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#1 of 37 Old 05-21-2011, 09:57 AM - Thread Starter
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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.

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#2 of 37 Old 05-21-2011, 10:12 AM
 
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I think it all depends on the individual farm and your family's food preferences. There are some great CSAs here. Many provide sample recipes, either in the box or on their websites.

 

We're not doing one this year, but I hope to next year.

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#3 of 37 Old 05-21-2011, 10:40 AM
 
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Where I live, mostly, you can buy the same amount of food at the farmers' market for about the same price.  CSAs run about $30 a week or so, and that's the going rate for the same volume of food at the market. 

 

I do like the idea of a CSA, but I found myself supplementing anyway, so it's easier for me to just have one stop (the market) where I can get everything I need for the week.  I know, I know, it seems like $30 worth of produce should last us the week, but it never did.  Maybe if I had gotten two CSA shares. 

 

I do think with CSAs you have to be really, really commited to using up everything every week.  At the end of the week, I find it useful to have several go-to recipes that you can use any vegetables in.  Stuff like frittatas, quiches, soup, stir-fry.  That will clean out the fridge in preparation for the new box.  I still do this every week before I grocery shop the next day.  It's helpful to start with a clean slate.  We very rarely throw anything away.  If I have something about to go, then I'll throw it in the freezer and use it for soup or whatever later

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#4 of 37 Old 05-21-2011, 04:20 PM
 
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I paid $25 a week and felt it was a poor value.  The stuff she gave me was valued at about $30-$35.  And that is at the prices she charges.  But really is any egg plant worth $7?  I threw away half of it probably.  

 

I am all about biodiversity but what is wrong with normal stuff i know how to use and that my kids will eat.  Would have been a way better deal to just buy it at the farmers market.  Heck I wouldn't even need to mess with the farmers market.  I could just buy it at the co op.  I had no use for red celery and spicy lettuce.  I got a ton of baby bok choy and chinese cabbage which was great but I can only eat so much of it before I hate it.  Most of what I got was leafy greens.  A

 

Our farmers market is really upscale though and generally overpriced. 

 

 

ON THE OTHER HAND, there are some things you can do to avoid the situation I found myself in.

 

Ask questions.

find out exactly what was in the boxes last year (they really should keep a record of this.  at least generally) and what it was valued at.

Find out what they plan to plant this year.

Ask them if they label the produce (for the love of pete I had no idea what half the stuff was!!  It makes it hard to google a recipe if I don't even know what it is).  

Ask them if they give you recipes for anything exotic.

If you pick up at the farmers market ask if you can make subsitutions.  This will help eliminate waste (I am still bitter about the vast amount of spicey lettuce I got last year.  And the fact that it wasn't labeled and ruined more than one bowl full of good lettuce)

call every CSA in the area and ask these questions.

start small.  if they have a half share start with that.  You can always go big next year if you like.

 

That brings me to another down side of the CSA I was a part of.  I never had enough of one thing to make anything with.  It was annoying.  I had five people to feed.  One egg plant at a time was not going to cut it. (unless I put it on a bed of spicy lettuce :/ )

 

 

The one I was looking at this year is a lot more down to earth and not nearly as interested in growing exotic stuff.  She grows lots of regular potatoes, regular lettuce, tomatoes, regular beans and peas.  she is a mom with a bunch of small kids and knows how kids eat and what families need.  and she is half the price. So it pays to shop around.

 

Also ask about pesticides.  CSA #2 is not certified organic but farms organically.  I know she is honest about it because I have known her for so long as has everyone else I hang out with.  But organic certification is expensive and time consuming.  I would rather save the money and get more bang for my buck.  Don't be scared to let go of that certification.  I want strangers to be certified but don't need it from my friends.


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#5 of 37 Old 05-21-2011, 04:28 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BetsyS View Post

 

I do like the idea of a CSA, but I found myself supplementing anyway, so it's easier for me to just have one stop (the market) where I can get everything I need for the week.  I know, I know, it seems like $30 worth of produce should last us the week, but it never did.  Maybe if I had gotten two CSA shares. 

 

 


$30 worth of produce doesn't last us a week.   and I get most of my produce at sams club.  However I could not use the CSA stuff in a week.  Most of it wasn't munchable and didn't necessarily work together.


