My Plantcentric Journey

Engine 2 Diet: Natala here, today I share about living in the middle of nowhere and staying plant-strong. My husband and I have been traveling for 3 1/2 years now, we’ve lived in towns with 150 people and large cities. We have a pot, a pan, a knife and a spatula (and 2 place settings). We have never had a problem staying plant-strong no matter where we are.

Obstacles to Plant-Strong: Middle of Nowhere

July 31, 2012

You live 4 hours to the closest Whole Foods. The nearest grocery store is 45 minutes, and is not that great. What do you do?

My husband and I have been traveling for 3 1/2 years, full time. We have had no official home base. We have lived in large cities like San Francisco and we’ve lived in tiny cities, the smallest population count was 150. And guess what? We’ve never had a problem eating plant-strong. In fact, oddly enough we tend to have a much easier time the further we are from ‘convenience’ foods.

So how do you become a plant-strong rock-star in the middle of nowhere?

1. Have a good attitude. I get so many e-mails starting out in dispair. “BUUUUTTTTTTTT I can’t do it!!!!! I don’t have a Whole Foods! I don’t have Trader Joes! I don’t have a veg. cafe in my town!”

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have those things from time to time. But seriously? Most of our long term studies done on the benefits of plant-based nutrition were in rural China. Guess what? They are really far from Whole Foods. In fact most of the healthiest populations on Earth are more than likely not relying on veg. cafe’s and organic markets.

So chin up! Put your best foot forward and put the excuses and “buts” down.

2. Figure out what your local store does well. So many the fresh produce is nothing to write home about. But maybe they have a great grains, beans and frozen vegetable and fruit selection. Awesome, you have enough to get you going. We have yet to find a store that does not carry non dairy milk, but you really don’t NEED non-dairy milk, you can make oatmeal just fine with water. Rip’s big bowl? You can use water and squeeze some grapefruit juice into it (this is what Rip does in a bind). The other thing – ask your store to carry something. We were in a very small coastal town in North Carolina in the winter, we’re talking BARE BONES, often the employees outnumbered the shoppers by a good number. One day, while talking to one of the cashiers I mentioned Ezekiel bread, she asked her manager and a week later they had Ezekiel bread. Turned out that other people on the tiny coastal town wanted it as well, it became a best seller. It can’t hurt to ask.

3. Join a CSA. If you can join a local CSA, that is great! Better yet, grow your own food! We’ve become so far removed from food, sometimes we forget if we have a yard we can start our own garden. We know not everyone can do this, but if you can, or if you can join together with some friends, it is well worth it. Good news, kale is VERY forgiving.

4. Shop online. My husband and I signed up for Amazon Prime – you get 2 day shipping on pretty much everything and it is really inexpensive (I think 79 dollars for the year). We order a lot, and we usually get it for cheaper prices than we can get at a major chain store. We order Uncle Sam’s, Barbara’s, beans, grains, oats, spices, nutritional yeast and more. Pretty much, if it is dry, we have found it. We have some of our favorite foods in our Amazon store (including some good traveling/camping food options).

5. Eating out. If you have lived in your town for a while, chances are you know the people at the places you eat out. And chances are they have vegetables in the kitchen, the might even have brown rice or potatoes. Go to the manager and tell them your situation, ask them if they could make something for you. We have yet to find a place that wasn’t willing to help us out. We’ve had some of our best meals in tiny places that had nothing on the menu we could eat, however when we asked for something off the menu? We were all set. Remember to leave nice tips and nice yelp reviews for businesses that help you out, they will want to continue to help you out.

6. Get creative, or not. My husband and I structure almost all of our meals the same way: grain/starch, bean, vegetable, leafy green. For breakfast I like oatmeal or quinoa he has a big bowl ever morning. Our lives are much less complicated, but not lacking flavor and we never get bored. We are also big fans of Jeff Novick’s Fast Food DVD and Burgers and Fries DVD. No need for special ingredients or equipment (we have 1 pot, 1 pan and a spatula).

7. Make it simple. Pick 5-6 meals to rotate in and out for a while. When you are tired of those meals, pick 5-6 more meals to rotate in and out. Sometimes we tend to over complicate things. Remember a lot of the healthier societies are mostly surviving on rice and beans and doing well. Part of the problem is that in our over sold to society, we have been introduced to 1000′s of tastes (most not good) we’re constantly looking for substitutes, when what we should be doing is looking for our tastes to change.

8. Start a dinner club. Not everyone in your circle of friends/church group/volunteer group has to be plant-strong do do this. See if your group of friends would be up for a plant-strong meal exchange. Put people ‘in charge’ of different dishes, even if it is just once a month. So someone gets the main dish, someone gets dessert, someone gets a side (and so on) and everyone makes enough for 5 people. You get together and exchange your dishes. Give them the plant-strong guidelines. Who knows, maybe they will all be up for a 28 day challenge! It is a fun way to get your friends involved with healthy eating.

9. Stock up. There have been a few times where my husband and I knew we were going to be a few hours from a grocery store. So we buy some freezer bags, ice and we stock up. We also have a bunch of dried goods sent to us. We did this once for a 2 month stay, and things worked out just fine.

10. Prep ahead. To make things easier for yourself, prep your food ahead of time. Pick a couple of hours on the weekend, get the entire family involved. Chop, dice, mix, stir. Prepare meals, you can freeze almost anything just fine, but for the week most things hold up just fine in the refrigerator.

Bottom line, while living in the middle of nowhere can present its own obstacles, it should not stop you from getting plant-strong!

Do you live in the middle of nowhere? What is your strategy?

Natala Constantine
A few years ago Natala was on almost 15 medications daily, had out of control Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, issues with nerve damage, and was morbidly obese. She decided to take her life back by adopting a plant-based diet, and has since lost over 200 pounds and no longer needs medication. Natala became passionate about nutrition, received her Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell University, and now works with Rip Esselstyn and The Engine 2 Dietteam.
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