring more love and joy into your life!
Resolve to buy local, sustainably produced food and you will have a powerful tool for strengthening all the loving relationships in your life. Let’s say you get a passle of local peaches, so fresh and ripe you can smell them, and you remember the peach pie your grandmother used to make when you were a kid, and you get totally inspired and dig out that recipe and call in the kids. Together you whip up a couple of pies while you tell them stories about your late great granny. Then Mr. Grumpy Pants from next door marches over to complain about the noise of happy children – but you offer him a piece of pie and a strange look comes over his face, and you realize that strange look is a smile, and you get to know each other while eating delicious pie to the sound of the laughter of children. And isn’t that what life is all about?

The Veggie Fairies at Seasonal Roots wish you a happy, healthy New Year!

Share the veggie love with someone you care about! 10% off Seasonal Roots Gift Cards if you order by January 2 — give the gift of living better. Just send us an email with your phone number and best time to call to arrange credit card payment, and we’ll set you up with all the Gift Cards you need.

The Secret to Meal Planning: Part 3 “Know Your Schedule”

By Shanna Demers, neighborhood market manager:

So how did shopping at home go over last week?! Digging through your freezer can be intimidating but hopefully diving in resulted in some inspiration to cook forgotten items and saved you some money at the grocery store!

By the way, if you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, head here
for Part 1 of this meal planning series, and here for Part 2, “Shopping at Home”.

After I finish my home shopping and review my upcoming Seasonal Roots order, I have an accurate idea of what I have on hand and use it to inspire my weekly plan. But there’s one more vital piece to this puzzle: our weekly schedule.

It took me a while to figure that out. Normally families have the same commitments week in and week out, but when I assumed I could follow a plan that had a predictable daily themes, like meatless Monday, taco Tuesday, and so on, I failed again. It didn’t work.

Once a week batch cooking — a.k.a. cooking up a storm one day and using the pre-cooked items throughout the week — also didn’t work. No one in my family is ever stoked about leftovers and it felt like that was all we were eating!

I felt trapped. Yet again, these “tried and true” meal plans were not working for me. I was either trying new recipes on my busiest days, or winding up with a large amount of cooked food that had to be eaten whether or not we felt like eating it just to avoid having to throw it away.

Then it finally hit me. Every week is unique. Duh! It seems so obvious now: If I was going to be successful, I had to plan meals that actually fit our schedule. Rules were tossed again and so was the recipe for disaster that I was following. After all, tacos taste good any night of the week, not just Tuesdays.

So now, Sunday is my planning day. I take about an hour and sit with a cup of coffee, cookbooks, Pinterest (where every week Seasonal Roots posts new recipes that use the most popular produce items for the upcoming week), and my calendar planner.

Based on what’s actually on our schedule for the upcoming week, I can better decide which nights I should use the crock pot, which nights I can look forward to cooking, and which nights we will need to have leftovers. I enjoy cooking and usually try cooking a few nights in a row. Leftover night is much more fun when you have a choice in the matter. Seeing which meals produce sought-after leftovers and which meals are just no good unless they’re fresh also helps me plan ahead. So your challenge this week is to make your plan fit your schedule, not someone else’s.

The Secret to Meal Planning: Part 2 “Shopping at Home”

By Shanna Demers, neighborhood market manager:
My favorite way to start meal planning is to take inventory of everything I have on hand. In other words, I shop at home.

[In case you missed it, here’s last week’s secret.]

This simple step was one I was missing when I tried to use prefabricated meal plans. Many meal plans have shopping lists prepared for you based on meals selected. I would print these nice little lists and head to the store, completely disregarding what I already had at home or had ordered from Seasonal Roots. This was the opposite of budget friendly! I was also buying weird products for recipes and never using them again. Last weekend I threw away an old jar of tahini I used once to make a sauce no one liked because of a meal plan. No wonder I was throwing so much away!

Now, before I decide what to cook, I determine what I have. Not only was I throwing away produce, but I was throwing away things that were buried in my freezer. You never want to find the last pound of that beautiful, pastured breakfast sausage bundle you ordered from Seasonal Roots covered in freezer burn! I was also freezing vegetables to help reduce waste, but… I didn’t know that they should be blanched prior to freezing. The veggies were almost always freezer-burned by time I remembered I had them. Talk about frustrating.

I’ve made some changes, and now let my order from Seasonal Roots and the freezer inspire my meal planning every Sunday. I have found I am saving money and time! One small change can make a big difference. Give it a shot this week. Before you head out grocery shopping figure out what you actually have. It’s often more than you realize.

Stay tuned for more meal planning tips next week. In the meantime, here’s a quick guide on how to freeze extra produce… the correct way, by blanching first!

