10/10/07

Save Money & Have Fun by Picking Your Own Fruit!

Taking advantage of area farms that allow you to pick your own produce is a great way to have fun as a family, while saving you a lot of money on fresh fruits and vegetables at the same time.

One of my favorite late summer/early fall activities is going to our local "u-pick" farms and gathering fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and apples. The weather is usually a bit cooler, and the fruit is simply delicious! I've been so spoiled on fresh-picked fruit that it's hard for me to buy produce at the store. What can I say? It just doesn't taste as good. The store-bought apples are less crisp and more waxy. They just don't cut it, anymore. See . . . I'm spoiled.

We recently visited our favorite orchard (Vince Brown Farms in Conklin, MI), and picked a delicious 1/2 bushel of Mutsu and Golden Delicious apples. Yum! The nice thing about this particular farm is that they have a wide variety of apples to pick, and they take you around the orchard by way of a tractor ride. It's just so classic! You can also fill your basket with any variety of combinations. A 1/2 bushel turns out to be a TON of apples, too. The cost for our massive 1/2 bushel . . . $4.50. You just can't beat it!

I love to make homemade apple pies with them, which my husband doesn't complain too much about. Plus, it's so easy to buy pre-made crusts and make fresh apple pies that way, too. This morning, I made some really yummy oatmeal pancakes and sauteed some of our Mutsus with sugar, butter, and Cinnamon, to pour over the top of our pancakes. WOW! That was SO yummy. We have leftovers, and I can't wait to eat them up!

One of the other great things about picking your own fruit is the "free" samples! There's nothing better than walking around picking fruit and munching on them at the same time.

Last year, when we picked strawberries (we didn't get out in time, this year), I made strawberry pies and strawberry jam. I also had enough to freeze. Those strawberries lasted us a whole year, and we only paid about $6.00 for the whole thing. What a deal!

So, the bottom line is that picking your own fruit can save you a bundle and be a really great experience. It gets us outside, walking around, eating really healthy fruit, and away from the television. There's something to be said for stepping outside of normal life, visiting a fruit farm, saving money, and having fun.

Check out your local u-pick farms by visiting your state's website and searching for "u-pick". For you Michiganians, just click HERE!


RECIPE FOR OATMEAL PANCAKES AND APPLE TOPPING:

    Pancakes
    1. Heat griddle or electric skillet to 400ยบ F (if using a frying pan, set burner to medium heat).
    2. Mix together:
    • 1 cup multi-purpose baking mix
    • 1 cup whole wheat pancake mix
    • 1-1/3 cups milk
    • 1 egg
    • 2 Tbsp. sugar
    • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (if desired)
    • 1/4 tsp. unsweetened applesauce (if desired)

    Topping (prepared separately)
    • 3-4 tart apples peeled, cored, and sliced/diced, etc.
    • 1/4 c. melted butter (just melt it in your skillet or frying pan)
    • 1/4 c. sugar
    • Cinnamon

    Combine sugar, apples, and Cinnamon in skillet/pan with melted butter and sautee over medium heat until apples are well-coated and somewhat firm and somewhat soft at the same time.
Spoon topping onto pancakes and enjoy!


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