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#31 of 37 Old 05-28-2011, 10:19 AM
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Hi Bokonon.  I've recently arrived in the OC (unfortunately) and have been looking for a CSA.  If you don't mind me asking, what CSA did you use?  Have you come across any canning shares?  I relocated from Denver, which had a lot of great options and I've been disappointed with the CSA's, farmers markets, and organic lifestyle here in the OC.  Thanks!

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#32 of 37 Old 05-28-2011, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by MsFortune View Post

Anyone have experience with CSAs and find this to be frugal?  


(CSA = community sponsored agriculture - you buy into a local farm thing where you get a set box of fruits/veggies on a set basis.  It is what is in season and you do not pick it)


I did this a few years ago, but I felt like my boxes were full of stuff that went bad, making it not a bargain.  But I did not know what to do with kale, bok choi, etc.


Anyone find a way to do this and be frugal?  The price is good, I just don't know what to do with all of it, so it gets wasted.

My neighbors subscribe to a CSA, and they are saving money on fresh produce. They gave us their pick-up coupons this spring when they were travelling and it's like a veggy grab bag. 


It is easy to find out what to do with the things in the CSA box. The farmer labeled things and all I had to do was google for the vegetable name and the word "recipe" and see what came up. Then I picked based on what sounded good, feasible, and what else I had on hand - because there is always rice and chicken, we did a lot of stir fry.

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#33 of 37 Old 05-28-2011, 03:10 PM
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Originally Posted by krunchyk View Post

Hi Bokonon.  I've recently arrived in the OC (unfortunately) and have been looking for a CSA.  If you don't mind me asking, what CSA did you use?  Have you come across any canning shares?  I relocated from Denver, which had a lot of great options and I've been disappointed with the CSA's, farmers markets, and organic lifestyle here in the OC.  Thanks!

I live in San Diego so I am not familiar with any OC CSAs.

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#34 of 37 Old 05-28-2011, 06:08 PM
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The CSA I used to belong to for a few years in spring and fall as I usually travel over summer was a good deal some weeks and a bad deal other weeks. They do have a webstore where I could change my order and get different items delivered, oh and they deliver which rocks! Most of the time I would just get what was in the assigned box but after a couple of times of getting way too many of one item and not enough to make a meal of everything else I decided to check out the webstore and get what I wanted each week. This lead to me spending more than my share's amount each week! I was using a large share of $40 each week for me and my daughter (were vegans). When I was shopping at grocery stores I would usually spend $50-60 on fruits and veggies each week so I think it is more frugal for me. But aside from fresh fruits and veggies which were about 75% of our diet we would eat a lot of bulk grains and nuts and about 10% processed 'meat' items.

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#35 of 37 Old 05-31-2011, 12:51 PM
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So much depends on the CSA... we live in a very "CSA dense" region with 20+ CSAs to choose from (and that's jsut the veggie ones, we also have meat, egg, bread, fruit, and raw milk CSAs).


Over the past few years we've belonged to two different CSAs... both cost roughly the same amount and had the same muber of weeks, but for us only one of them ended up being economical.  The CSA we've kept long term has both set weekly amount (one pound of this, one of those, a pint box of the other, etc) and "all you can pick" items.  Members are always welcome to come out to the farms (this CSA is a three farm cooperative) and harvest as much of the "you pick" items, herbs, and flowers as you want... so we'd get, say, 5 tomatoes in the weekly share but then as many more as we'd like to go out and pick.  It saves us money (especially on items like tomatoes where we can pick 50-60 lbs of local, organic, on the vine tomatoes a week for canning/oiling/drying) and it's a fun family outing... I take the kiddos and a picnic and we "go to the farm".


