Photo Credit: The Truck Patch
At TSWB, we love to spotlight people who are doing big things in the wellness space around the South. Often, those people are simply living their lives and running their businesses under the radar. But we believe they’re truly impacting the wellness movement in an incredible way by helping people to implement positive changes, both big and small, in their lifestyles.
And one of those people is Sarah Adler. Sarah, along with her husband Michael, opened the first location of their business, The Truck Patch, in 2010 in Mountain Home, Arkansas, in the hopes of bringing people in the area an opportunity to shop for healthy alternatives to conventionally, mass produced food.
And they’re bringing those healthy alternatives to their community quite successfully. They now have two locations of The Truck Patch with the second location in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Through their businesses they’re also educating people in these areas about healthier eating and lifestyle changes.
We chatted with Sarah about what inspired her to start paying closer attention to healthy food and lifestyle, the number one thing she believes is most important when it comes to healthy eating and her top tips for eating healthy on a budget…
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO OPEN THE FIRST OF LOCATION OF THE TRUCK PATCH IN MOUNTAIN HOME, AND NOW THE SECOND LOCATION IN JONESBORO? WHAT DID YOU FEEL NEEDED TO BE BROUGHT IN TO THE COMMUNITIES WHERE THESE LOCATIONS ARE?
For a lot of people in these areas, natural foods and learning to live a clean and healthy lifestyle is new information, and it can be really overwhelming when people are first getting started. What I’m most passionate about is teaching people how to get back to the “old time ways”, and eating real food again.
WAS THERE ONE THING IN PARTICULAR THAT LED TO YOUR INTEREST IN HEALTHY LIVING AND EVENTUALLY, OPENING YOUR OWN NATURAL FOODS STORE?
I read Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and it changed the way I thought about food and healthy living. I learned that food is medicine and that what you eat influences your health. This is really a common sense thing, but many of us have lost sight of this concept.
I’m very passionate about the fact that food is so critical to our health. I believe that just because we might be predisposed to certain genetics, we still do have the power to alter our paths if we live a healthy lifestyle.
IF YOU COULD SUM UP THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT HEALTHY EATING, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?
Just eat real food, which most of us just aren’t really doing. People eat a lot of processed foods, and many of those might even be organic processed foods. But they’re still processed, organic or not. We are a processed food nation and it’s clearly bringing us down.
After I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I started reading labels very closely. I looked for what was in different products. And I just got exhausted with seeing product after product with labels of unhealthy ingredients. As I continued to learn and apply what I was learning to my own lifestyle, I found that I often wound up at a farmer’s market or natural foods store in search for the healthy foods I was looking for.
And this eventually led to my husband and I opening the first store in Mountain Home, Arkansas, eight years ago. We really have a passion for it. I truly believe that food is medicine and that bringing good food to people can change their lives. I see it nonstop with our customers. They make changes to their diet and their lives, and I’ve even seen some of them even end up going off their medications. I’ve seen people clear up their digestive issues simply from altering the food they’re eating. It’s powerful.
YOUR FIRST STORE WAS OBVIOUSLY DOING WELL AND SERVICING PEOPLE IN THE AREA. HOW DID YOU DECIDE IT WAS TIME TO OPEN A SECOND LOCATION?
With the lack of healthy options in many areas, it’s really no mystery why we have so many health problems in this country. People just don’t always have access to the healthier options. In the Jonesboro area, we saw a big gap here. When we visited the Jonesboro area, we wondered why there were little to no healthy options.
Many of our customers in the Mountain Home store were actually from the Jonesboro area, and they were either making the three hour drive over to the store, or they were visiting the area where our first store is located. They were requesting these healthier options, so it just made sense to look at putting a second location there in Jonesboro. We actually made our Jonesboro store a little bit bigger than the first, and the Jonesboro store has a cafe as well that people find quite convenient. Our store works if people want to do all their grocery shopping here. You really don’t have to go to a lot of different places.
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO TELL YOU THAT THEY CAN’T AFFORD TO EAT HEALTHY?