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#6 of 37 Old 05-21-2011, 05:39 PM
 
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I had a CSA for a quarter last year and really enjoyed it, because I had more time to cook then, and I liked having to cook with vegetables I wasn't familiar with.

 

Living in Southern California, we have good produce available all year, which helps.  As far as the cost, it seemed to be worth it to me because I would work my menus around the produce instead of starting with the protein, so I made more meatless meals.  I don't know how it would have compared to buying the same items at the farmers' market, but it was definitely more convenient.

 

I'd like to rejoin, but my 2yo just doesn't allow me that much time to prepare and cook food these days.


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#7 of 37 Old 05-21-2011, 07:47 PM
 
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thats another thing I wanted to add.  When I got the CSA i was working part time.  Before i got my first shipment I had moved to full time.  If I had had the time to really plan and cook I probably would have used more of it.  But I really didn't have time for creativity or research.


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#8 of 37 Old 05-22-2011, 07:08 AM
 
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We have a cookbook, From Asparagus to Zucchini, that has recipes for all the weird stuff.  I did enjoy learning to cook and eat new foods, they are not difficult to prepare, just different.  I felt healthier when I was eating all those vegetables, so probably the extra cost was worth it, even if we didn't eat up everything.  (We're not doing a CSA this year, for a number of reasons.)  The hard thing for us was getting to the pickup location in the specified time window--we are a one-car family, and my husband often works long days that start early and end late.

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#9 of 37 Old 05-22-2011, 10:18 AM
 
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I loved our CSA.  It did cost us more for our CSA then what I would have paid but I was supporting local farming so I was okay with it. The other thing I loved about it, it always had produce in it that I would have never tried and I would have never would have bought. Plus our CSA always comes with recipes for the unusual items so that was a bonus.


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#10 of 37 Old 05-22-2011, 10:44 AM
 
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We have a CSA that is year-round. Our CSA offers choices:

 

1) Large box ($30) or small box ($25)?

2) Every week or every other week?

 

We pay by the quarter (every 3 months) and can change the above each quarter.

 

We chose a large box every other week and we split the box with another family (friends). So, we pay $15 per half-box for local, seasonal, organic produce. Compared to organic store-bought produce, this is an EXCELLENT deal around here. Compared to conventional store-bought produce, it is about the same price (which is a deal, in our opinions). I weighed the entire box contents for awhile and compared price per pound. Not super accurate, but we receive more interesting/varied/expensive produce than we would otherwise purchase, so my estimate is conservative. Farmer's markets were harder to compare because we found many suppliers who were not advertising their organic status, but did practice organic methods. I asked every single farmer. Ultimately, though, our CSA costs us less because the pick-up point is about two miles from our house and any farmer's market is much further away (closest is 5 miles away and it was very limited; the one we ended up loving is 12+ miles away). The once a week farmer's markets (each location is only "open"/there one day a week) were more challenging for us than the once every other week CSA pick-up. The time window works for us 90% of the time and since we share it with another family, one of us has always been able to pick it up.

 

We actually pick up every other time; our friends (also a family of 3) pick up every other time. We split every box. Other local friends of ours each have a small box per family (both families of 4) every other week (same schedule as us). They switch off picking up both boxes, so each family is only picking up every other time. Between the four of us, we share and swap certain produce. This is particularly helpful for getting enough of one item when necessary and also for not letting certain things go to waste.

 

Our neighbors get a large box every other week (opposite of our week, tho) and the time works for either adult to pick it up on the way home from work.

 

Our CSA includes recipes sometimes in the box and always has some recipes on the website. We can also look up our box contents online every week. It isn't always EXACTLY accurate, but usually close enough to figure things out. We can look up the estimated contents before pick-up to plan meals and/or to figure out what the contents ARE.

 

As for using everything, we employ the same strategies mentioned upthread: quiches, pot pies, stir-fry, and soups for the random items near the end of their usefulness. DH & I both cook (he more than I) and DD (age 10) likes to cook, so we often create new meals with whatever is in the box the first night we get it. It can be a fun challenge! :)

 

Something our family has noticed is that most of the produce from our CSA lasts a lot longer than store-bought produce. Our CSA farmers pick it just a day or two before we receive it. It is super fresh!!! Some produce is more familiar tasting after it has had time to ripen/mellow a bit. We leave more of it out of the fridge than we used to leave store-bought produce...at least for a few days. Nearly everything lasts (freshness wise, not necessarily eating wise LOL) the two weeks between deliveries and some lasts way beyond. We're slowly learning better storing techniques for the specific produce. We get a lot of fruit in our CSA and I have learned that DD & I simply cannot eat it all (DH only likes citrus), so I toss about half of anything we get into the freezer right away. We use those fresh-frozen fruits in smoothies during the off-season and/or in jams, etc.

