How to Eat like a Wellness Blogger (with Groceries from a Corner Store)

by Fresh Planet Flavor
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Spicy Veggie Lettuce Cups: healthy meal made with vegetables from a corner store! (paleo, vegan)

Okay, first things first: I’m going to give you the recipe for the delicious Spicy Veggie Lettuce Wraps pictured above, plus some general recommendations for sourcing healthy food at corner stores. But the larger issue that I created this post to highlight is that San Francisco residents can’t afford to be healthy anymore.

Spicy Veggie Lettuce Wraps: healthy meal made with vegetables from a corner store! (paleo, vegan)

What?

But San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to live in the United States,” you say. “Silicon Valley and the tech industry have led the city into an age of unprecedented prosperity,” you say. “It doesn’t make sense,” you say. You’re right, it doesn’t make sense. But San Francisco’s innovation industry and resulting wealth is just one side of a drastic socio-economic inequality coin. On the other side, the descent of disadvantaged populations into poverty is accelerating.

(Lack of) access to healthy food is one of the ways in which the brutal divide between the haves and the have-nots in San Francisco is widening.  

For lack of alternatives, people in San Francisco’s lowest-income neighborhoods often shop at convenience stores more likely to sell chips and cookies than spinach and sweet potatoes. Have you heard of the concept of a “food desert“? Food deserts are areas devoid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods. The situation is so dire that several community-based organizations have partnered with the city itself to assist the corner stores in supplementing their typical offerings with fresh fruit and vegetables.

  • Healthy Retail SF crafts a customized definition of healthy on a per store basis, creates an expert advisory group which then designs program structures and tools, and implements neighborhood-wide outreach events in partnership with store owners. Each participating store receives a tailored Individualized Development Plan that outlines activities, timelines, persons responsible and budget in three areas: business operations, physical changes to the store, and community engagement and marketing.
  • The Tenderloin Healthy Corner Store Coalition (the “Tenderloin” is a district of San Francisco that suffers from an acute lack of fresh and healthy food options) specializes in empowering community members to meet the great need for neighborhood grocery stores. The Coalition supports activities by residents that increase access and availability to fresh healthy food, in particular supporting convenience store conversions to grocery stores through special grants and expert consultation. 
  • EatSF is a healthy food program providing low-income San Franciscans vouchers for free fruits and vegetables. The vouchers (redeemable at local markets) are provided to eligible residents through a network of community-based organizations, thereby promoting long-term health and wellness while fostering community and increasing the supply of fruit and vegetables at corner stores and other retail outlets in the underserved area of the city. Full disclosure: I am a communications and program implementation consultant with EatSF, however, my opinions are my own.

As a blogger working toward a future in which healthy food is sustainable and accessible for all, I felt a definite curiosity to experience the grocery options at San Francisco corner stores after learning so much about the efforts to improve their selection of fresh, healthy ingredients. What better way to find out than by rolling up my sleeves and crafting a recipe based on the selection of ingredients I source myself from participating corner stores? 💪

Which is how I found myself in the Tenderloin on a bright weekday morning, headed to Amigo’s Market at the corner of Ellis and Leavenworth Street. 

Amigos Market: a corner store in San Francisco's Tenderloin selling fresh fruit and vegetables.

Amigos Market: a corner store in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district selling fresh fruit and vegetables.

The market is tucked under residential units, and advertises discount groceries and fresh produce and meat. I won’t leave you in suspense, that’s exactly what they had. Inspired by some of their more unexpected options (hello, bird’s eye Thai chilies!) I picked out the ingredients for these Spicy Veggie Lettuce Wraps: a head of lettuce, a small purple cabbage, a carrot, a carton of mushrooms, a yellow onion, green onions, a sleeve of garlic bulbs, one knob of ginger, two limes, and the aforementioned chilies. My grand total?

$10.36 

Delighted with my haul, I hustled home and laid out all of the ingredients to photograph for a quality snapshot. I did remove some wilted outer leaves from the cabbage and head of lettuce. . . they looked a bit battered when I picked them out. This was the ONLY thing I did to improve the vegetables’ looks, since everything else was fully fresh, firm, and vibrant in color. 😍 

Before we get to the recipe, a few general guidelines (as promised) on navigating a corner store to find ingredients for healthy meals. Even if you’re fortunate enough to live to ample access to healthy food at farmers markets and grocery stores, corner stores can be a quick and convenient option if you remember some simple guidelines: 

  • Go meatless. Sometimes when “mystery meat” of uncertain origin and standards is all that’s on offer, it’s best for your health and the environment to simply skip it.
  • Peel away the outer leaves/skin. If the fruit or vegetable seems otherwise firm and fresh, don’t be put off by ragged and wilted outer leaves, or blemished skin. Sometimes it’s a diamond in the rough, and can be a wonderful addition to your recipe after its battered outer layer has been removed and composted.
  • Step outside your cuisine comfort zone. Corner stores can be a wonderful source of new-to-you ingredients featured in cuisines from faraway places. Use this as a reason to eat outside your comfort zone and experiment with an ingredient (or several) that doesn’t commonly find its way onto your plate. 

