Grocery Store Survival 101

Monday, June 23, 2014

   It would come as no surprise to anyone who knows me or reads this blog that I spend a significant amount of my time reading health and wellness books, articles and blogs. These subjects are fascinating to me and I enjoy finding ways to implement the things I agree with or think may have merit into my life.

   But today I learned a huge lesson while shopping for dinner and I hope you can benefit from my new found wisdom without making the (in retrospect silly) mistake I made today. I learned that it doesn't matter how many times I read something; unless I actually take a step back and use the tools I read about, it is all for naught.

   Before I get to my grocery store antics, I'd first like to say that up until last week I had never cooked or eaten a spaghetti squash (!). I love all things squash and adore trying alternatives to the wheat based noodle, so I finally corrected this major life oversight and made an insane dish of basil pesto spaghetti squash. Game changing deliciousness ensued.

   Fast forward to today: while day dreaming about ways to introduce this dish to all of you lovely people in a dynamic, enticing way that will convey to you how much you need it in your foodie life, I convinced myself of that very thing and decided I needed it for dinner. At one of my favorite organic grocery shops I snagged two of the beauties and hopped in the shortest check out lane.

   "Your total is 22.50" The clerk helpfully reported.

   "What?! 22:50?? How is it that wheat is subsidized while us innocent, whole foods lovers are so unfairly punished?! No thanks!" With that, I politely replaced the squashes on the shelf and left the store, wallet and foodie morals firmly in place.

   Except not really. I was so stunned and embarrassed about being the complete dodo bird who grabbed a few items without even looking at the price tag (in my defense, squash should never cost more than a few bucks a pound), that I handed the cashier my payment and left the store with my tail between my legs. 

   I stopped for a price check at the local chain grocer on my way home and the same (albeit non organic) squash was 1.29 a pound.

   The moral of the story is that we all read those articles on how to afford eating well and (mostly) organic and they always tell us to pick our organic battles. Use the dirty fifteen to guide you- as you can see, if I had implemented this advice even just this one time it would have saved me a lot of money. There are many foods which it is perfectly safe to chose conventional over organic- squash, with its hard shell that we discard, is a perfect example.

   It may be some time before we can convince the powers that be to subsidize organic, sustainable farming, but until then we really do have tricks up our sleeves to make good choices. We just have to remember those tricks when it counts. 

   As mentioned above, I have lots of lovely things to say about this dish, but I thought you might appreciate my story more than me waxing eloquent about earthy, sweet basil and noodles you would never know didn't come from a box. The short of it is that you should make this for dinner. Soon.

Basil Pesto Spaghetti Squash
Serves 4  to 6

We like to serve this with a roasted chicken breast sliced alongside it.

1 large spaghetti squash (a little over a pound)
olive oil
3-4 cups fresh basil
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted a little in a hot skillet
2 cloves garlic
2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated, plus additional for serving

   Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and brush the cut surface with some olive oil (about 1 tablespoon per half). Sprinkle with a little salt (about 1/4 teaspoon per half). Place, cut side down, on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, or until a fork easily pierces the flesh. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit.
   While the squash cools, add the rest of the ingredients plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt into your food processor. Turn the processor on and drizzle in 4 tablespoons olive oil, processing until evenly combined.
   Use two forks to 'pull' the squash flesh into spaghetti like strands into a bowl. Scrape the pesto over the squash and gently toss to combine.
   Serve garnished with a bit of additional cheese.  


  1. I didn't think I would like this as I have only tasted pesto on a spoon that someone else had made. I was partly right. Following this recipe to the letter, and serving to your dad outside in the fresh air, we found we didn't like it. We LOVED it! Brava, Natalie!
    It's super exciting to have a novel taste and go to recipe all in one. Thanks again!

    1. I'm so happy you're enjoying it! I also had never enjoyed pesto until I hit upon just the right recipe- I can't imagine ever replacing this one- it's just so tasty