 

It does take an adjustment period and a willingness to adapt, but it can be fun and challenging and rewarding! We all eagerly await the "surprise" produce now. :)


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#11 of 37 Old 05-22-2011, 11:09 AM
 
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Wow... I'm shocked at all these responses.  We belonged to two different CSAs in NJ and one here in IL (we're doing two different one this year because the drop-off point for last year's is sold out & I'm not going to travel 30mins/week to pick it up).  In NJ, we also did a co-op where the co-op owner bought for 900 families bi-weekly, portioned it out into 15-family portions, delivered it to a drop-off point, and the coop members broke it down into individual portions.  MAN, do I miss that.  But it was the same thing as the CSA in that you didn't know what you were getting all the time.  We have never lived near a farmer's market with enough ORGANIC produce to rival the coop or CSA (or even Whole Foods for that matter--which has woefully little organic produce irked.gif )

 

Here are some points that have made this easier and more successful for us.

 

First, yeah--it's definitely a lifestyle adjustment to using up fresh produce; and furthermore, to use what you're not exactly expecting to get.  But you get a rhythm for it.  When I was the coordinator for the coop in NJ, I would give new members 3 of those "green bags" their first delivery so that they wouldn't have their stuff rot before they could use it.  I meant to look up how that works to see if it was pretty much negating the purity of our food.  I never got around to that.  (anyone know?)  They definitely saved us more than once when we had a family drop from the coop and wound up with two shares of food unexpectedly.

 

Second, have a good cookbook on-hand.  I had no clue how to use kale, collards or chard.  I do now.  I think the only things they can now give me that I don't have a way to use are kohlrabi (which is rare) and fennel (which I just hate).  But I found a recipe that I could use for all the greens that was easy, and one that I could use for all the squash that was easy.  Beyond that, it was uncommon for me to not know how to use what remained.  And if you don't get enough of an item to use it on it's own, that's when it becomes part of a frittata or some other dish.  We had a few incidents of having to make an item on it's own as a tiny portion that we could sample for taste and texture so that we knew what we could throw it into the next time we didn't have enough of it.  PITA?  Yeah... but not common, either.  It was the exception vs. the rule.

 

Third, find out when pickup is.  If it's on a Friday (or even late-day Thursday) then you have a better chance of success as a newbie because you have time on the weekend to figure it all out if you're really stumped.  But if it's on a Monday or Tuesday and you're someone that is very new to fresh produce in general and/or not familiar with a variety of produce, then that's a recipe for disaster.

 

Last, I see people talking about how they didn't know what half the stuff they got was.  I have to be honest:  1) I haven't had the experience of not knowing what MOST of the stuff was in the 4 groups I've belonged to; and 2) wouldn't you WANT to find out and expand your horizons and health?  Between the four groups we have belonged to over the last few years, we have grown to love ground cherries and kiwi berries, kale and collards (which CAN be cooked quick vs. the southern all-day method), and we have been forced to eat things we knew about, but were too lazy to deal with.  Our mindset on how we eat has changed.

 

Many of the CSAs now give you a chart of what they're expecting to harvest in different months.  Something like this:

 

http://www.angelicorganics.com/Vegetables/vegetablescontent.php?contentfile=veg_cal

 

(this is actually one of the more elaborate ones I've seen, but they all have some similar stuff nowadays)

 

If they don't have that, ask.  Or ask former members or repeat members.  No doubt you will wind up with lots of greens in the colder/early season and lots of squash at the end.  This is how eating local works.  That's just the way it grows (although in Southern CA, that may not be the case at all--but there is a season/cycle to the produce for sure).

