Summer CSA.

14 Mar

A really common theme I’ve noticed in the healthy eating debate is money. Why spend so much on local organic produce when you can buy a whole meal at McDonald’s for a few dollars? This is a serious concern for families who live paycheck to paycheck and need to think of what will be more nutrient dense for their children. But to a certain extent, I think it also has to do with the work involved in eating healthy. It’s tough to make things for scratch in a world where we’re used to frozen pizzas and takeout.

We made our transition from Morningstar-style processed foods to homemade meals over the course of a few years. And I’ll cop to having a Luna bar for breakfast sometimes because, hey, if it’s that or nothing, I’m taking the damn bar. But for the most part it’s been fairly easy making meals on days when we have a little more energy (we split the cooking, too) and then freezing leftovers for the days when we just want to crash.

But the Whole Foods addiction – oh man, is it hard to kick. Actually, I won’t be kicking it anytime soon. Because Trader Joe’s doesn’t stock any non-soy vegan cheese (what is life without Daiya?) and a girl needs her vegan sushi and some really good freshly baked sourdough bread sometimes.

For the most part, we buy conventional produce at Whole Foods. The exception to this is when the price difference is small, or the organic produce looks much better and we can swing it that week. But I don’t really trust their labels – I know for a fact that they’ve misrepresented the origin of produce at my local Whole Foods, and I feel like “organic” is such a buzzword right now that it’s being slapped on everything. And then marked up. And marked up again, for good measure.

Over the winter, I asked my friend Jenna about her experience with a local co-op. She generously offered to let me try one of her shares, since she was going to visit family over the holidays. I wish I had taken a photo of the box because it was amazing, especially for a winter share – squash, spinach, garlic, pie pumpkins, tomatillos, spaghetti squash, thyme, onions, potatoes and a HUGE bag of black beans. It was like a vegan’s dream come true. They even send you e-mails with photos of the crops and recipe ideas for that weeks’ share:

(Harvest Moon Organics)


We knew right away that we wanted to sign up for the summer program. Produce is the main source of our spending at the grocery store, and being caught up in the cycle of only affording the week-to-week costs of grocery store produce feels like being in a relationship with the bad friend you just can’t shake.

Harvest Moon is a little over $500 for the June through October summer program. It’s a steal, but it’s upfront and tough to do on a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. I e-mailed them to see if we could work anything out, and found out that they have a two-week payment plan for anyone who asks. We sent them three checks, each dated two weeks apart, and they deposit them accordingly. It doesn’t sound like much, but it made a huge difference for us since we get paid bi-weekly.

As a general PSA, Farmer’s Markets are also great resources for local and organic produce, without the hassle of pre-paying. But they didn’t work well for us because we have very untraditional schedules and never seem to make it while they’re open, despite the best of intentions.

Nutrition is so important to me, and I hope that our society will eventually turn away from the cheap and fast mentality of McDonald’s and Lean Cuisine, and put the focus back on real foods, from the source. What are your thoughts on the health debate?


21 Responses to “Summer CSA.”

  1. Maria March 14, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Like you, I buy organic when the price difference isn’t that much or when the organic looks way better than the regular produce (like tomatoes this week). I haven’t had a frozen entree for lunch in about a year or so. The sodium in those things is astronomical and if I just cook extra during dinner, I can guarantee myself a real meal the next day for lunch. Real food ftw!

  2. Layla March 14, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    I completely agree. We were great about ordering free range chickens from a local farm and buying our produce at the farmers market (when open) and roadside stands (I like to help out the small farmer as much as possible – my great grandfather was one) but as times got harder for us (both physically and financially), we’ve been resorting to icky fast food and processed foods. And as a result, I’ve gained 20 lbs. That’s also because I haven’t been very active but I firmly believe most of it is just what we’ve been eating. I absolutely HATE it and can’t wait to get back on track.

  3. Megan March 14, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    My husband and I belong to our local CSA and I love it. We have been to exposed to so many different vegetables that I had never even heard of before. He is a meat eater and I’m a vegetarian, so we just did the produce one, as it would be too much meat, but I think we may expand to do eggs and bread. I love that we have the option of working on the farm or paying a little extra for pickup. I highly recommend it!

  4. Laura March 14, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    We did a CSA last year but cancelled it because we wasted a lot of food. We loved it, but it was SO MUCH FOOD for two people and we couldn’t eat it all before it went bad. We tried to find someone to split it with us, but we failed. I think we might try it again once we have a family to feed. Now I just hit up the Farmers Market–luckily I can find them almost every day of the week somewhere in Austin!

    • Anni March 15, 2011 at 9:32 am #

      I’m afraid we’re going to run into this problem, too, but I’m hoping that because we make our dog food as well, we might be able to split it up a little? She eats a lot, haha.

      • bryan March 15, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

        Eat what you can! Cook down greens to reduce volume and throw anything that is starting to go bad into a blender and call it a smoothie (with some orange juice and almond milk)!

