The CSA will take over your life

Community Supported Agriculture is this neat thing where you give money to (usually) a local farmer, and then during the harvest season you get a box of random produce.

Paradise has an AWESOME CSA program.  Tomatoes, lettuce (cleaned!), potatoes, onions, garlic, fruit, fun random things in reasonable enough amounts that they make a side-dish but not so much that you’re drowning in kohlrabi.  Nary a collard or mustard green in sight (so far anyway).  All delicious and wonderful.   And we get it on Friday which means it’s easy to do menu planning and grocery shopping for the week after knowing what’s in the box.

Problem:  The vegetables are all so good and so abundant that they’ve really taken over.  We don’t finish things by the next Friday.  We don’t go out to eat because the food at home is better than what is close by and we feel guilty for not finishing things.  We don’t buy as much crazy stuff at the grocery store or farmer’s market even though the grocery stores and farmers markets are awesome.  We’re not eating a whole lot of meat.  Occasionally we will have just green beans for dinner because it’s Thursday and we’ve had those green beans for two weeks and we don’t want to make dilly beans again.

It is making riotous living hard, even though it is really good for our checkbooks.

We’re not stopping, but we wouldn’t mind if the boxes were a bit less generous!  (No, we don’t have anybody to split a share with– our local friends have their own box and they use the entire box because their kids love veggies at a much higher level than our kids do, though their kids are also not crazy about green beans.  The CSA version of splitting is every other week which is tempting except it is really hard to remember to pick something up every other Friday instead of every Friday.)  But I am a little bit looking forward to the winter.

What have your CSA experiences been like?  If you’ve done one, do you think it has saved you money or improved the quality of your eating?

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 30 Comments »

30 Responses to “The CSA will take over your life”

  1. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    Not so fond memories of the time we got a six pound purple and green mutant cabbage/kale hybrid every week for two months. I love CSAs usually though! We buy at the farmer’s market now; between our garden and it being a fun expedition for the kids/ meet where your food is from, it just works out better. Plus the CSA here runs March through November because the South.
    P.S. I love collards! Sauteed with an onion, some hot pepper vinegar, and if you’re not me (jewish) some bacon or pancetta…. delicious! However I recognize your right to loathe them.

  2. Miser Mom Says:

    Oh, my goodness, YES. I love our CSA, and I look forward to it like crazy every May, but I admit I’m a bit relieved that October is here and our share is ending in a few weeks.

    We’ve learned the joys of lots and lots of new (to us) vegetables: beets, kale, fennel, turnips, all kinds of strange greens. The veggies that we haven’t managed to learn to love are the very hot peppers, which arrive in massive quantities around this time of year (we still have some frozen and canned from last year — we like them, but in moderation apparently).

    My strategies: use the knife and the cuisinart as soon as possible. I try to chop everything into tiny pieces the evening it arrives. Things like peppers and carrots, sliced super thin, disappear of their own accord if I put them in a bowl on the dining room table — no meal-planning expertise needed. And the turnips etc are much easier to just toss into the frying pan if I’ve already peeled chopped them. Lettuce, washed and chopped and stored in canning jars becomes a favorite between-meal-snack (or breakfast, go figure!) for my boys, but if I leave it as a head of lettuce, then it stays in the fridge and gets passed over for . . . well, for anything else.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Good suggestions!

      I bet you could give some of those canned jalepenos/habaneros/etc. away as presents.

      • Ana Says:

        yeah, I’d LOVE some of those spicy hot peppers. We have people give away CSA extras on our neighborhood Buy Nothing Project group. I was always too late to get the super hot peppers.

    • CG Says:

      I feel exactly the same–so happy for it to start in May and also happy to take a break in October. We do a lot of quiches and frittatas with our cooking greens. Real Simple has a great quiche recipe that accommodates pretty much any kind of veggie. We do have a hard time with the lettuce, though, because salad is not one of my most favorite things. And one of our kids will eat anything and like it, one eats a very limited number of things, and one pretty much is too tired to eat dinner at night (consumes all her calories before 4pm I guess) so we’re a little hit or miss on actually getting the vegetables into the kids’ tummies. The A to Z cookbook has been great for us!

  3. Norwegian Forest Cat Says:

    Mine is everything I’ve wanted – we get a box every other week (roughly valued at $30, but I think it’s worth way more than that), and we can customize it as long as we meet a price minimum so I don’t get anything I really, really hate. We also have the option to include things from other local vendors (coffee, cheese, bread, etc.), so if it’s a chaotic week we can always get more of the non-produce things so we don’t have to throw too many things out. We also live in a place that is cold in the winter but warm enough that hothouses work OK, so we get root vegetables, tomatoes, salad greens, and the like through the winter, too! I had one before that was only “full share” or “half share” every week from May-October, and the half share was way too much for 2 people and was a pain if you had to travel at all. I split with 2 friends for a while and that worked well since we had very different tastes, so there was always someone who wanted what you didn’t.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think ours goes through some of the winter as well. I’m not 100% sure. Though this week we’re a bit less overwhelmed! We got a gigantic winter squash which we have already processed and eaten and less other stuff. DH was all, we could actually go out for pizza, and I responded, or eat some of that TJ’s processed food in the freezer.

  4. Calee Says:

    I always hear these stories of fantastic CSA boxes and wonder what mythical place you all live. Or perhaps we live in the mythic Southern California where I can shop at our local Persian market and fill a cart (!) with fresh produce, feta and pita for $45. I’ve tried CSAs a couple of times and always felt like I was getting much less than I could buy myself. The quality is usually good or better, but if we don’t like celery, I don’t care if it is organic or not— it’s big and should cost $.75, not the $4 it comes out to in the box.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We’ve heard of some pretty good CSA in the LA ‘burbs, but it is also true that options at farmers markets and grocery stores are also pretty fantastic.