Spicy Veggie Lettuce Wraps: healthy meal made with vegetables from a corner store! (paleo, vegan)

I’m particularly proud of these Spicy Veggie Lettuce Wraps because they are created with vegetables sourced entirely from a corner store, and because they’re an example of what I strive for in the recipes I create for Fresh Planet Flavor: a balance of color, flavor, texture from healthy ingredients that come together in 30 minutes or less! #winning Which is why I titled this post How to Eat Like a Health Food Blogger. These are the kinds of recipes that I personally prefer. 💕

Spicy Veggie Lettuce Wraps: healthy meal made with vegetables from a corner store! (paleo, vegan)

Enjoy! 

Spicy Veggie Lettuce Wraps: healthy meal made with vegetables from a corner store! (paleo, vegan)

Spicy Veggie Lettuce Wraps

PinShareTweet326 SharesOkay, first things first: I’m going to give you the recipe for the delicious Spicy Veggie Lettuce Wraps pictured above, plus some general recommendations for sourcing healthy food at corner stores. But the larger issue that I created this post to highlight is that San Francisco residents can’t afford to be healthy anymore. What? “But San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to live in the United… Entrées How to Eat like a Wellness Blogger (with Groceries from a Corner Store) European
Serves: 2 Prep Time: Cooking Time:
Nutrition facts: 200 calories 20 grams fat
Rating: 5.0/5
( 1 voted )

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bird’s eye (Thai) chili
  • 8 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tbsp wheat-free tamari (or coconut aminos, for a soy-free version)
  • 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 4 lettuce leaves
  • 1/2 small purple cabbage, thinly-sliced
  • Green onion
  • Sesame seeds
  • Lime juice
  • Red chili flakes

Instructions

  1. Heat the sesame oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion, grated carrot, minced chili, and chopped mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and the onions are beginning to become translucent.
  2. Add the minced garlic and grated ginger. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the tamari and salt, stir to combine, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  3. Spoon the cooked vegetable mixture into the lettuce leaves, and top with raw purple cabbage to add back a bit of crunch. Finish with green onion, sesame seeds, a squeeze of lime, and red chili flakes (if you prefer additional heat)! Best served cold.

39 comments

Brit McGinnis May 8, 2017 - 4:41 pm

Yes! Gotta up my grocery shopping game now.

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Fresh Planet Flavor May 8, 2017 - 8:07 pm

Ha, give it a try! Healthy food can be found in unexpected places.

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Casey the College Celiac May 8, 2017 - 5:40 pm

A delicious reminder that healthy doesn’t have to be super expensive! As a college student with celiac disease, I need to cook healthy (or at least gluten free) on a tight budget and while it can be hard at times, it’s definitely possible!

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Fresh Planet Flavor May 8, 2017 - 8:10 pm

Wow, I ate so much unhealthy food in college that I can hardly imagine navigating celiac disease in that environment. Glad this post provided some encouragement!

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Gunjan May 8, 2017 - 10:20 pm

Love this article. it reminded me of my goals and I am back on track. Thanks for sharing!

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Willow May 8, 2017 - 11:03 pm

This recipe sounds amazing! I lived in San Francisco many years ago, so I know how expensive it is. I would say another tip for living in an expensive city (although I am not the best at it) is to grow your own herbs. Since they can be expensive, it is worth the investment, and many can be grown indoors.

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Fresh Planet Flavor May 9, 2017 - 4:28 am

So true! There are many small ways you can save a little money around the kitchen…

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Renee May 9, 2017 - 12:07 am

I seriously love this. SO smart. I live in such a small, rural town and for the most part, I can get away half the year (the growing season) from farm stands dotted along the roadside. We don’t have many stores or corner stores. We drive into town for big box grocery stores in the winter, but from about May until November, farm stands are everywhere and you can save and stock up for SO cheap! I will send this along to some Cali friends that I have – thank you for showing how it’s done!

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Fresh Planet Flavor May 9, 2017 - 4:33 am

Thanks! Sounds like you live in the opposite of a food desert, lucky, lucky you. 🙂

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~ Carmen ~ May 9, 2017 - 12:47 am

So colorful & nutritious! I haven’t made veggie wraps in such a long time. :]

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Jamie @ The Skinny Soul May 9, 2017 - 1:12 am

Love your tips–and your photography is absolutely gorgeous! I’m pinning this recipe for later. 🙂

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Kate May 9, 2017 - 3:03 am

So many good points here! It’s really a mind set, isn’t it? This recipe looks delicious, too!

