Food prep salads

For the past year or so I have gotten pretty good (at least I think) at meal prepping and getting food ready for the week. I usually do a big prep on Sunday and maybe another one or two small ones during the week. The big prep will take me a couple of hours but it saves me so many hours during the week.

So why meal prep?

  • Keeps my meals healthy
  • Economical (no eating out)
  • Easy during the rushed work week

Our favorite lunches lately are big salads. I generally grill a few pounds of chicken breast and cut and measure it out each Sunday to grab to top salads. Any protein would work though.

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The secret to meal prepping is just to be organized. I find that salads generally last in the fridge 2-3 days. After that they get watery. So for this instance I was making two salads for myself, two salads for my husband and a wrap for my supper the next night.

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Empty your fridge of its contents. Well, that is what it feels like. A few tips I use for salads:

  • Chop once. Chop your veggies when you get home and package them. Same goes for herbs.
  • Use help. Buy the shredded carrots so you don’t have to cut them up. I also use sliced pickles so I don’t have to chop.
  • Layer. Lettuce first, veggies, sauces and then salty toppings like pickles and feta.
  • Dressing alternative. Instead of dressing I usually use cottage cheese, a little hummus or Greek yogurt dip and mustard.

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Here are my finished meals – 5 of them and only one mess. I keep the chicken on the side and warm it up in the microwave at work to top the salads. I also eat about 2 cups of green veggies (usually broccoli much to my co-workers dismay because he says it stinks) that I make in advance. Give meal prepping a try. It’s been a huge healthy step for us and a great time saver.

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Southwestern Black Bean Salad

Vegetables taste SO, SO good in the summer. This recipe could be served as a side dish, on top of meat or salad, or as a dip with tortilla chips. I prefer to eat it as a side dish. Lots of flavor and color!

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Corn and tomatoes are especially flavorful this time of year. The citrus dressing ties it all together with a little sweet, a little heat, a little bit and nice textures.

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I love all these beautiful colors!

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The Garden Grazer recipe

Vegan, gluten-free
Ingredients
15 oz. can black beans
1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced
1+ cup corn (I used frozen, thawed)
1 large orange or red bell pepper, diced
1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
1/2 large jalapeno, finely diced
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro, stems removed

{For the dressing}
Juice from 1 large orange
Juice from 1 1/2 limes
1/2 tsp. cumin, or more to taste
1/2 tsp. honey
1/8 tsp. salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. olive oil

Directions
Make the dressing: in a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients until honey and oil are incorporated. It should yield about 1/2 cup dressing. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine the beans (rinsed and drained), tomato, corn, bell pepper, onion, jalapeno and roughly chopped cilantro.
Add the dressing and toss to combine.
Best if chilled 1 hour (or overnight) before serving.
Stir well before serving, as some of the dressing gathers at the bottom.

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After chilling overnight (or for an hour or so) this is best eaten within a few days. These would be GLORIOUS on tacos. Or at a get together for the 4th of July – just saying! Enjoy!

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Girl Scout Cookies and Beer Tasting

On Thursday, June 11, I made my way south to Bismarck to attend the Girl Scout Cookies and Beer Pairings for women only at McQuade Distributing Company. I’ve gone to a few of these beer pairings before and they are always a good time and always delicious. The event fits about 60 women and fills up FAST. The cost is $15 and all proceeds go to a charity event. This particular event, fittingly, went to rebuild Girl Scout Camp Neche in Bismarck which had major damage from the 2011 flood. So nearly $1,000 from just this beer event will help the girls out.

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Shannon with McQuade’s led the tasting, testing, Q&A, etc. We seated ourselves lunchroom style at tables that had two style of stemware, a plate of one of each cookies we’d be tasting and a bottle each of the beer pairing. We got our own bottle opener to open the beers. Water was also on hand to keep us hydrated or to rinse your glass and empty into the bucket.

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Here is what was on tap for our tasting:

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Starter (the beer above)

As we sign in, pay the fee and get a ticket for a door prize, we sipped on a Widmer Hefe Shandy. I am a fan of most all Shandy beers. They are light, fruity and some say girly. This has a 4.2% alcohol by volume (abv) and is low in international bitter units (ibu’s). I think a beer like this is perfect on a sunny, warm patio and refreshing if you just mowed the lawn or worked up a sweat. You might hear some fruit beers going by the name Radler. This is simply what a fruit beer is called in Germany while they are called Shandy’s here. They are the same thing. A radler/shandy has a large concentration of juice (usually lemonade or grapefruit juice) and the rest is beer. A great combo in my opinion. When pouring a beer, you do what there to be some head on the pour. This releases the aroma of the beer. As Shannon said, the bartender isn’t trying to cheat you out of beer, this is actually a proper pour.

