The CSA Experiment

It's always loaded

It's always loaded

As you may have followed, Atticus and I decided to pay some booku bucks in March for a 19 week series of weekly farm boxes, filled with local, organic vegetables and berries.  Not only was this an experiment in 1)finding new flavors and dishes to make, 2)learning what and when things are in season around here, and 3) just getting more produce into our diet. 

This was a financial experiment as well.

Abstract:  Disregarding health benefits (organic/produce) or community economy aide (money to local farm), will paying $26 a week for vegetables help or hurt our specific grocery budget?  Will it simply mean $100 extra spent each month, or will we actually save $26 or more a week to balance the purchase?

Six weeks in, I have some interesting results and conclusions.

Before we began getting our vegetable box, we generally spent between $55-75 a week in groceries.  Since we have been getting our boxes, this bill has gone down to $30-45 a week.  Adding in the $26 CSA fee, the total sum technically is $56-71 per week currently, or roughly the same amount as before.

In sum, the CSA experiment has revealed that, even without a conscious effort to cut back on our grocery list (“WE CAN ONLY EAT RICE NOW!” for example), it has not made us pay more than we always have.  Instead, our grocery budget remains stable (or up to $10 less per week) while infusing our diet with loads more fresh, healthy stuff.

Rock. On.

Of course, if one were to buy the same vegetables from your average Albertsons (non-local, non-organic), it would most likely be considerably less than $26 so technically, I guess one could argue that we’re still paying more than we should be for the same thing (if you don’t put much behind the organic label especially).

The thing is, though, that we never would think of planning a list that included 2 fennel bulbs, 15 carrots, one cauliflower, 2 tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, 2 squash, walla-walla and green onions, turnips, beets, brocolli, parsley, 2 heads of lettuce, collards and chard…  We just wouldn’t.  I mean, who would?  Who does?  Really, who does that?

I mean,  we’d maybe get a token apple or nectarine.  A bag of potatoes for good measure.  Bananas?  But mostly pasta sauces and cans of cream of chicken to make casseroles and stroganoff otherwise.  You know.  The usual.  The easier.  The comforting.

Having the vegetable box has made us completely switch our grocery list around.  When you’re looking at 20 carrots and 3 heads of lettuce in your fridge you have to.  There is no way out at that point. 

The first question you freak out about is, “How can we eat all this before it goes bad?”  and subsequently, you plan for meals where cauliflower is the star, carrot cake is dessert, vegetable soups for lunches, berries for breakfast…and when you’ve finished your list for the week you’re surprised to see that all you have on it looks something like:

– Milk

-Bread

-Yogurt

-Broth

-Toothpaste

Having the CSA has forced us to think of our food as produce-centric rather than produce-enhanced.  When you have that much green stuff in your fridge, you quickly learn that it isn’t “pork chops with corn and potatoes” but rather Baked Zuchinni-Squash-Tomato …with a side of one slice of ham and a gigantic salad.

It’s not because we’re transitioning vegetarians, not because we want to flaunt our veggie-meals to our hipster friends.  No, it’s out of SHEER DESPERATION.

So, for the price of the same price, we’ve made ourselves think in a completely different way and get some darn good recipes out of it.  We have essentially forced ourselves into a better and surprisingly tasty diet…for free.

Now that’s a screamin’ deal if ever I saw one.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “The CSA Experiment

  1. I’m glad to hear it, since Mike and I are planning to try out a CSA as soon we get married. (It’s the Bay Area thing to do, after all.)

  2. Pinto

    You should register for a CSA share. How modern yet down-to-earth.

  3. Melanie

    But really, as I like to say: If you’ve got it, flaunt it.

    Pinto: ::dances around the kitchen in a sexy manner waving some green onions in the air::

  4. Megan

    Is that a cat in that photo. Do they deliver fresh cat with your produce? Yum.

    Pinto: Fresh, ORGANIC cats.

  5. Danosaur

    Sounds fab. You should post some of these desperation recipes.

    Pinto: This week? Two words: Carrot Bread.

    I’ll maybe get around to compiling a couple of these babies and doing a little post in the near future.

  6. Sherrie

    Our ward has a garden and they keep making announcements that the chard is VERY ready to be picked and to please go grab some. But we have no idea what to do with chard. So if you have tried something that you’ve loved, we’d love to see the recipe. Thanks! “)

    Chard….Chard is hard…. Chard looks pretty though! Chard….hmmmm…. well, the one time we actually tried to make a recipe with chard, Atticus loved it and I did not. Chard tastes like spinach and cabbage combined, just FYI. From what I’ve read, most people steam it (for, like 25 minutes) and then eat it like steamed spinach…I will do some research on this. Chard….hmmmm…. Well, at the very least you could pick it and put it in a vase and people will come and admire your modern floral arrangement.

  7. Pingback: The Price of (Healthy) Food « Pinto’s Beans

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