By Julia Ryan, Valley VNA Food Service Coordinator

Valley VNA has its share of active gardeners. Many of our residents had large family gardens from which they harvested and preserved food for the winter. Some of them nurtured showy flower gardens, and others farmed for a living. It’s a joy to still see them working on the raised beds in the courtyard garden and celebrating their harvests.

Harvesting potatoes

Watching residents enjoy gardening got me thinking about how we can stay connected to “real” food at any stage in our lives if we make it a priority. Residents at Valley VNA have a lot of choices when it comes to preparing their own meals or signing up for a meal plan. We create menus in eight-week cycles and many of our best dishes are resident requests! Here’s some food for thought for staying connected to “real” food:

Frequent the farmer’s market. Set aside $10 a week for the farmer’s market and don’t leave until you (or your personal shopper) has spent every penny on fresh food. It’s a license to spend money on yourself in a healthy way, and you will be more likely to try a new fruit or vegetable if you truly have to “spend it all in one place.”

Don’t dip with a chip. Try your favorite dip with sliced cucumbers, radishes, celery sticks, baby carrots, or red and green bell peppers.

Hard-boil eggs ahead of time to grab and go. Steam, not boil, four or six at a time for 12 minutes. They’ll peel like a dream and you can grab one at a time right out of the fridge.

Take a mug shot – rather, a shot at filling a mug with nuts, mini carrots, and cherry tomatoes. Choose a vessel that fits into your vehicle’s cup holder to munch while doing errands or visiting friends.

Make a toast. Then spread it with peanut or almond butter, or substitute apple slices for the bread.

Don’t go nuts with your portions. If you want some chips or nuts, don’t eat from the bag. Count out a serving, and put the bag away.

Freeze grapes and grab a handful out of the freezer when you have a hankering for something sweet.

Get canned. Canning and preserving food is making a comeback as urban homesteaders strive to return to more basic and wholesome food production. If you still have your canning equipment, show your kids and grandkids how it’s done. Or join them on canning day at their house to share tips and talk about those busy days in the kitchen when you were young helping get the garden in the jar.

Would you like to learn more about our meal plans and dining options at Valley VNA? Or our residents’ garden plots? Please call us at (920) 727-5555 to ask more questions or request a tour.