 

It's an adjustment.  But your choice is to try to make the adjustment and work through that phase of it until you're used to it; or find an alternative.  Any diet adjustment can be hard.  We've become a culture where meals are an aside and we don't actually devote a great deal of time to their planning and preparation.  When I consult people on dietary interventions, this is by far the biggest problem we face: life as we know it today does NOT allocate time to the planning and preparing of meals.  We don't give that whole process any priority.  We don't regard it as paramount.  When you have to adjust to making time for it, it seems overwhelming.  But you learn; and just like the way you plan and prep your meals now--this, too, will become just "the way you do it".  You've spent your whole life dealing with your meals the way you deal with them now.

 

If you can look at these changes and find value in them enough to make the changes, then you'll stick to it.  Is saving money worth it enough?  Is eating healthier worth it?  Is learning about a diversity of different vegetables--either for health benefits or teaching your kids or even saving money because some of them are really cheap in the stores in the winter--worth it?  Only you can answer that.

 

We have, in 3 years, grown to a point where we are now doing two CSA shares/week and then using a community garden plot to grow food to store for the winter.  And actually, before we relocated were doing a weekly coop share instead of a bi-weekly.  We have just grown to using THAT much fresh produce with two adults & only 1 7yo--which is remarkable IMO (we have a 2yo that really doesn't eat any solid food, but that's a rant for another day  irked.gif).  Meanwhile, when I was a drop-off point for our coop, I had three families splitting one biweekly share and stopped because they didn't use it all.  Families that each had two adults plus at least one child eating only solid foods.  bigeyes.gif

 

 

ETA:  took me so long to write this post that I didn't see sunnysandiegan's post.  I have to say that I have NEVER had the experience of my stuff lasting longer than store-bought--not with any of the CSAs or the coop.  Just for comparison.  And at least two of the CSAs I know picked literally within hours of our pickup.


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#12 of 37 Old 05-22-2011, 11:45 AM
 
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I have belonged to two different CSAs.


The first was in Texas and was the only one in our area that I could find at the time. I *adored* the woman who ran it, but it was a very poor value. Over $30 per week and we often got only a very small half-filled plastic bag of food. Often it was "weird" stuff (Sorrel) that I had trouble using. We had to put in 20 hours a year at the farm, which I really enjoyed.

 

Now in MD we have many many CSAs to choose from. I've belonged to the same one for 3 years now. For a medium share we pay slightly less than $17 per week and get a box full of prodcuce. The box is about the size of a box of copier paper. It is rare that we can use it all. There is a great mix of veggies, they include fabulous recipies, and the foods are mostly familar and useable (aside from things I just don't like, such as beets). I feel that it is a tremendous value, and far less expensive than the same goods sold at the farmers market (even by this same farm) and far cheaper than organics at the grocery store. We team up with 4 of our neighbors to do pick-up duty, so we go less than once a month each and drop off the goodies at each other's doors.

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#13 of 37 Old 05-22-2011, 11:48 AM
 
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We LOVE our CSA!  I'm not sure if I save any money.  We get organic fruits (half share), vegetables (half share) and eggs (one dozen) every week.  Probably in a year, we'll have to move up to full shares, as DS (now 1.5yo) will be eating more, and we're already supplementing with some produce that I buy at the nearby farm stand and grocery store and our small garden.  I would say it's a little more expensive than buying conventional produce, but a little cheaper than buying organic produce from the grocery store.  Our pickup location is an 8 minute drive from our house, so not bad.  

 

It does take some adjustment.  I used to not be able to use it all (we've been getting it for a year now) and some would go to waste.  Now I use it all in less than a week.  

 

What I love about it:

*we're supporting local, sustainable ag

*our food is fresher

*we're eating more whole foods

*more homemade meals

*we're eating a greater variety of produce 

*we're eating more veggies

*I've become a better cook

 

 

So frugal?  I think it depends.   But SO worth it!


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#14 of 37 Old 05-22-2011, 12:13 PM
 
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Beets??? Potatoes/yams??? Oranges??? Avocados??? Apples??? And so many more.... We receive these in our CSA and they last longer than store-bought. Heck, even our CSA strawberries last longer than the ones we buy in the health food store. Local apple farms cannot provide the area with all the apples stores/consumers want, for one example, so a lot is shipped in from other areas. The food distribution system takes a lot longer than our CSA to get food from the farm to the table.