      One nice thing about the CSA for those of us who hate making decisions is that it means one less set of thinking and planning. The CSA determines the menu rather than the menu determining grocery shopping.

      • The frugal ecologist Says:

        Paradise doesn’t have a year round CSA?

        Easier than going to the farmers mkt every week. No thinking required. This is why I liked our csa when we did it for years (Northern California, Boston, Florida – all great CSAs). These days there is very little daily cooking going on, so CSAs are out for us.

        In addition to regular CSAs, our city has a couple of services that do veggie box delivery (to your house!). From local farms and price, quantity and variety are comparable to CSA but you can get it whenever you want. That works much better for us these days.

  5. chacha1 Says:

    I subscribed to Farm Fresh To You for quite some time, and on one hand, I really liked getting fresh new stuff every week – learned how to use all sorts of things I would never have bought on my own, and with their system you can de-select things you know you don’t want (like, in my case, greens).

    But on the other hand, eventually the pressure to come up with a daily menu based on the box got to me, and when our schedule blew up with the family drama, I cancelled the service.

    It was educational but I don’t think I would go back to it, because my desire to spend seven nights a week cooking is nonexistent.

  6. Ana Says:

    This is why we never got a CSA. I love most vegetables and we eat a lot of them, but eventually I will tire of one particular veg (and if its green beans, that moment comes fairly quickly. my kids don’t like them at all). I never found one that delivered Friday, so it made meal planning/grocery shopping hard, too; we plan on Friday night & shop Saturday, so getting a huge box of who-knows-what on wednesday would be tough. (oh and also lugging a big box home from basically anywhere sounds annoying. if only there was a CSA delivered to our neighborhood). Everyone I know says they LOVE their CSA but similarly feel trapped by it.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Ours delivers on Friday! And it’s on the way home from DC1’s school. It is the *best*. And with the exception of green beans and strawberries, it hasn’t been terrible with repetition. (And strawberries every week for several weeks isn’t much of a hardship.)

      • omdg Says:

        I love the idea of a CSA, but the reality is that I barely have time to bathe and feed myself let alone cook or meal plan. We do have one in my neighborhood though, and those so inclined to seem to enjoy it.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah, that’s a big reason we’ve taken long breaks from having a CSA. It works this year because I’m on leave!

  7. Katherine Says:

    I like the idea of a CSA, and about a year ago I looked into finding one local to us, but decided it wouldn’t work out. There are only two of us, and we shop and meal plan on Sunday afternoons, so that limits the days we would be willing to get a box. I couldn’t find one that was convenient and had a price that would fit within our budgetary constraints (a lot of them had prices that approached what we spend on ALL groceries now). Also my husband is not a super adventurous eater, we don’t have room in our fridge/freezer/pantry to store much preserved food, so I worried that a lot of the food would go to waste. I did try one box of a CSA-like service that lets you order one week at a time, and it was good, but not worth the cost or inconvenience.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Some CSA are definitely better than others. The one we’re in right now is incredibly inexpensive and has dramatically reduced our grocery and eating out costs. If we were truly frugal we could probably just eat the fruits and veggies for $22/week and add oats, eggs, butter, bread, and a few other items and be done. But even with our fancy cheese habit we’re doing pretty well.

      • Katherine Says:

        $22/week is a great price! I would probably do a CSA if there was one near me at that price.

        I think our climate is kind of difficult for growing a wide variety of produce, and that might be one reason the ones around here are more expensive. On the other hand, we have had great luck with U-pick blackberries and blueberries. They just happen in May instead of August.

  8. Rented life Says:

    This made me laugh because this is our first year doing a CSA. The savings overall for our grocery bill are fantastic but even with a small share I have no idea what to do with all the food. Sometimes we can give some away. Sometimes we can’t. We froze a few things and we will see if they worked or not this winter. Honestly the winter share will be a huge relief because it’s only every other week instead of every week. And the 3 month off from mid March to mid June I’m sure will make us cry because there will be less access to good food and it will cost a lot more. (We did the math and a share is about $30 a week for more veggies than we can handle. Before we would just go without veggies many times because it wasn’t an option. Now veggies are an every day thing!)

  9. Solitary Diner Says:

    We had a CSA for the first time this year, and it was great. It got us eating vastly more vegetables, and I lost a few pounds without effort (all regained now that the CSA is over for the season and I’m back to eating chips for snacks). The grocery bill probably dropped in half, even after accounting for the cost of the CSA. We split our share with another couple, and the only challenge was when they went away for three weeks and left the two of us with the whole share. We threw out a lot of zucchini those weeks!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      we haven’t gotten *any* zucchini from this CSA, which is really weird

      Though possibly not a bad thing since usually I make zuchhini bread but we would have to buy a grater to do that (since our food processor is still at home along with our box grater).

  10. Becca Says:

    Wish I could come and NOM all excess fresh green beans for you! I love them, properly prepared (my aunt unhealthifies them with a delicious creamy garlic sauce, and I love them Asian styles). It’s funny for me because I only had frozen/canned ones as a kid and I thought they were The Worst. Well, I still vastly prefer fresh.
    I have not done a CSA out of fear of excess Kale and Zucchini. The later I could freeze/muffinify so maybe it’s time to try. I live in a seasonal, but wonderful, specialty agriculture area.

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