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Krysten May 9, 2017 - 3:34 am

It’s sometimes really hard to grocery shop here in San Francisco, I feel like there are a lot of food deserts around. I love this blog post, I am going to follow some of your instructions.

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Fresh Planet Flavor May 9, 2017 - 4:35 am

There are definitely areas in the city that are underserved!

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Mira May 9, 2017 - 5:16 am

Mmmm…these sound so good! Perfect for a picnic.

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Fresh Planet Flavor May 9, 2017 - 6:23 pm

Yep… super portable and delightful for lunch, especially on a cooler day.

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Lisa May 9, 2017 - 12:11 pm

Beautiful photography and looking forward to trying the recipe. We’ve recently moved to a more rural area and have lots of farms we are looking forward to buying from. We are very lucky!

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Darryl May 9, 2017 - 3:14 pm

Great to see articles catering for those on a tight budget – sometimes healthy eating can be deemed elitest and our messaging needs to cater for the masses too. Thanks for such a fantastic post!

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Jean May 9, 2017 - 4:49 pm

So many great tips, Rachel. So true about how expensive SF is. That’s one of the reasons we moved away. I can’t wait to try out this healthy recipe!

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Fresh Planet Flavor May 14, 2017 - 10:33 pm

San Francisco can be budget-friendly but it takes quite a bit of effort. Interested to hear about your foodie adventures elsewhere!

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Cristina Curp May 9, 2017 - 10:07 pm

Hawaii is crazy expensive too… but I’ve learned to shop around and find the deals. These lettuce wraps look amazing btw! yum!

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Michele Spring May 9, 2017 - 11:29 pm

Such an informative post – I know some people are still going to have issues finding stuff, but it really helps give hope that if you can make a delicious looking meal like this from a corner store, maybe they can too.

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Fresh Planet Flavor May 14, 2017 - 10:35 pm

Exactly! Here’s hoping it inspires folks who suffer from lack of access to fresh ingredients.

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Tina May 10, 2017 - 12:42 am

Good post! Also, that Spicy Veggie Lettuce Wraps recipe looks awesome!

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Megan Stevens May 10, 2017 - 10:48 pm

Love the focus of this post. We really can find quality in most pockets of the world.

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Georgina Young May 11, 2017 - 4:13 pm

Love this Rachel! I need to start going to my local farms and shops really. Great to see a budget recipe too – a lot of people think that Paleo needs to be expensive which really isn’t the case at all!

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Fresh Planet Flavor May 14, 2017 - 10:27 pm

Nope, paleo doesn’t have to be expensive at all… usually it’s the fancy processed paleo ingredients such as specialty flours (don’t get me wrong, I do bake with them) that are pricey, whereas eating everyday whole food is definitely doable.

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Katja May 11, 2017 - 6:47 pm

Thanks for sharing this! So important to make healthy eating accessible to all people. It’s totally possible. You are a true food artist. I love how you make your food so fabulously pretty!

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ChihYu May 12, 2017 - 3:07 am

You are so creative and you made everything look so delicious even if they are from the corner grocery stores!

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Fresh Planet Flavor May 14, 2017 - 10:25 pm

Thank you! That was my goal, glad to hear I accomplished it. 🙂

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Jessica DeMay May 14, 2017 - 1:30 am

I love that you’re bringing attention to food deserts! I feel so fortunate to live so close to a variety of stores and I’m actually moving to a small town where they sell grass-fed beef, organic pork, and free range chicken at the gas station! These wraps look so delicious and creative!

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Fresh Planet Flavor May 14, 2017 - 10:24 pm

Those gas stations sound heavenly!

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Emily Recipes to Nourish May 15, 2017 - 5:00 am

Wow! That is awesome! Love the SF photos too, reminds me of my childhood when I lived there part-time. Such a beautiful meal.

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Vanessa Woozley May 15, 2017 - 1:00 pm

There are some great tips here, there is no reason not to eat healthily and it doesn’t have to be mega expensive too. Love the recipe you have put together..

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Kari Peters May 15, 2017 - 1:44 pm

These are so gorgeous and packed with flavor, and it’s always good to remember healthy eating doesn’t have to be overly expensive!

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Allison Wojtowecz May 15, 2017 - 2:46 pm

I love your mission to remove the gap of accessibility to healthy food! And this recipe looks so good <3

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Becky Winkler May 15, 2017 - 10:55 pm

Love this! So clever and inspiring!

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Carrie Forrest May 19, 2017 - 3:11 pm

This is is truly a great blog post. So full of interesting and valuable information. I’m so glad you shared.

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Hannah Healy May 19, 2017 - 3:16 pm

This recipe looks lovely. Tasty, fresh, and colourful and right up my alley!

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