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1st Pairing

Lemonade cookies with Southern Tier Sonnet. As our “teacher” instructed us we took a sip of each beer first to get a feel of the taste, spices, hops, etc. Then we tasted again but this time with the addition of the cookie. This beer did have a lightly peppery or spicy note to me when drank alone. With the cookie, it was more sweet and citrus-like. I enjoyed this pairing probably the most. I do love lemon cookies so that might be part of the favorite designation. I could see this beer as being dangerous at 8.5% abv and low ibu. It sipped much easier than 8.5% alcohol. For comparison, a Bud Light is 4.2% abv. Shannon shared that this beer could be cellared and brought out in a few years to drink. You can’t do this with just any beer though. If you kept a Bud Light in your cellar for two years, it would be skunky. Bud Light fresh? Not much can beat that on a warm summer day. But you can cellar the right kind of beer just like you would wine, with proper conditions. Wheat beer, IPAs, etc. will degrade over time. You need the correct brewing process and abv content. For our pairings this beer, the Lost Continent, Transatlantique Kriek and Certified Evil could be cellared. One fun experiment Shannon mentioned that she is going to try is tasting a cellared beer about 4-5 years old, the same brand 2-3 years old and the same brand fresh and note any differences. Things like that geek me out. If you cellar beer, you need to keep in mind: store the proper beer, have a goal of when you will drink it, no sun, temperature about 50-60 degrees with limited temperature changes, capped upright, corked upright, corked sour beer on its side, keep track of what you have (don’t waste the beer) and share with your friends!

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2nd Pairing

Thin Mint cookies with Empyrean Dark Side. Thin Mints are probably my favorite Girl Scout cookie so I am glad we were seated with one cookie (instead of one sleeve) to taste. Ha! This is a dark beer and I could smell chocolate, vanilla and coffee. So this is great for you coffee lovers. It’s amazing how well the cookie complements the beer. The beer is quite dense in flavor.

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3rd Pairing

Thanks-a-Lot cookies with Grand Teton Lost Continent. Why have I never ordered Thanks-a-Lot cookies? Those are good! The beer is very hoppy, 8% abv and 117 ibu, and wasn’t my favorite. However, one of the ladies sitting at our table really enjoyed this. That’s why beer tasting is fun. I definitely enjoyed it more with the cookie than alone. It had grassy notes and not the typical grapefruit bite I tend to get with hoppy beers.

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4th Pairing

Cranberry Citrus Crisps with New Belgium Transatlantique Kriek 2015. For any wine lovers, I suggest trying this interesting beer. It is a lambic ale made with sour cherries. It is tart with a cherry/cranberry taste and has a slightly sweet finish. The cookie was a perfect match. I got drawn for a door prize and picked a bottle of this. A few other fun things about beer are their names, the labels and the bottle size and shape. This is a large bottle, perfect for sharing just as you would wine. I think this would be lovely as an ice cream float.

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5th Pairing

Peanut Butter Sandwich with Deschutes Obsidian Stout

This beer is described as deep, robust and richly rewarding, a beer to linger over. You can definitely taste coffee, chocolate, malt and barley. 6.4% abv, 55 ibu. This paired great with the peanut butter cookie. Shannon said this is her favorite beer of those we were tasting this evening. She also suggested for newer or hesitant beer drinkers to serve the beer very cold. The colder the beer, the less the flavors. For those who love beer, you might want to serve this more towards 60 degrees or so. Two beers by this company Shannon mentioned that are great tastes for summer (and I fully intend to seek both of these out) are:

Deschutes River Ale

Here’s one that’s clean and refreshing enough for the long haul, but fully graced with hop aroma, malt heft and clear craft passion. Sit back, relax, and let the subtle pleasures reveal.

And

Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA (especially this one)

Deschutes is taking you into the next beer frontier. Brewed with wheat and pilsner malt; this IPA displays beautiful citrus aromas from Cascade and Centennial hops that meld with the esters of Belgian yeast. Think thirst quenching hopped-up wit beer with enough IBUs to warrant the IPA name.

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6th Pairing

Caramel Delights, aka, Samoas with Lucky Bucket Certified Evil

Certified Evil – that is quite a name to be reckoned with, right? At 9.1% abv (48 ibu) it could probably become evil quickly. This is a dark, malty porter meant to be sipped. The deep flavor went well with the sweet, caramel cookie. This was a smoky beer which I don’t care for too much, but the cookie mostly took that away. This beer has brown sugar, raisin juice, molasses, cardamom and orange peel in it. So think deep, dark, sweet, roasted notes.