 

Quantity is rather variable, so it is hard to compare. One CSA's box size may be very different than another's. Plus, the season and locale can make a big difference in the output. We live where food can be grown year-round. Any warm-weather produce is likely to have a much longer growing season here than other places. Cool-weather produce is grown it at different times of the year here, but I'm not sure about the length of the growing period for comparison purposes. Each CSA decides how many members to have, which effects the quantity each box will contain...not to mention any crop failures or overabundance issues.

 

We share a CSA box more for the quantity of specific items rather than the overall quantity. We still buy produce from other sources, as well. We like having a mix of surprise produce and planned produce. ;)


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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunnysandiegan View Post

Beets??? Potatoes/yams??? Oranges??? Avocados??? Apples??? And so many more.... We receive these in our CSA and they last longer than store-bought. Heck, even our CSA strawberries last longer than the ones we buy in the health food store. Local apple farms cannot provide the area with all the apples stores/consumers want, for one example, so a lot is shipped in from other areas. The food distribution system takes a lot longer than our CSA to get food from the farm to the table.

 

Quantity is rather variable, so it is hard to compare. One CSA's box size may be very different than another's. Plus, the season and locale can make a big difference in the output. We live where food can be grown year-round. Any warm-weather produce is likely to have a much longer growing season here than other places. Cool-weather produce is grown it at different times of the year here, but I'm not sure about the length of the growing period for comparison purposes. Each CSA decides how many members to have, which effects the quantity each box will contain...not to mention any crop failures or overabundance issues.

 

We share a CSA box more for the quantity of specific items rather than the overall quantity. We still buy produce from other sources, as well. We like having a mix of surprise produce and planned produce. ;)



Do you use Be Wise?  That was our CSA.  :)


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#16 of 37 Old 05-22-2011, 01:09 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bokonon View Post





Do you use Be Wise?  That was our CSA.  :)

Yes! :)
 

 


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#17 of 37 Old 05-22-2011, 01:19 PM
 
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I've belonged to a CSA for a couple of years now.  I split a full share with another single mum family, and it works well for us.  We used to split it weekly, but now we are going to try each taking the full share every second week.  As someone else pointed out, a weekly half share is often not enough to spread among the three of us.  I'm also curious to see if doing it this new way results in less wastage, since we'll have a bit longer to go through it before the next load.  The first year we CSA'd there was too much waste- but I got much better at it the second year.  It just required a little planning and a good vegetarian cookbook.  Our CSA also does a weekly newsletter, which comes out a couple of days before the pick-up- it gives us a heads-up of what's coming for that week, and recipes, which is very helpful for those veggies I was less familiar with (swiss chard!).

 

I also keep a good size veggie garden in the backyard.  Between the CSA and that, I barely have to buy produce in the summer, and I do a fair bit of canning as well (mostly tomato stuff). 

 

Anyhow, I would say yes- it *can* be frugal, but isn't necessarily.  All depends on how you use it, and of course, what your priorities are.  I'm quite an experimental cook, so I love the challenge of cooking with new things.  Fresh, high quality food is important to me as well.  Could we eat cheaper?  Sure.  But I get huge satisfaction of knowing where my food comes from, and knowing the people who grow it, and to me that's priceless.  I'm on a very limited, single mum budget but I cut elsewhere so that we can do this. 


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#18 of 37 Old 05-22-2011, 02:08 PM
 
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I have done it several times for spring shares and fall shares of veggies and fruit and flowers for summer. We have our own veggie garden, so the summer veggie one is not worth it for us. Our CSA had an organic flower share every summer and it was wonderful! I had fresh cut bouquet of flowers that would last sometimes 10 days. But OTH, the fruit share which was wonderful lasted maybe until the next day because my kids love love love fresh fruit. A few times we went to pick it up and the kids ate 1/2 the blueberries before we got home.

 

There was several different things like kale, weird squaushes in the late fall etc but once we got over that intital what to do with it, we looked forward to it. Since they discontinued the flowers, I started to go to a local food delivery fresh picks who uses similar farms but if you enjoy being creative and making due with what you received that week, its a lot of fun. We now have a weekly farmers market near my house we walk to and I want to support that so we do that as well. Also, the CSA I was part of now is sold out months in advance so I dont feel bad not doing it. Glad for them though.


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#19 of 37 Old 05-22-2011, 03:40 PM
 
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It sounds like CSAs are all so different.

