Vegetable Labor

Vegetable Labor May 16, 2014
English cukes go fast around here

Feeding family vegetables is hard work. Hard, but necessary, I get it.

A combination of: being raised in California, reading Michael Pollan, and fulfilling the duties of an Army wife to keep her husband trim has honed my focus on getting fresh vegetables into my crew. Let’s face it, men will only eat vegetables that are washed and cut and put in front of them. Also Texas Mommy forced me to make all my own baby purees, and, consequently all four children are great consumers of produce as well. So my complaint is not the, more common, “how do I get them to eat more vegetables?” But, rather I am daunted by the amount of time required to prep fresh fruits and vegetables.

I only grocery shop once a week and we get an additional box of organic produce delivered to the house midweek, but I feel like I am always washing and peeling vegetables. I learned that a tupperware of peeled and cut carrots will get eaten much faster than the raw ones in a bag. My sons (4 and 6) will eat cucumber and tomato salad in balsamic dressing, but that only keeps for about 12 hours, so I have to prepare it fresh. Washing greens is a nightmare, because if you don’t adequately dry them salad goes all slimy. Also, there is the fruit washing. If the kids are eating apples or pears or berries that were not organically grown, I need to wash every thing before it goes into the fruit bowl. I try to use the spray veggie wash that they sell in the produce section at our store, but if I am out, I fill a sink with dishwashing detergent or vinegar and water. But, this is a seriously labor-intensive mission here. I try to manage three servings of vegetables a day — this turns into one with lunch, mid-afternoon snack, and then a dinner vegetable. I allow myself several bags of the microwaveable frozen organic veggies a week (Godsend) but that amount still requires plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable prep to supplement.

I am looking for strategies here, and specific vegetables that sell to children. Do I need a salad spinner, or do you all just buy those expensive plastic tubs of organic greens? I think I have to wash some romaine or iceberg though, because the pre-washed greens only come in spinach and spring mix here, which I have a hard time selling. Are baby carrots sinfully lazy and devoid of nutrition? Lastly, how do we feel about those viscous ranch dressings? Why are they so hard to get off of dishes? Shouldn’t that mean that they are bad inside our children’s little bodies? Do we turn a blind eye because it is getting them to eat salad? Speak wise mother-nutritionists, please.


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  • Catherine Kelley

    I feel your pain. Although I like to cook from scratch, I resorted to frozen veggies as I raised my four lively offspring. It’s okay to take shortcuts to save your sanity. Some of my darlings were never persuaded that green veggies were good until they went off to college and had to eat dorm food. I did manage to get them to eat spinach in a quiche and tucked other vegetables into pizza sauce. Raw vegetables were a harder sell. When they truly didn’t like something, they had to eat as many bites as their respective age (maximum of 12 when they got to the teen years) and were off the hook for the rest. We did have fun growing our own and stocking the freezer with the bounty instead of using store-bought. That encouraged them to eat what they sowed. I used prep time to teach the basics of food preparation, recipe reading and cooking techniques, remembering the old saying that many hands make light work.. Yes, a salad spinner is worth it’s weight in gold. As stated above, it is alright to use store shortcuts to save time and sanity where necessary. As far as those so-called baby carrots, I find them dry and tasteless and prefer peeling my own. I’m an empty-nester now and the meditative aspects and creative destruction of food preparation are recreational for me. Hope my experiences give you some help and new strategies.

  • Yes to the salad spinner.
    No to your goal of 3 veggies per day. I think 2 is amazing! and at least 1-2 servings of fruit.
    Yes to baby carrots. Quick, easy, and can be served with lunch before a coveted item like pretzels. Also, yes to pre-washed and prepped green beans and snap peas. I put 3-4 of each on a lunch plate and it is very easy.
    Yes to veggies as a snack.
    Yes to making your oldest daughter help with veggie wash/prep. You can teach her to wash salad greens, spin them, and put them in the fridge for dinner.

  • AWOL_Mommy

    Catherine, lovely. I appreciate you taking the time to write this, it definitely inspires me and gives me fresh motivation. Thanks.

  • AWOL_Mommy

    Pretzels are awesome bribery, aren’t they? Snap peas… yes those had been off my radar for awhile. Hard to find organic ones in my neck of the woods. How much do you stress the organic need?

  • J’

    My mom has a killer but very basic ranch dressing that she made for us as kids…it tastes better than the store bought stuff and has none of the junk, so I’ll try to find it for you. She used it as a bribe for all the veggies, but didn’t have to worry about ingredients none of us pronounce. If you have a Costco or Sam’s card, the big bins of salad stuff is literally half cost (at least out here), for twice as much…may be a huge help. Interesting thoughts on the others for the rest!

  • Steph

    My husband gave me a salad spinner as a birthday present when we dating–and I married him anyway. Actually I love it and use it really often in the summer–so much so that it almost never gets put “away”. We do baby carrots because they’re convenient and my sometimes picky kids love to snack on sweet red peppers, which are pretty quick to cut up. I do try to buy them organic though, since I think they’re on the dirty dozen list. I also make my own ranch dip/dressing (I found one on heavenly homemakers, I think) and don’t sweat it since the fat is supposed to help them assimilate nutrients anyway.

    I also have had luck with green smoothies for breakfast–I buy frozen spinach, blueberries (these are best for making the color not gross, I find), frozen pineapple or banana to add sweetness and milk or yogurt. I’ve found the spinach gets blended better if I blend the spinach and liquid first and then add the other stuff. HTH!

    Still, there are days when I sit down to dinner and realize we’ve only had one serving of vegetables–gah!–so I really appreciate your post.

  • AWOL_Mommy

    J’. I need this recipe, really. Excited!

  • AWOL_Mommy

    Steph, need to recommit to smoothies. Perfect timing on your reminder, since Kansas is in the 80s this week. Also, I have a Vitamix that sits on my counter, so no excuse!. Thanks.

  • Queen B

    We balance organic v. non organic by buying following the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) and EWGs (Environmental Working Groups) recommendations: focus on buying organic for the dirty dozen to dramatically reduce your exposure to pesticides. Organic isn’t always available, nor is it always financial feasible. The latest EWG lists are here:

  • Bethany

    me too! I tried to market some other dressings for the kids, but they want “the ranch with chemicals”. lol Yes, they really said that.