This concluded our tasting. Many door prizes were also handed out. There will be another beer tasting likely this fall and Shannon is still thinking up ideas to serve/pair. Obviously it has to be easy since there are 60+ women at once. I think these events are so fun, a great way to be introduced to new beer and a way to appreciate the food/beer pairings. We’ve had a couple of sweet tastings so maybe next we could do something salty or appetizers/veggies/fruit?

I encourage everyone to at least try different beers. I think most people think of McQuade’s/Budweiser as just Bud and Bud Light but they really offer so much more and are very supportive of the craft beer movement. Check out their website for varieties of beer they distribute. www.mcquades.com. Getting a flight (or a sampler) of beers at places like JL Beers, Main Street Liquors, Reza’s Pitch or wherever available lets you try a small amount without committing to buying a full pint or six pack. If you do buy a six-pack for at home and don’t care for it – use it in cooking! There isn’t a (drinking) person I know of that doesn’t like beer. If they say that, they just haven’t tasted the right one yet. Keep experimenting! Finally, don’t be a beer racist – give beer a try before saying you don’t like it because it is dark. Guinness Beer is actually similar in abv and calories as Bud Light so don’t go using that as an excuse. Cheers!

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Grocery list essentials

I love grocery stores. I am not much of a shopper for clothes unless I am in the right mood. Home décor? Forget it – not interested. But food? I love to look at the prices, layout of a store and displays. Tell me I’m not alone? I will even make it a point to visit a grocery store in a town if I have never been there. Since grocery shopping is at least a weekly trip for me, I thought I’d share some of my staples of what I usually have on my hand written list. I don’t know why I haven’t transitioned to an electronic list in my phone, I just like doing it the old fashioned way I guess?

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I am a super nerd and generally list items in order as they appear in the grocery store. For example, I start at produce, then deli and move on. I have been making it an effort to avoid the middle of the grocery store where most of the highly processed items live. Well, with the occasional bag of chips here and there. Winking smile Krause’s is our local market and they are great. Check them out if you are ever in Hazen.

  • Bananas – a staple for me. I eat one or part of one every day.
  • Fruit – after bananas, I will generally purchase whatever fruit is on sale. I have been loving raspberries and blueberries lately. Before this year, I never ate them? I also love cantaloupe and watermelon.
  • Leafy greens – romaine, spinach, green leaf lettuce, whatever I can find that looks fresh.
  • Cilantro
  • Green onions 
  • Tomatoes   
  • Veggies – whatever is on sale or fresh looking/in season.  
  • Sweet potatoes/yams
  • Onions – we love onions and probably consume 4-5x what regular people do. White, yellow or whatever is on sale.
  • Wraps/pitas – we eat a lot of wraps and pitas. I buy the St. Joseph’s brand at Wal-Mart. Love these.

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  • Deli meat – we usually keep on hand some turkey and ham for snacking, sandwiches, wraps, quick bites.
  • Meat – we butcher our own beef so never buy that. We do purchase a lot of chicken breasts and depending what is on sale pork chops/loin and ground turkey or turkey breast.
  • Hummus – we both love hummus and I buy us each our own tub. Fair is fair, ha!

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  • Cheese – not a lot but I usually have a tub of nice, salty feta.

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  • Peanut butter – buy in bulk for us and the dog (he gets as a treat now and then).
  • Canned goods – if I need to stock up I will buy canned tomatoes, canned tomato sauce, canned refried beans and canned tomato paste. I try to stay away from canned veggies and fruit. We just prefer fresh or frozen. (I’m lucky that my husband has canned our own pickled jalapenos, Ragu sauce, Rotel and salsa. We eat all of these regularly from the garden he grows.
  • Condiments – mustard, hot sauce, pickled banana peppers and buffalo sauce.
  • Rice cakes
  • Eggs – we usually have two 18-packs as I call them. Love eggs.
  • Yogurt sauce – either the tzatziki from Sam’s or the roasted red pepper from Wal-Mart. Delicious on salads or wraps. Or for dipping.I haven’t seen these at our local grocer yet.

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  • Yogurt – I prefer Greek, he likes light.

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  • Butter – plain, salted good old butter
  • Cottage cheese

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  • Frozen fruit or veggies, whatever is on sale.