    • Prepare a stock pot of boiling water.
    • Clean and roughly chop vegetables.
    • Prepare an ice bath for the blanched vegetables.
    • Place vegetables into a wire basket and lower into rapidly boiling water for a few minutes. The time depends on the vegetable. Here’s a good guide for times.
    • After blanching, promptly put vegetables into an ice bath. Once cool, drain and place in a freezer-safe container or baggie.
  • The Secret to Meal Planning: Part 1 “Throw out the rules!”

    By Shanna Demers, neighborhood market manager:

    It took me a long time to figure out how to successfully meal plan for my family. I kept trying different meal planning systems – trying and failing. I’m a neighborhood market manager for Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market and a busy, homeschooling mom, and I used to be an agriculture research specialist… if anyone should’ve known how to meal plan, it’s me! Why wasn’t it working? What was I doing wrong?!

    The thing is, there are a lot of websites out there that will tell you how to plan a week of meals. I’d get frustrated trying to follow their rules and lose all the joy that came with cooking and eating nutritious food. What happened to meal planning making your life better, right?!

    Well, better means different things for different people. For you, better may mean less time cooking, or less time shopping and more time cooking. Maybe you’re tired of wasting fresh veggies. I was. I would find myself standing in the kitchen at 4:30pm wondering how I could turn a pile of wilty swiss chard and semi-mushy zucchini into dinner. It was often easier to compost it or even worse, throw it away and opt for the broccoli from the freezer. It was NOT working.

    Meal planning IS the answer but everyone meal plans differently. I have diet restrictions and so does my daughter, but my husband can eat anything. Trying to make someone else’s meal plan fit our needs was a recipe for failure. Meal planning only started working when I figured out which rules fit our life. Then I threw the rest away.

    That is my secret to successful meal planning: Throw away the rules (not the fresh veggies)!

    In upcoming posts, I’ll tell you how I meal plan. I’ll also give you tips to help you figure out how YOU can meal plan. In the meantime, check out these free meal planning resources. Just remember: Keep what works, throw the rest away.

    This next one has some sample plans, otherwise it’s a paid service.

    Thanksgiving Gameplan

    Happy Thanksgiving from Seasonal Roots!  Hosting this year?  If not, how about a delicious side dish to bring to your host?  We’ve got you covered. 


    Marinated Mesclun Greens Salad

    For the Salad:

    8-10 ounce container of mesclun salad mix from Harvest Hill Farm, washed and dried and possibly chop any larger pieces

    ½ pint of cherry tomatoes, cut in half

    About ½ of a yellow onion, sliced very thin

    For the Marinade:

    ¼ cup apple cider vinegar

    1 T tamari or soy sauce

    2 T olive oil

    1 tsp fresh ginger

    1 tsp honey

    Directions: Using a blender or stick blender, blend all of these ingredients together until emulsified.  Toss all of the salad ingredients together in a bowl to make sure they are combined well then pour over the marinade and gently massage into the salad mixture. Cover and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Serve cold


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    Creamy Kale Salad


    1 bunch of black kale, washed and chopped

    ¼ cup of tahini

    ¼ cup of lemon juice

    ¼ cup of olive oil

    1 tsp sugar

    1 tsp salt

    1 tsp pepper

    1 tsp cayenne

    A small handful of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half

    Half of red onion, sliced

    Directions: In a small bowl whisk together tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, sugar, salt, pepper and cayenne until all are combined well.  Now, either using gloves or with very clean hands gently massage the dressing into the kale making sure to cover all of the kale. The heat from your hands will help to breakdown the kale. Toss in the tomatoes and onions and serve.


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    Caesar Salad


    2 small or 1 large head of romaine lettuce — washed and dried

    1 large garlic clove — minced

    5 small anchovy fillet — approx 2 tablespoons

    1 tablespoons lemon juice — fresh squeezed

    1 egg + 1 egg yolk

    1/3 cup Parmesan cheese — shredded

    1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

    2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

    1/4 teaspoon pepper — freshly ground

    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil

    salt to taste

    1 cup croutons

    Directions:  Chop cleaned and dried lettuce into bite-size pieces. Set aside. Mix garlic in lemon juice, set aside. Place anchovies, egg, egg yolk, Parmesan, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper in a food processor and blend until anchovy is chopped fine. Add lemon juice and garlic; blend until incorporated. With the processor running, pour in the oil in a slow, steady stream until emulsified and incorporated. Add salt or more lemon juice, to taste. Chill for at least 15 minutes before dressing salad. Toss with romaine lettuce and croutons just before serving. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan and fresh-cracked pepper, as desired.