The CSA we had for one year and then never again was structured differently... no farm visits and while each week had an "all you want to take" item, the majority of the weekly share was pretty slim for the cost.  Maybe a melon, a head of lettuce, and "as much kale as you want".  While that's nice and all, it would have made more sense financially to go to the store, especially since the weekly shares never got much more involved than that... although we had a "family share" it was never enough veggie to make it through a week, and although I appreciate the organic/local/biodiversity aspect I still have a budget and a family to feed.  I need our CSA to provide all the vegetables we're going to eat during the CSA season as as much preserved for after the season as possible.


So from a strictly economical perspective, research each CSA option and get as much feedback from current and past members as possible.  And from a "how to eat" perspective, I think it takes some time to shift from the modern food market mind set where you base your meals (to a greater or lesser extent) on what you want to eat because every option is always available if you can afford it, back to the local/seasonal mind set where it doesn't matter how much money you have... these are what the plants are growing and you need to get creative within those limits!


I will say it's a great experience for our kids since on the one hand they enjoy Iron Chef and see the weekly share as a sort of kitchen stadium challenge and on the other they get to really explore produce in depth and in sequence... they enjoy and appreciate the fresh melons (or kale, or tomatoes) more in part because they only get them during that short season.  And during that season we eat them three times a day!  lol

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#36 of 37 Old 06-01-2011, 12:04 PM
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I think that it is easier for me to eat in a CSA model because I grew up with a mom that gardened, grandparents that farmed, etc.  So, when tomatoes come in, of course you eat them three times a day for the season!  When green beans come in, I expect to eat them every single day for a while.  My parents and grandparents never learned to succession plant, so we always had a huge, 3-4 week crop, then it was over. 

After that background, a CSA that gave me 1-2 servings of a vegetable at a time was sort of a let-down.  I had expected to be rolling in it, like you are when it's your own garden.  LOL.  I just had the wrong expectations of a CSA, that's all.


Betsy...who has eaten greens for at least one meal every single day for the last 5 weeks, but is seeing the end...All that's left is chard at this point.  But, I tasted our first turnip this week, and the cherry tomatoes are thinking of turning.  Yay for garden season!

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#37 of 37 Old 06-01-2011, 07:05 PM
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I love my CSA, although we're not doing it this year because my baby has some health issues and we're in the hospital enough that figuring out CSA food on top of it is too much. But we will next year for sure. Ours was really economical (especially for organic produce) because I was able to preserve so much of it. Ours worked out to about $45/box with delivery, and fed our family of three well + probably about 1/4 of our winter veggies (frozen).


I agree that there's a set of skills to it. You also have to like experimentation. Here's what helped me with ours:


1. The internet seems to have info on how to cook just about everything, but so does the library.


2. Like people have said we have a few "dump veggies in" recipes that go with most things. Our go-to ones are: soup (minestrone-type, or when a huge influx of something came in, cream-of-that.); "hash" - basically a stir-fry that includes potatoes and sometimes some sausage or ham or ground beef or tofu, seasoned differently depending on the ingredients; stir-fries themselves. Also salads and slaws. I agree that you have to be willing to eat a whack of whatever for that week. My son is still awed at what asparagus can do to your body. :)


3. I learned some neat ways to preserve or use vegetables. For example, the spring greens. Lettuces we just buckled down and ate salads, and sometimes I had to give some away. But other greens I was able to chop and blanch into cubes (ice-cube tray size) that I throw into stews to boost the veggie count. Or some, like spinach, you can use to make different kinds of pesto; freeze again and there's pesto for the winter. Sweet potato puree, frozen, went into baking; squash went into soups or baking. I also diced and blanched sweet potato for hashes, soups, stews and curries, and sliced and blanched some sweet potato fries. I blanched and froze corn, green beans, and peas. I froze strawberries on trays. With cherry and regular tomatoes, I roasted them with garlic and olive oil for a very simple sauce but next year I'll do actual marinara I think.


4. Meal plan on the day you get your produce, or get the list of what's coming.


5. When desperate, I gave away some produce. This actually ended up being frugal because I would say I got way more back in friendly reciprocation - banana bread and cookies and a bottle of wine. :)




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