So that is a quick glimpse into what we eat the most often. I typically do 1-2 big shopping trips to stock up on items at Sam’s/Wal-Mart and then fill in weekly at our local grocery store Krause’s. We are quite lucky to have such a great grocer in our small town. What am I missing? What else should I try to eat?

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NDLegendary | Kayaking 4

My final post from the ND Legendary Bloggers and Writer’s Conference is on our kayak outing. You can find one, two and three here. As I said, we made our way to the beach were Dave from Missouri River Kayak Rentals was ready and waiting for us.

To me, on of the best ways  to enjoy North Dakota is to take a kayak trip down the Missouri River. There are many areas and/or boat landings along the Missouri River allowing a person the opportunity to take several different trips. If you have already taken a kayak trip down the Missouri River, North Dakota has many other lakes and rivers for you to explore.

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Missouri River Kayak Rentals makes it easy for us to kayak. They rent out of Bismarck, Stanton and Pick City or they offer shuttle services (for a fee) if you need a ride or want them to haul the kayaks. All kayak rentals include the kayak, paddle and life vest. A single day rental is only $40! Missouri River Kayak Rentals list some ideas for kayak trips, the cost and the expected time they might take. You can go anywhere from 20 minutes to an all day or overnight excursion.

My tips for kayaking:

  • Always wear a life vest.
  • Wear suntan lotion.
  • Bringing extra clothes in case it gets cold is always a good idea.
  • Put items such as cell phones and extra clothes in a waterproof container.
  • Bring snacks and something to drink if you are out more than a couple of hours.
  • Go with friends and family!

Most people who kayak the Missouri River travel with the current which flows North to South. Kayak trips will likely take longer if there is a south wind. I do not recommend traveling north unless you are quite experienced. It is a workout! By going south, you won’t have to paddle nearly as much. If bad weather happens on the day of your rental, no worries. We know ND weather can pop up and cancellations are not charged. Be sure to call though and let them know.

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Above – a teepee at Fort Lincoln. The bikes are not replicas. Ha!

I would be remiss not to mention another outstanding company that rents not only kayaks, but also canoes and stand up paddleboards in the Bismarck-Mandan area. I recently had to opportunity to interview the family that runs Paddle On and they are a fun group. They offer similar services as those listed above, but their deliveries are free in the Bismarck-Mandan area I believe.

New this year to Paddle On is a permanent rental site at Harmon Lake, just eight miles north of Mandan on Hwy 1806. If you are a first time paddle boarder this might be the place you want to start before working the current of the Missouri. Harmon Lake has a special of two paddle boards or a single person kayak for only $25 for an hour. Perfect for trying out either device.

If you don’t live in the Bismarck-Mandan area, you can visit North Dakota Tourism and see canoeing and kayaking opportunities here.

In conclusion, I recommend any writer or blogger to attend this conference. It was one of the most fun, yet educational, conferences I have attended. And if you aren’t a writer, please try kayaking, canoeing or paddle boarding one of North Dakota waterways! Enjoy!

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NDLegendary | Fort Abraham Lincoln 3

The North Dakota Department of Commerce hosted the seventh annual bloggers and writers workshop on Wednesday, June 3 in Bismarck and Thursday, June 4 at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park just outside of Mandan. This is part three of my recap and focuses on Thursday, June 4 at Fort Lincoln. Find Part One here and Two here.

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But first, before I headed out to For Lincoln, I woke up early at my parents house just outside of Washburn and went into town to run the running path. This has to be one of the best small town running paths. The views are incredible along the Missouri River. The grain elevator above and the river below.

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The water was glass and the sky beautiful. The bridge connecting Hazen to “eastern” North Dakota. I consider anything east of the Missouri eastern I guess. The bridge is 1,500 feet long and opened not all that long ago in 1971.

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Onto the conference! The main focus of the event was the conference on Thursday and ways to explore and write about all things North Dakota. We also had a few breakout sessions where we connected with other writers and could visit about tips, tricks and even failures. The featured speakers were Jenna Cederberg, editor of Montana Magazine and Joe Baur, a writer and filmmaker who has worked for various publications. I enjoyed both of them and they offered great tips for a newbie like myself.

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Welcome to the Commissary at Fort Lincoln. This building also has a gift shop and cute coffee shop. The iced tea was great.

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Sara Otte Coleman welcomed us and our speakers Joe and Jenna were great. I VERY MUCH enjoyed their presentations and learned a lot. BUT, I’m not sharing the tips they gave. I guess you’ll just have to attend for yourself next year. Muah ha ha! Here was our agenda for the day.