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    5 Spice Roasted Root Veggies


    1-2 loose carrots, cut into 1 ½ inch long pieces

    1-2 turnips, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes

    1-2 white potatoes, washed and cut into ½ inch cubes

    1 each gold beet and red beet, washed and cut into ½ inch pieces

    2 T olive oil


    3 T plus 2 tsp. Chinese 5 spice powder

    Directions: Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl toss together all of the root veggies with the salt and 5 spice powder and just ¼ tsp of olive oil. Place the roots on a sprayed baking sheet and place in the oven uncovered for 25-30 minutes. Rotate your sheet pan at about the 15 minute mark. In a small bowl whisk together the rest of the olive oil and about 2 t of the 5 spice powder and a little more salt. Check the roots by piercing them with a knife and if the knife does not meet resistance then they are ready to come out of the oven. They may need to bake for a little longer in some cases. Once you remove them from the oven drizzle the oil and spice mixture over the hot resting roots. Serve warm.


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    Roasted Green Beans with Herbed Vinaigrette


    2lb. green beans trimmed

    ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

    3 cups of mushrooms (optional) cleaned and sliced

    ¼ cup red wine vinegar

    2 T burgundy or red wine

    ½ tsp salt

    ½ tsp black pepper

    1 cup olive oil

    2 tsp minced garlic

    1T chopped fresh Thyme

    1 T chopped fresh Marjoram

    1 T chopped fresh Rosemary

    3 shallots minced

    Directions: Bring a large pot of boiling water to a boil on the stove while you trim the ends from your green beans. Once the water is boiling blanch the green beans for about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water and let drain for at least 20 minutes. In a bowl combine vinegar and wine. Whisk in salt, sugar, and pepper until the sugar has dissolved. Slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl while whisking rapidly to blend together. Next, whisk in garlic, thyme, marjoram, rosemary. Next, (using a spoon in a scraping motion from the bottom of the bowl up the side of the bowl) fold in the minced shallots. Store in the refrigerator covered for at least 45 minutes. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Combine green beans, sliced mushrooms and 1 cup of vinaigrette in a bowl and mix to cover all of the green beans. Place the green bean mixture on a roasting pan and cook uncovered for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven place into your serving dish and pour over 1 cup of the vinaigrette and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve warm.


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    Sweet Potato Casserole


    4 cups of sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

    ½ cup of sugar

    2 eggs, beaten

    ½ tsp salt

    4 T butter, softened

    ¼  cup milk

    ¼ pineapple juice

    ½ tsp vanilla extract

    ½ cup packed brown sugar

    1/3 cup all purpose flour

    3 T butter, softened

    ¾ cup chopped pecans

    Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Put sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan with water to cover. Cook over medium heat until tender, drain and mash with ¼ cup pineapple juice. Add this mixture to a large bowl and add sugar, eggs, salt, butter, milk and vanilla extract. Mix together until smooth and transfer into a 9×13 sprayed baking dish.
    In a medium bowl mix together brown sugar and flour, cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse. Stir in the chopped pecans and sprinkle over the top of the sweet potato mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned.


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    Grandma’s Yams

    (A second option for your sweet potatoes)


    5-6 Sweet Potatoes

    3 T Brown Sugar

    1 T Maple Syrup or Honey

    1 T salt

    3 T butter

    ½ T ground Nutmeg

    Directions:  There has been some debate in our family of whether or not you slice your sweet potatoes for this dish or just simply cut them in half long ways to roast (cut side down). Either way the result will be the same. A warm yummy and delicious way to eat more sweet potatoes! Start by preheating your oven to 325 degrees. This cooks best in a glass baking dish. Simply place the sweet potatoes in a sprayed baking dish and sprinkle over the brown sugar and nutmeg over each piece. Place a small bit of butter on each one as well and start to roast them covered for about 45 minutes. Remove them from the oven and drizzle over the maple syrup or honey, recover and roast about another 10-15 minutes. Bring them out of the oven, uncover and spoon over the liquid that is on the bottom of the dish. Raise the oven temp to 400 and finish roasting for 10 minutes uncovered then serve right away!!


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    Dreamy Mashed Potatoes


    5-7 white potatoes, cleaned (leave the skin on) and cut into 2” pieces

    3 T butter

    1 T sea salt

    1 T black pepper

    ¼ cup buttermilk (or sour cream)

    ¾ cup milk or alternative

    Directions: Start by boiling the cut potatoes in salted water for 20-25 minutes. Drain potatoes from the water and return back to the hot pan. Over low heat let the potatoes steam out for about 1-2 minutes. At this point if you are using a mixer, transfer the cooked potatoes into the mixer. If you are not just remove the pot from the heat. Add all of the other ingredients and mix on low for 4-5 minutes to incorporate everything. Turn the mixer up to a higher speed for 2-3 minutes or until the potatoes become creamy and if you need a little more liquid add a ¼ cup milk or alternative at a time. Enjoy right away!!