Thursday, April 18, 2013

All About CSAs, Part Two

I've already talked about why we love our CSA.  But I'm adding a "BUT" here.  I can't really say these are "negatives" or "cons", but just a word of caution.

**To find a CSA near you, check out Local Harvest's website, where you can search by zipcode or city and state!

1.  It's a lot of money.  You're paying out a decent amount of money upfront.  And what if you don't like the program or the produce?  (Again, this is not a negative to me, because I know we are getting our money's worth.)
2.  It's a lot of produce.  As in, probably way more vegetables than you've ever eaten in your life.  Even our half share was more than our family of 6 could eat in a week.  (Again, this is not a negative to me because we knew we should eat more vegetables anyway.)

But guess what?  There are ways to deal with each of those "words of caution".

If you're worried about spending all that money at the beginning of the summer:
1.  Do your homework.  Ask for a list of what is typically included in a share or half share each week.  Ask about their vacation policy, and if they have a cancellation policy.
2.  Sign up for a shorter season (Crisp Country Acres offers a 21-week summer session, but they also offer three 7-week sessions).  A shorter season is a great trial run.
3.  Split a share (or split a half share) with a friend or relative.  You'll only get half the produce, but you won't pay as much either.  As well, you can take turns picking up your produce.
4.  Ask if they offer any discounts.  Some farms offer discounts for early sign-up, and other farms have referral programs.  Still others may offer to lower the cost if you help out at the farm or volunteer your help in other ways.  
5.  Do the math.  How much does the total work out to be per week?  Is this really any more than you would spend on produce at the grocery store?

If you're worried about having too much produce:
1.  Have a plan.  Each week, we receive a newsletter that tells us what will be in our boxes that week.  I write down what I'm going to do with each and every vegetable.  This ensures that nothing will go to waste.  
2.  Offer to bring the salad.  Everywhere.  All summer long.  We get lots of lettuce in our boxes, in addition to lots of other great salad ingredients.  Bringing a salad as your dish to pass is a great way to use it up!
3.  Freeze it.  Whatever doesn't fit into your menu plan should be frozen ASAP.  Not all vegetables freeze well, so plan accordingly.
4.  Make soup.  I know, it's summer.  But most soups freeze really well.  Pick a recipe that includes lots and lots of vegetables!
5.  Utilize the internet.  If you're getting a weird vegetable and you can't trade it off, you can easily find preparation instructions and recipes on Pinterest or All Recipes.  We got beets two times last year.  I'm not a huge fan of pickled beets, so I poked around online until I found Chocolate Beet Cake.  Yup.  I'm serious.  And it was actually really good.
6.  Talk to the farmer.  Lindsey from Crisp Country Acres sends us recipes every week, but if your farm doesn't provide that service, just ask the farmer how they enjoy their [beets/kale/squash/whatever else you don't know what to do with].  They'll probably have some really good (and tasty) advice.
7.  Invest in some good kitchen tools.  Last summer, I washed, chopped, tore, diced, and sliced more vegetables than I'd ever seen in my life.  If your knives are dull or you have to pat-dry all your lettuce, you might get a little frustrated.  Some tools that I used every week last summer included my salad spinner, Rada vegetable peeler, Cutco Chef Knife, and Vidalia Chop Wizard.  They saved me a ton of time!
8.  Give it away.  If you absolutely cannot use it, find someone who can.  It's better than letting it rot in the bottom of your produce drawer!

CSAs are not for everyone.  But for our family, it's been a step in the right direction on our journey to healthier eating habits.

OK, that's all she wrote.  About CSAs, anyway.  Phew!

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