Adventures in CSA (Week 1): It Begins!

My first veggie box arrived! Woo hoo! Well, technically, it’s a fruit-and-veggie box, but I can be excited anyway. The boxes showed up to work this afternoon and, though I brought in my green bags to help making the haul home easier, the nice people doing the CSA for us put them in boxes with handles, so it was easy enough to carry it the 10 minute walk from my desk to my car.

I also have to note that it’s just maddening to sit at your desk, banging away at an Excel problem, while there’s the smell of farm-fresh veggies wafting at you from only a few inches away. Maddening. Mouth-watering. REALLY DISTRACTING. <cue Homer Simpson drool>

Okay, back to our story.

I brought yonder box home and these were the lovely contents:

2011 Fall CSA Week 1


I decided to be somewhat clinical about the process, since I’m hoping that the CSA will get me to think about a few things that have otherwise eluded me lately. Here’s what’s on my mind:

  1. Can I eat more fruit and veggies during the week (and also encourage the same behavior in the rest of the family)?
  2. Can I branch out and try more fruit and veggies – incorporating stuff I don’t usually cook with and/or trying stuff that I’ve previously been kinda enh about eating?
  3. Can we eat more organically and realistically incorporate more fresh produce into our weekly meal plan?
  4. And, lastly: can we manage to save any money going this route rather than buying at the grocery store?

I don’t think that #1 or #2 are that hard. It’s possible that #3 will be more of a stretch and require even more planning than we currently do, but we’re somewhat resilient here and we’re used to meal planning. My sister and BIL have gotten a CSA for a donkey’s age and they’ve both mentioned that it does require that you do some meal planning – but since we’ve been on that bandwagon for years, this just means we now have a set of ingredients that are must use items.

Now, #4 is the more interesting one. As you’ll learn over the course of time, I have a bit of a geek streak. I use Excel for all kinds of things, like tracking our charitable donations and keeping a makeshift address book for the house. At work, Excel is one of my BFFs…the kind of BFF that you beat on frequently in a sadistic fashion bend to your will to make all kinds of cool things happen so that people will think you can make magic. So, this is where Excel is going to come into play. I know the contents of my veggie box down to the partial ounce – we weighed everything when we unloaded it in the kitchen. I plan to go to the grocery store and feed the prices into my spreadsheet, to allow me to calculate what my veggie box would have cost had I gotten the same produce at my store.

Full disclosure: I wouldn’t normally get all of these things at my grocery store.

While our usual store has a decent produce section, we’re lucky enough to live near a farmstand and we do frequent them as much as we can for items that we know are their specialties (sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, etc.). Still, I’m only going to capture the grocery store price because A) not everyone has access to a farmstand like this, and B) the prices at the grocery store are almost always cheaper for the same thing. I’ll have a separate post in a day or so, talking about the week 1 price comparison, once I get to the grocery store for our weekly shopping. The veggie box CSA runs for 8 weeks, so each veggie box costs me $20 when you break it out over the entire run. Here’s the list of what I got, in case you want to follow along with this game at home. (And if you do, please feel free to post what you would pay for a similar box of goodies…I’m quite curious. Note that I’m quoting prices for Eastern MA – prices where you are may vary, so don’t forget to state your region/state/whatever-location-level-you’re-comfy-stating.)

  • 1lb 3-5/8oz yellow squash
  • 2lbs 8-7/8oz carrots
  • 1lb 11oz green peppers
  • 2lbs 6-3/4oz apples
  • 9-3/4oz cucumber
  • 14-1/2oz red onion
  • 1lb 6-1/4oz sweet potatoes
  • 2lbs 1-3/4oz white potatoes
  • 1lb 13-5/8oz tomatoes
  • 3 ears corn

More to come on this topic, as I figure out what the meal plan will look like, get some prices so I can see how I’m doing price-wise, and start identifying (or creating) recipes to use all this yummy goodness. And, based on the corn, carrots, peppers and apples we sampled at tonight’s dinner, yummy is the name of the game.

2 thoughts on “Adventures in CSA (Week 1): It Begins!

  1. The food co-op I participate here in AZ is a $15 contribution for non-organic and $25 contribution for organic. We typically get 5-6 fruits and 5-6 veggies a week, depending on what is cheaper and in season for that particular week. I had quite the learning curve, but have loved the experience of the food co-op of the last year. I think it has taught me a lot about giving up my “comfort” fruits and veggies, and branching out to try new things. It’s also helped me identify what produce is in season when it’s cheapest to get it. I haven’t had a chance to do full price comparisons like you will be doing, but I may try to start, it’s something I’ve wanted to start doing.

  2. I think this is my 4th year of having a CSA: since I’ve gone loco(al), I have no clue what things cost in the grocery store anymore. But, for around here, I can tell you that your CSA box is a good deal, especially for organic produce. Looks like you have about 14 lbs of produce for $20, so that’s less than $1.50/lb. In (admittedly pricey) Westchester County, basics like onions, carrots, potatoes are about $2/lb at the farmer’s market for sustainable-but-not-certified-organic (organic can fetch a higher price). Organic tomatoes are $3-4/lb. Apples anywhere from $2.5 – 4/lb. Corn is 50 to 75 cents/ear. Squash? Who knows? I always have too much. 🙂

    Many of the CSAs around my area are either completely done, early in the season, or offering slim pickings, as there was so much damage from wind, rain & flooding to farms in the Hudson & Mohawk Valleys. Ours has been smaller than usual, and may end early this year: but that is the nature of a CSA. Last year’s was full to overflowing and I still have kale & chard from last Fall in the freezer.

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