 

THe last one we were in,I drove 60 miles for pickup, because there wasn't one near me (there is now).  They only grew boring, regular stuff.  No interesting varieties.  We have a garden, as does my mom, so I had plenty of boring stuff (tomatoes, cucumbers, greens, etc).  I was looking for things that are harder to grow on a small scale, like okra and peas and corn and interesting varieties of vegetables.  They didn't have any of those.  Our $30/week was a brown grocery bag of food.  That wasn't enough for us, even when it was just 2 of us, though it was billed as the "large, enough for a family of 4" plan.  These days, I feed 5 (my last CSA was 4 years ago), so the farmers' market makes more sense.  It seems like, around here, they save the exotic, specialty, hard to grow items for market, and the CSA gets the regular stuff.  So, since I like that other stuff, it makes more sense to spend my money at the market.  And, I still get about the same amount of food. 


But, I love the surprise, so it's always tempting.  :)

 

edited to say: we also eat a lot.  We planted 34 tomato plant this year, and they will all be eaten fresh.  I'll have to buy tomatoes for canning.  The 34 will just be fresh.  So, I do like quantity.  LOL

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#20 of 37 Old 05-23-2011, 07:46 AM
 
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My crew belonged to a CSA from 2003 to about  2007.  Then the rules of the CSA changed (it was year round and had a $2000 year min).  Since we already had a source of ethical meat it no long made sense. The first year we wasted more.  Later years we wasted way less.  One thing we did was have a dinner focused on a "big salad" with greens and whatever else from the share that made sense in a salal plus a hard boiled egg or two (most weeks we bought a dozen eggs from the CSA farmer too).  Anyway knowing how to cook with greens was a big help at not wasting stuff as we freezing most of the green beans right off the bat so that we would eat the other stuff.  The one thing that never got used to was kalorab (sp).  I will eat it, but don't share the regional love for it.

 

This year after debating between two different CSA's we went with the one that is about two miles away and was only $250.  The other choice was farther away (but had mushrooms which was real intruging to me). The gal that runs the close one does lots of volunteering at my kids school and kids the know/like her so that helped make that decision.

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#21 of 37 Old 05-23-2011, 11:10 AM
 
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For us, our CSA memberships have been frugal.  We've generally been able to use most our share, and end up only needing to shop for extra fruit, bread, cheese and stuff they wouldn't have.  

 

Our farmer is pretty smart, I think, about the variety of foods and our share keeps us in onions/garlic past the CSA season.  I too find a lot of what we get (eggplants, tomatoes, cucumbers to name a few) last way beyond any I'd purchase.  

 

We're lucky not to be as picky as other members (about more unusual crops or spicyness) and I think we get extra sometimes of those things, as well as other stuff that he knows are favorites (arugula, spinach, carrots).  There's also a 'take as many tomatoes as you can use' policy toward the end of the season that we appreciate (though we grow some of our own too).  There'll also be boxes of 'oddities', like weird shaped carrots or stuff that broke apart, that we can take any of for nothing.  Perks like that probably help maximize what we get out of our share, since we really do use up certain things.      

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#22 of 37 Old 05-23-2011, 12:04 PM
 
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I think CSAs are a skill, actually. They can be frugal, but obviously not if you don't know how to use them or don't like seasonal produce.

 

Yes, CSAs will give you just greens in the first part of the season. That's just biology, actually. Many people may criticize that, but all plants start the season by growing leaves. Only later do they develop their fruits or tubers. We do get a few special treats like asparagus and radish and green garlic. It's the season of greens.

 

This is my third year with a CSA. If it's going to work for you, you have to adapt to it. You can't expect it to fit unobtrusively into your diet if you're just looking to replace your frozen corn kernels or your can of green beans. It won't leap out of your fridge and start stir-frying itself.

 

I think the most success with CSAs comes when you see it as the central part of your diet. Instead of going "will we have chicken or beef tonight?" you're thinking "ok, I've got kale, bok choi, radishes, green garlic, lettuce, (etc)... I could do a stir fry, or maybe an omelette or souffle or a quiche would be good, or maybe some curry would be nice." Then you add whatever else you have to that: "I could put chicken in the curry, or maybe just chick peas." Or "The cube steak I have will be perfect in the stir fry." You start with your veggies. If you just do your meat/veggie/starch dinner and are just looking to replace your frozen corn kernels on the side, it's just not going to fit.