To me, it’s just so worth it to eat healthy for many reasons. In the all around, you’re talking about your health and you’re talking about your time with your family. Those things are priceless; we have to prioritize them. And then think about your health versus what the fast food will do to you down the road, when you’re dealing with consequences of years of eating unhealthy, eating too many processed foods and fast foods. Medications and doctors bills are also quite expensive.
Of course I see people go through our checkout lines with all kinds of things in their carts, and what I notice is that when they have just vegetables, or vegetables and some meat, it’s actually not that much more expensive to shop in our store.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO EAT HEALTHY AND STILL KEEP THEIR GROCERIES WITHIN A BUDGET?
Absolutely. We run produce sales every week, we run meat sales, bulk item sales, etc. If budget is a concern, then I recommend that people pay close attention and hit those sales.
Also, check out Pinterest for budget savvy ways to cook healthy. Some things I recommend are to work in more meatless meals throughout the week. You can use beans from the bulk bins for a less expensive protein source, and those work for a number of different meals.
So often I see people come through the checkout line and they have mostly produce in their cart, and their bill is less than $50. People tend to lose it and send their bill higher when they get caught up in trying different treats like cookies, chips, etc. The more processed foods are what really starts to make it more expensive.
So, stick to your list. It can be hard but if you’ll shop with a carefully planned out list and stick to it, you might just be surprised at how low you can keep your grocery bill.
Lastly, I believe in eating seasonally. The foods that are in season are there for a reason; it’s what nature intended for us to eat at that time. And those options are typically less expensive than foods that aren’t in season at the moment.
DO YOU OFFER ANY KINDS OF SERVICES OR CLASSES TO YOUR CUSTOMERS, TO HELP THEM LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW TO EAT HEALTHY AND WHICH FOODS TO EAT, IF THEY’RE JUST STARTING OUT?
Occasionally we do classes, but our staff is well equipped to help people when they have questions about specific diets like paleo, vegetarian, etc. We will shop with people around the store if they find out they can’t have certain foods and they want our help and support.
THAT’S AN INCREDIBLE SERVICE YOU PROVIDE. DO YOU TRY TO “COACH” PEOPLE ON SPECIFIC DIETS?
I don’t try to discourage anyone from eating a certain way but instead I just try to support people. I don’t try to steer them down a path that I think is “better” for them. I just support them on their journey.
DO YOU PERSONALLY SUBSCRIBE TO A “RIGHT” WAY OF EATING?
Although I am somewhat interested in the blood type diet and have seen it actually be very accurate in many cases, ultimately I believe that there is no one way of eating that works for every person. I subscribe to the concept of bioindividuality, meaning that we all have different chemistry and therefore different things will work for different people.
Food sensitivities are a huge issue now. I think it would benefit most people to find out if they have food sensitivities.
WHY DO YOU THINK THERE’S AN INCREASE IN FOOD SENSITIVITIES?
Our food has changed so much over the last 60-70 years. We’re eating so much more processed food, things that have been hybridized and are far from the original form of food they started out as, and I think our bodies are rejecting these things. This of course is just my personal theory.
We also live lives with things that cause so much inflammation in our bodies, like stress, too little sleep, etc.
We were meant to be in nature, and I believe we should be outside more with bare feet in the soil. We’re so clean and sanitary and we’ve lost some of the good bacteria that we’re meant to have. If this is something you’re interested in learning more about, I recommend the book Eat Dirt by Dr. Josh Axe.
YOU MENTIONED THAT THERE’S A CAFE IN THE JONESBORO STORE?
Yes, we have a hot bar and a salad bar. We also have a grab and go section that we always keep stocked, and it does well because everyone is in such a hurry all the time.
DO YOU CARRY ITEMS THAT ARE LOCALLY SOURCED?
We do try to reduce our carbon footprint by carrying some local produce and really do try to do so as much as possible. We carry local eggs in store, and some local meats. We also carry coffee that is roasted locally, and we sell locally made essential oil blends.
WHAT ARE THE TOP PANTRY STAPLES THAT YOU ALWAYS HAVE ON HAND?
Nut butters, coconut oil, raw cacao powder and honey.
WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO SIMPLE AND HEALTHY WEEKNIGHT MEAL?
A quick kale salad with chicken, pecans, dried tart cherries and apples with a lemon maple salad dressing. I can pull that together quickly in a crunch!