  5. Jessica @ One Shiny Star March 14, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    For a while I was really focused on eating consciously. And then we moved, our rent doubled, and we’re having a baby. I also have a job and don’t have time to drive 30 miles to the only store with a decent organic/local selection. Our budget is also *very* tight right now, so we focus on buying canned/frozen veggies right now (which are considerably cheaper than fresh) and if there is an organic option, we will get that. But, it is much more important to me right now to stay financially independent and out of debt. As times change, I adjust the budget, and do the best I can.

    • Blueberries For Me March 14, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

      I think frozen is totally okay in the winter. I mean, otherwise your fresh vegetables are coming from Argentina. And frozen is definitely better for you than canned.

  6. Christine March 14, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    I grew up on a farm where local food was all I really knew. We had the occasional box of mac and cheese and all of our spaghetti sauce came from a jar, but overall it was much healthier when we ate at home. Soda was a bi-monthly treat with pizza and we drank milk everyday. I think your message is a great one regardless if you’re vegan or a carnivore. I know that I always eat much healthier when I plan my meals ahead of time than when I grab one of the lean cuisines I have in the freezer at work for lazy days. Harvest moon sounds like such a great thing! Another thing that’s inspired me to cook more are all of the incredible blogs out there about food. There are so many ways to make cooking less tedious and more fun and healthy.

    • Anni March 15, 2011 at 9:35 am #

      Oh I agree! I just tend to tag and refer to everything as vegan because I’m lazy and that’s my only food tag. But when I ate dairy, I would have much rather gotten it from a CSA!

      I also am a huge proponent of less soda. We don’t drink any, but we have family who drink a lot, and it does worry me! Then again, I shouldn’t talk until I can cut down my coffee consumption a bit.

  7. Jessica March 14, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    We will have a co-op opening near us soon and I’m so glad to be able to buy fresh, local produce! Be sure to share with us when you get your first box of loot. 🙂

  8. Andnowlights (KMSull) March 14, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! Honestly, we never eat organic except AC’s celery and my alfalfa sprouts because there’s not a price difference. Our grocery bill increased by at least 30% when we moved to the Northeast and we just can’t afford to buy avocados at $2.50 a pop from whole foods when I go through 4-5 a week. Hoping to find a CSA this summer, though! Fingers crossed!

    • Anni March 15, 2011 at 9:36 am #

      Good luck! I hope you find a great one. I know how frustrating it can be. This is going to be my fourth summer in Chicago, and I’m just finally getting around to it.

  9. Liz March 14, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    Currently while reading this I am eating Morningstar Buffalo nuggets (my fave that I eat about 2 times a week). Being a vegetarian is hard…and most of the time I am just too lazy to make something from scratch…I rely on this high sodium meat for protein…Sometimes I don’t bother buying ANY produce except oranges..because sometimes it goes to waste. :*( Good luck! Your harvest moon plan sounds awesome!

  10. haniemarie March 14, 2011 at 8:06 pm #

    We’ve talked CSAs for a very long time. I always balk at the last minute because we have easy access to the farmer’s market and a local family owned grocer (where we get our weekly groceries). I do hope to buck up and join a CSA one of these weeks, however, and this post might have put me over the limit!

  11. Tammy McLeod March 14, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    We’ve been in a CSA for several years and I really use it as the center of our meal planning. It is about $25 or so per week and I get to try a lot of things that I might not have bought otherwise. It is a lot of food but I’ve learned to make stock, bought a juicer, and on occasion, I give something away. Hope you enjoy it.

  12. Kristin March 14, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    Gah. I really want to do a CSA but now that we are both working we actually don’t even have fresh ingredients in our fridge anymore. It’s horrible! I just don’t want to/don’t have time to cook a meal from scratch anymore. Please do take pictures of your box so I can live vicariously through you.

  13. Blueberries For Me March 14, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    Eating organic is definitely more than conventional where you compare organic product A to conventional product A at a grocery store. I think it’s a fact we like to sweep under the rug. But there are cheaper ways to eat organic/natural, like CSAs. I would love to get one, but my husband prefers the farmer’s market. It is fun to go and walk around at.

  14. Steph March 15, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    We are actually hoping to do this through our local farmers market this year – you can do a large or small box, and we’re hoping the small box will be the perfect size (would hate to waste!). So glad your CSA could accommodate!

  15. Mrs. JYW March 15, 2011 at 9:46 pm #

    So worth it and wholeheartedly agree. Hubby was totally grossed out after watching Food, Inc. And for lent we gave up eating out. We went grocery shopping yesterday to stock up on all fresh meats, fish, and organic veggies.

  16. Erin March 18, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    Yeah for CSAs! We are doing our second year this summer, with Simply Wisconsin. Our CSA gives the option of a half share, where we get a full box every other week. THis works out great for my husband and I, and then I get to suplement with whatever produce I buy. I also love farmer’s markets… Green City Market is the best, but I don’t get over there often enough. Check out Andersonville or Lincoln Square for evening markets during the summer, if that fits your schedule better.

    Also, as someone who recently started working at Whole Foods, I can say that they seem to be really serious about organic integrity at this point. It’s stored separately in the back, and there is a separate kitchen where they cut up any organic stuff. I believe it was a problem in the past, but the company seems mcuh more dedicated about stuff like that now 🙂

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