I did it! I finally got my act together and joined some CSAs. Now of course, I’m kicking myself for waiting so long because I think this is such a brilliant way to get your groceries. I’ve talked pretty extensively about my experience with Farmer’s Markets, and I absolutely love some of the markets I’ve visited here (the Hyde Park, Division Street, and Green City Markets in particular). As the weather cooled down though, the markets started to close. The Green City market is still open, but parking is an absolute nightmare, TH has a commitment that prevents him from watching T1 for me so I don’t have to take him out into the cold, and the selection definitely isn’t anything like it is in the summer.
I wanted to keep buying local and fresh, but since Whole Foods tells lies about what is local and what isn’t (when I went with my dad they had some onions marked as being from the midwest, based on the label, my dad (believe me, he knows what he is talking about) said that the onions stocked absolutely had to be grown in California). The answer for avoiding grocery store lies and incredibly old imported food? CSA!
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, you buy a “share” and you receive a week, bi-monthly, monthly, etc delivery of goods. This isn’t a good option for someone who can’t cook creatively, because you won’t have any idea what you are going to get until it’s delivered. I might not do it very well, but cooking creatively just happens to be my personal culinary specialty. I really enjoy looking in the pantry and attempting to combine things into a delicious meal. TH frequently says that we never eat the same thing twice, and my predilection for experimentation is why that happens!
I picked up my first produce box from Harvest Moon Organics last week, and look what I found inside!
Everything was in great shape, and I really liked that the CSA sent me an email before I picked up the box with pictures of what I would find inside, and suggestions for how to best use it. This was a very good thing for me because it spent me a lot of time googling “knobby brown vegetable” to try to figure out what the Jersualem Artichokes were! The garlic was a bonus item that they threw in, and it’s an heirloom variety with huge, flavorful cloves.
I’ve used up several items so far. Some garlic, onions, and all of the parsnips went into a soup. I roasted the apples and froze the halves in individual baggies to serve to T1. I used some onions and the cabbage in a sauteed dish tonight, and I used a cup of sweet potato puree in a baking powder biscuit recipe. Now to use up some of that squash!
Deliveries of produce are made every other week and the cost per box (similar to what you see pictured above) comes out to about $55. The produce is organic, and often the items are heirloom varieties of what you’ll find in the grocery store.
After reading Eating Animals I’m very committed to only paying for meat/fish that I feel has been raised and harvested in a manner that I feel the animals deserve, which is why we bought a meat share. The meat share is easier to manage because everything comes frozen, and unlike the produce delivery you don’t have the stress of trying to use up the items delivered before they rot. Delivery for this share comes just a few doors down from where I go to church so it’s very convenient.
I don’t have pictures for you, but inside our first share we found several packages wrapped in white butcher paper and clearly labelled with the amount and type of meat inside. Ours included bacon (2 packages), sausage, pork chops, pork roast, two beef roasts, ground beef, lamp chops and… there might have been one or two more but I forgot. The total for each delivery comes out to about $100. The meat is very expensive (even buying bulk like this) and so we try to make it the side of every meal, not the main dish. I try to figure out ways to creatively use every little bit of meat, including doing things like saving the bone and the large pieces of fat and boiling it with a stew to add some flavor. I plan on trying to make our cuts last absolutely as long as possible, and then once summer comes again we’ll cut way back on our meat consumption again!
I highly recommend both of these CSAs and plan on using both of them agin next winter (and I’ll definitely be looking into working with them this summer as well!). I found both of these CSAs on Local Harvest.
I also got my act together and figured out a way to get some raw milk, by joining a co-op called Fresh From the Farm Cooperative. This particular co-op brings several different types of providers together and a fee must be paid if you want to “shop” with them (I believe the fee I paid was $40). There is a master price list that I order from by sending an email to the manager each week, and then I drive 45 minutes from Hyde Park (that part isn’t so awesome, but it’s worth it) to pick my order up. I like it because I determine when I go pick things up (versus a CSA where the deliveries are scheduled) and because I get to choose exactly what I want to buy. Last week I picked up a gallon of milk, goat cheese, a pound of cheddar, and cream cheese, all raw, as well as two chicken breasts. The milk is the best milk I’ve ever had, grass fed, with none of those icky clotted cream chunks that I get in my whole non-homogenized milk from Whole Foods.
Again, not something you do because you are wanting to eat really cheap. I buy from this co-op because I believe in supporting local producers, and most important for me, because the things I buy taste loads better than what I can get at the grocery store! You might be able to find something similar to my co-op by looking at the options in your area on the Real Milk site.
I supplement all of this with a weekly trip to Whole Foods, where I try to pick up things like fresh fish and frozen vegetables. It’s all working out pretty well, but I admit, I look longingly toward summer and the start of browsing outdoor farmer’s markets once again!