Adventures in CSA (year 2 week 3): MYO Box Time!

This week was an odd one. Having been uninspired by the option in the box offered by the farm this week, we decided to invoke the privilege of NOT purchasing a box. I figured that I would first try to construct my own box from the grocery store, since that’s what most people have access to. I set about with some basic rules:

  1. Must not cost more than $22 total
  2. Must have at least six items
  3. Must not have items already needed/planned for a meal
  4. Must contain at least one item that’s new to me (or that we have had only infrequently, at best)
  5. Must be items grown within the US (preferably New England, to keep it regional)

I’m pleased to say that I managed to do all of the following, including keeping everything to produce grown within Massachusetts! All but one of the items we picked out came from our local farm (the same one that does the CSA we’ve been ordering for the last few weeks), and the other item came from a farm on the other end of the state, out in Western MA. I will say that going to one of our local grocery stores was terribly disappointing. Not only did they not have any indication of the specific source for their fruits and veggies (unless marked in packaging, things were marked only for their country of origin), but they didn’t have anything other than squash from even a regional farm (and that was across the border, in Rhode Island).

When I talked with one of the produce guys who was stocking the area during my trip through that grocery store, he said that they hadn’t even been contacted by any local farms yet. I will note that this isn’t the store I typically do all of my week’s shopping in, but it’s a major chain and it’s a full-size store. Furthermore, when I went to one of their other stores that’s also nearby, I saw fruit tagged “Local!” and noted that the label said it was from New Jersey. OK, same coast, but NOT LOCAL, GUYS.

DH wanted us to give the farmstand a chance to provide a more interesting variety than what they were putting in their box, and I’m glad he pushed for that. They had a whole section that was just their stuff, and they clearly marked what was theirs versus what was from other local/regional farms versus what was from out of the area or country. Clear, easy-to-understand labeling really is a must if you’re going to try to understand where ANY of your food comes from, especially when it’s fresh produce.

So, here’s what I got:

Adventures in CSA, year 2 week 3

MYOB attempt #1: so colorful!


Year 2 – Summer Week 3 (Make Your Own)
Farmstand Unit Price (per lb) Farmstand Total Item Cost
Blueberries (pint) 1.00 $4.50 $4.50
Fancy Summer Squash 1.04 $2.19 $2.28
Golden Beets (bunch) 1.00 $1.75 $1.75
Red Beets (bunch) 1.00 $2.99 $2.99
Wax Beans 0.66 $2.49 $1.64
Cherry Tomatoes (1/2 pint) 1.00 $2.95 $2.95
Gooseberries (1/2 pint) 1.00 $4.99 $4.99
Farmstand Total Cost $21.10

The cherry tomatoes are the first of the season from our farm and they are always OUTSTANDING. As it happens, between me and dd, it’s unlikely that they’ll last the night. The fancy summer squash, wax beans and gooseberries are all “new to us” items that we’re excited to try. The summer squash may get grilled, the wax beans will surely be steamed, and the gooseberries (thus far) have been eaten plain. They’ve got a really bizarre-looking inside and the one I tried seemed like a grape, only a little more tart. It’ll be interesting to see how this MYO box process works for the week. We went with some items that we’re familiar with, like the beets, tomatoes and blueberries, and we branched out a little, too.

With some careful selection, we were able to purchase only local items (I consider Western MA local, since it’s within the same state), and we managed to get a decent selection of colorful, fresh produce within the budget I’d set. If this works out well enough, we’ll repeat it on any future weeks where we have a similar lack of excitement over the pre-selected box. Hopefully, it’ll also inspire others to consider trying their own MYO-CSA project. Supporting local agriculture and feeding yourself fresh fruits & veggies at the same time…it’s a win-win!

Adventures in CSA: trying something new

Ironically, as much as taking part in a CSA involves somewhat of a leap of faith (“I’ll like _____” or “I’ll at least TRY ______”), the investment of money and time involved with a box program locks you into the notion that you must live within that structure. It’s a good discipline to get into, for sure, but can you do it when no one’s looking?

Put another way: do you need the CSA box to inspire you to try something new or eat more fruit/veg?

This week, we’ll put that to the test.