 

In three years, I have had very little produce go bad on me. Maybe three items?

 

Eating seasonally has been a simple requirement up until the recent petroleum age. Our ancestors would not be able to relate to us not even knowing what season things are available in, or how to deal with food that is only grown in a certain season.

 

It's hard for me to imagine how the food might not fit together. The food harvested in a given season has fit together for a long time. Only recently have we had recipes that call for asparagus and butternut squash together (seasonal gymnastics). Seasonal food fits together very nicely. Apples and acorn squash. Tomatoes and garlic and basil. Eggs and asparagus. Carrots and potatoes and parsnips in a thick stew.

 

CSAs aren't magically frugal by themselves, you need to develop the skill to make them so. The produce is just a tool; you have to actually wield them. You could say you might save money by doing your own car tune-ups, you can buy the tools, but it won't happen unless you learn how to tune up your car and then actually do it.


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#23 of 37 Old 05-23-2011, 03:59 PM
 
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laohaire, I love what you said here:

 

"Eating seasonally has been a simple requirement up until the recent petroleum age. Our ancestors would not be able to relate to us not even knowing what season things are available in, or how to deal with food that is only grown in a certain season.

 

It's hard for me to imagine how the food might not fit together. The food harvested in a given season has fit together for a long time. Only recently have we had recipes that call for asparagus and butternut squash together (seasonal gymnastics). Seasonal food fits together very nicely. Apples and acorn squash. Tomatoes and garlic and basil. Eggs and asparagus. Carrots and potatoes and parsnips in a thick stew.

 

CSAs aren't magically frugal by themselves, you need to develop the skill to make them so. The produce is just a tool; you have to actually wield them. You could say you might save money by doing your own car tune-ups, you can buy the tools, but it won't happen unless you learn how to tune up your car and then actually do it."

 

 

 

 

I completely agree!


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#24 of 37 Old 05-23-2011, 04:33 PM
 
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There does seem to be a big difference in what a CSA offers though.  I think my farmer was going for more exotic gourmet stuff when I would have preferred the one that offered more every day stuff.  I didn't mind getting lots of greens or heaps of asparagus (who would mind that!!!) I mean thats what we get in june around here.   But stuff a little more familiar would have been nice (I am just bitter about the spicy lettuce still LOL) and a little less diversity and instead enough of any one veggie to make a meal.


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#25 of 37 Old 05-24-2011, 06:02 AM
 
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Yeah, having an insubstantial amount of a veggie would irk me too. A single small eggplant - yes, you can just add it to a casserole, but I really want two eggplants to make a good dish (eggplant lasagna for example). I don't mind some exotic stuff but I too would want the exotic stuff to be a side interest to the main staples. We have a tradition of what we consider staples, so they do go together and there are plenty of recipes. And I can figure out a way to squeeze in one odd thing to a bunch of staples, but it would be annoying to have produce that was grown just because it was unusual.

 

I prefer produce that is grown because:

- there is a tradition of it

- it is a delicious tasting variety

- if it is a fall/winter item, I'd like it to store well too (root veggies)

 

I am lucky because our CSA allows you to choose what you take home. They offer different size shares, and each size confers a number of units (I get 10). Then each item is labelled with how much of it is a unit. I got a head of lettuce whose size could only be described as "ridiculous" (huge, that is - and absolutely succulent) for one unit. A pound of radishes as another. Half pound of dry heirloom beans as another. Etc. I could have taken a pound and a half of beans if I wanted, and just less of other stuff. And if I hate parsnips (I don't) I could avoid them entirely.


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#26 of 37 Old 05-24-2011, 06:10 AM
 
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We have had two different CSAs -- one which we had for 2 years and had a really great experience with and one that we had last year and didn't enjoy--at all.  At this point, we've opted, instead, to use a company that works with several different farms and we have so many "credits" each week that we can use to select what produce we want.  I LOVE it - there's practically no waste and it's easy to get as wide of a selection of veggies as we need and that we'll eat.  


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#27 of 37 Old 05-25-2011, 04:00 PM
 
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I bought in this year to a new CSA.  

