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:
- Must not cost more than $22 total
- Must have at least six items
- Must not have items already needed/planned for a meal
- Must contain at least one item that’s new to me (or that we have had only infrequently, at best)
- 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.