The CSA box from our local farm was announced this week and, since I didn’t opt into the season share through work, we have the flexibility of the week-by-week program at the local farm to lean on. This means that we also have the option NOT to purchase a given box, if we’re uninspired by the box. Amazingly, we’ve already come across that situation. This week’s box, as described on the farm’s web site, contains:

  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1 bunch carrots
  • 1 bunch swiss chard
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • 1 lb beans
  • 2 lbs squash
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 head lettuce

As it happens, this being Wednesday and all, we have yet to get through the beans from the box we got last Friday. And we still need to get to the tatsoi, squash and carrots…and only dh eats the blueberries (I’m just not a fan of blueberries, sorry). This new box would have several of the same contents PLUS lettuce (which is fine, but we tend to lean more towards the more nutritious spinach), and dh would be stuck with the blueberries and radishes, since no one in the house but dh will bother with radishes. I’ll confess, I keep trying everything in the boxes, even the stuff I know I don’t typically like, and CSA-quality radishes have yet to sway me towards thinking that radishes are tasty. I know there are people who like radishes, but I just don’t count myself as one of them.

All this leads me to having the convo with dh this morning about the veggie box contents and having him say, “I don’t think we should get it this week.” Cue my surprised look. It hadn’t occurred to me that we wouldn’t get a box, but he’s right; we wouldn’t need more of what we haven’t yet finished and there are several items that only he eats, so it’s just more stuff for him to plow through alone.

So we’re going to go in a different direction this week: a make-your-own box approach. I’m going to take the same $20-22 we’ve spent per box in the CSA programs and use that as my budget. I’ll head to the grocery store with the following conditions:

  1. Must not cost more than $22 total
  2. Must have at least six items
  3. Must not have items already needed/planned for a meal
  4. Must contain at least one item that’s new to me (or that we have had only infrequently, at best)
  5. Must be items grown within the US (preferably New England, to keep it regional)

That should hit on the “in season and local” aspect, as well as the “try something new” aspect. Depending upon whether or not I can get decent tagging from the local grocery store, I may have to switch over to a Whole Foods (so I can get a better sense of where fruit/veg were produced). I don’t want to come home with items sporting other countries’ flags, and I’d really prefer to get stuff that’s from the local area.

If you ask, “Why not just go to the local farm and buy from the farmstand?”, the answer is this: they also cart in stuff from out of the region, to supplement what they make themselves. What they’d offer that’s “local” right now is pretty much what they’re putting in the boxes. This is the benefit of the box that hits more farms; you have a better shot at a variety when you’re pulling from a number of different local farms versus just one.

I’ll head out Friday to get my stuff, just as I would get the box, and my BYO-box contents will be announced once I have ’em, along with the prices. If it ends up being a fun-enough experiment, then I’ll probably repeat it if we get to any other weeks where the CSA option looks less interesting. Of course, my hope is that I can just buy the box straight from the farm, but when that option doesn’t hold a ton of appeal, I think the BYO is a great way to improvise a way to keep things going.

Adventures in CSA (year 2 week 2): Better in several ways

Surprisingly, while there was a still a price gap between what I paid and what I got, it was a smaller gap in several ways. First off, I got several things that my grocery store doesn’t actually carry IN-STORE. The easiest way to price these more random items was to find the closest equivalent on the “To Go” portion of their web site, which allows me to see a vastly larger array of produce than what’s available in the store. For example, the spinach (on the stems) and the shell peas were only available on the web site; in store, you can have bagged spinach leaves and bagged (shelled) peas. I used Baby Bok Choi as the closest equivalent for tatsoi on pricing, since it looked just similar enough for these purposes. I’m still in a net negative position, financially, BUT I’m getting things that are harder to find than what I normally come across, and that’s worth something that you can’t really put as much of a price on.


Year 2 – Summer Week 2
Grocery Store Unit Price
(per lb)
Grocery Store Total Item Cost
Blueberries (pint) 1.00 $4.99 $4.99
Shell Peas 2.25 $2.49 $5.60
Summer Squash 0.89 $1.99 $1.77
Pickling Cucumbers 1.65 $1.99 $3.28
Green Beans 1.00 $1.99 $1.99
Spinach 0.45 $2.98 $1.35
Tatsoi 0.28 $2.99 $0.84
Carrots 0.73 $0.99 $0.73
Grocery Store Total Cost $20.55
Year 2 Summer Week 2 Savings (Deficit) ($1.45)


As of Saturday, when I went grocery shopping, we had yet to really dig into this box, since we’re still finishing off LAST week’s box, but I’ve already got my schemes in mind. One suggestion (thanks, Tammy!) was to put a bunch of the items from the box (including the blueberries) into a blender and make a smoothie out of them. I don’t see this as any kind of a cop-out: it’s a great use for fresh fruits and veggies! I have to admit, coming into the grocery store yesterday and filling my cart first with produce, I felt pretty happy about what I was pushing around, seeing how my cart was packed to the gills with all kind of fresh fruits and veggies. Of course, that didn’t completely cancel out the turkey pepperoni and Gatorade I put in the cart right after that…but, oh, don’t judge.