 

It's been awesome thus far.  We have the option of going to the farm on Wed or Sat *or* picking from the selections at the farm stand at a Wednesday evening farmer's market here in town.  We can pick and choose to fill our grocery-store size bag, though there are some limits on certain items (one baggie of baby spinach, for example).

 

Today my options were:

three different kinds of lettuce

baby spinach

tat soi

bok choy and a similar green

kohlrabi

chard

baby kale

kale

arugula

broccoli raab

two kinds of radishes

salad turnips

 

And eggs were extra this week.  There's also a pick your own field where you can wander and pick at will.  Right now it's sugar-snap peas.  The herb garden is still getting established, but will also be available later.  They also provide recipes.

 

We eat a LOT of greens.  I also grow greens and peas and we still need more.  Tonight I sauteed the tops of the radishes and turnips with olive oil, garlic, and onions and then threw in some mixed up tat soil, arugula, and baby kale.  Topped it off with white beans, a splash of vinegar, and dished it out over corn pasta.

 

I'd avoided CSAs where you don't get to choose your share.  I'm allergic to soybeans, carrots, and tomatoes and all three are very popular here.  Wouldn't help me much to get a july box full of lovely purple carrots, fresh edamame, and a heaping crate of tomatoes. 


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#28 of 37 Old 05-26-2011, 07:28 AM
 
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I've belonged to a CSA for three out of the past 5 years (took 2 years off in the middle).

 

Mine was not a choice kind and my cooking skills have moved from poor - to barely adequate.

 

Given those 2 facts, I did not find it to be frugal.

 

I'm doing it again this year - but as a challenge to sharpen my skills and get more veggies into the family, not to be frugal.

 

When you do your own shopping, you can make adjustments to what kind of week you're having. Gotta pot luck - more greens for a huge salad. Know you won't have much time in the evenings - less food that requires chopping. Stressed and pressed for time - nothing that requires following a new recipe and lots of thought. With a CSA, the veggies come - no matter what kind of week you are having - whether you are ready for them or not. You can't adjust on the fly (unless you have one of those new choice ones) so it might not really be frugal.

 

Not to talk you out of it - I love mine. I'm doing it again. I'm doing it for the challenge. I like that I can pick it up all bundled and not have to shop at the grocery store. I'm splitting with a neighbor and only have to do pick-up every other week. I just want you to do it for the right reasons and for me, it wasn't frugality.

 

I'll also add that even though they gave me recipes, it was often for quantities that I didn't have (or didn't work with my split) and then required other ingredients I didn't have on hand. Sure - you good experienced cooks know how to substitute and bravely improvise - and I'm a little more comfortable doing that now - but see above - cooking skills (knife skills, vegetable identity skills) have moved from poor (abysmal?) to barely adequate. It was hard for me that first year.

 

 


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#29 of 37 Old 05-26-2011, 05:48 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by laohaire View Post

Yeah, having an insubstantial amount of a veggie would irk me too. A single small eggplant - yes, you can just add it to a casserole, but I really want two eggplants to make a good dish (eggplant lasagna for example). I don't mind some exotic stuff but I too would want the exotic stuff to be a side interest to the main staples. We have a tradition of what we consider staples, so they do go together and there are plenty of recipes. And I can figure out a way to squeeze in one odd thing to a bunch of staples, but it would be annoying to have produce that was grown just because it was unusual.

 

I prefer produce that is grown because:

- there is a tradition of it

- it is a delicious tasting variety

- if it is a fall/winter item, I'd like it to store well too (root veggies)

 

I am lucky because our CSA allows you to choose what you take home. They offer different size shares, and each size confers a number of units (I get 10). Then each item is labelled with how much of it is a unit. I got a head of lettuce whose size could only be described as "ridiculous" (huge, that is - and absolutely succulent) for one unit. A pound of radishes as another. Half pound of dry heirloom beans as another. Etc. I could have taken a pound and a half of beans if I wanted, and just less of other stuff. And if I hate parsnips (I don't) I could avoid them entirely.


 

Thats simply freaking amazing.  That is the ideal CSA in my mind and I would be all over that.   


The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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#30 of 37 Old 05-26-2011, 05:56 PM
 
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Ours works out to about $15/week. It includes eggs, a little fruit and herbs. If you are willing to put a little time and effort in menu planning (which I do anyway,) it's worth it.

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