8:30 am Breakfast
9 Welcome & Introductions
9:30 Joe Baur, Writer, Traveler, Meddler
10:30 Break
10:45 Jenna Cederberg, Editor, Montana Magazine
12 pm Lunch
12:30 Roundtable Topics
2:00 Explore Fort Lincoln – Kayak & Biking OR Touring the grounds, lodging, etc.
3:45 Wrap-up

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Since I am Feisty Eats though, this is what we have for lunch: meat and veggies sandwiches, Greek pasta salad and pop/water. We also had a breakfast of egg bakes and hashbrown casseroles with coffee. They made sure we were fueled for the day. Since we were talking marketing North Dakota, I thought it was of note that the deli who made our meal didn’t have any advertising on their food wrappers or containers.

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At 2pm we were given a brief history of Fort Lincoln and what they offer. They really offer more than what you would think and is only 7 short miles from Mandan. Besides being rich in history, there are also campgrounds, trolley rides, hiking/running/walking and biking paths and a beach area great for boating, kayaking, fishing or just catching some rays of sun. This is a State Park so there is a required vehicle entry fee. Tours are available daily May through September. They offer many family activities throughout the year. Follow their Facebook page for more info.

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At this point you could either take the historical tour or the adventure tour. I went with the adventure tour which consisted of cycling the grounds a bit and kayaking for about 45 minutes. I loved my bike I got to use. Kim and I contemplated taking them or at least offering to trade something for them. We biked the short distance over to the beach area where our kayaks were waiting for us…to be continued in Part 4!

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BisMan Food Co-op

I recently became a member-owner contributor to the BisMan Community Food Cooperative. I am excited about their vision and mission and wanted to share a bit about them in this space in hopes you might contribute, or at least to make you aware of this cooperative. Find them on Facebook here or Twitter here.

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The co-op has been in the news recently by announcing a location, general manager and promoting their capital campaign raising money. The co-op will be in the (previously) Snooper’s Tons of Fun building down by the Bismarck Events Center / Denny’s / A&B Pizza. They hope to open the location the beginning of 2016. The member-owner fee is a one-time payment of $200.

I feel like most people in ND are familiar with cooperatives, but here is some brief info from the BisMan Food Co-op website.

A food co-op is a member-owned, member-controlled grocery store that operates for the mutual benefit of all members and according to common principles established for cooperatives. A food co-op provides community members with access to local, all natural, organic, and specialty foods. In turn, local producers gain broader access to the local market. Food cooperatives play an important role in helping to foster the relationship between local producers and community members.

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I live in Hazen, which is about 70-75 miles away from Bismarck. I don’t get to Bismarck all that often and I truly love and support our local grocer in Hazen, Krause’s Market. However, I feel like this is something I am passionate about and is a great opportunity not only for Bismarck and Mandan, but the surrounding communities. You do not have to be a member to shop at the co-op, but members do receive some benefits such as member dividends and discounts.

Mission of the Co-op (via their website)

The BisMan Community Food Cooperative is committed to providing a grocery shopping experience reflective of our community’s commitment to health and wellness.

Three Guiding Principles

Real Food: We are what we eat

The BisMan Community Food Co-op sells food…. real food. The co-op’s business model is rooted in the idea that we are what we eat. We provide convenient retail access to healthy and sustainable foods stocked regularly by local farmers & ranchers, other regional producers, and a national supplier.

Empowered Community Members

The BisMan Community Food Co-op is a trusted source of meaningful information about food, health, and wellness in the Bismarck/Mandan community. The Co-op recognizes the need for growing awareness on the impact of food in our community.

Strong Local Economy

The BisMan Community Food Co-op pays fair wages to employees, fair prices to producers, and charges fair prices to members and other patrons. We believe in supporting small farmers and sustainable agriculture.

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A Food Co-op will:

  • strengthen local economy by supporting local farmers and producers
  • create connections for both producers and consumers
  • provide a reliable marketplace for local farmers, artists, and other entrepreneurs
  • be an educational center focusing on empowering consumers to cook using whole, fresh foods and to provide transparency in our food system
  • promote healthy eating with a focus understanding the impacts of our food choices

Get Involved!

The BisMan Community Food Co-op is a start-up food cooperative being created by the community for the community. If you want a food co-op in your community, your involvement is necessary! We need 1,200 founding members to open our doors so please become a member today by clicking here.

Please at least look into BisMan Community Food Co-op and consider being a member. Giving our community more food options (especially healthy) is beneficial to us all. I definitely won’t stop making my trips to Krause’s or even Sam’s Club, but I can’t wait to shop at the Food Co-op when it opens!

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