It has been a few years since we jumped on board with a local CSA here in our area. It was a spontaneous move on our part, due in part to friends who took the same leap. Our goal was to incorporate more vegetables into our diet, and less meat (the reverse of the American norm you could say – more meat and less vegetables).
The cost was more than affordable – $25 each week for a family bag or, $17 for an individual bag.
That’s a drop in the bucket for local, organic produce. Most people easily spend $25 each week for groceries – from sugared kids cereal to soda, even diet soda, sports drinks, and packaged/boxed meal products.
What we first learned from our farm share at Taste of Paradise is that being part of a CSA is a commitment – not just to the CSA but also to yourself. You can be creative in transforming it into healthy meals – that’s the fun part, and yet challenging at the same time.
The family bag is quite large – but despite the size, we always find ourselves coming back with two or three times the amount. So while the bag size is set from week to week, you have the opportunity to add to that with extra items.
Here are some of the things we have learned from being part of such a wonderful CSA:
Vegetables become the focal point of your meals. Suddenly you go from making that traditional grocery store list and shopping at the store, to picking up a CSA box and planning your meals based on the contents of the box. You fill in the spaces with pantry staples that you may buy in bulk – beans, lentils, etc.
For most Americans, meal planing revolves around meat, with vegetables as being a side. Flip that thinking around, and now your meals are based heavily on your vegetables, with meat as the side. In many cases, you might even forego meat entirely and reduce your meat-based meals down to 1 or maybe 2 per week.
You learn about new vegetables. For most Americans, buying produce lends way to what is featured on sale in the weekly ad – or, strolling the aisles of the produce department and putting those veggies & fruits that you are familiar with in the cart. With a CSA commitment, I have opened up my horizons to new vegetables I have never purchased or tried before – and realized that there’s a lot of vegetables beyond the basics that we love.
It’s cost advantageous. Staying out of the grocery store results in money in your pocket. A CSA bag ranges from $17 (Individual bag) to $25 (Family bag) – of course, you have the freedom to add to your bag – perhaps pastured eggs, raw honey, etc.
Every time you enter a grocery store you find yourself purchasing much more than what you originally intended, for things you may not always need.
Better quality produce: Your CSA bag is a collection of local, organic produce – from your local area. In many cases, the lettuce is picked up that morning – the spinach might even be picked that same day too. It’s not being trucked in from another state, or even hours away. It’s not picked days before, and kept on a truck – it’s fresh, organic, and locally grown.
You develop a better relationship with food. When you invest in a CSA, shopping at the store becomes very mundane. Your food at the store is season-less. A CSA, however, teaches you about how the weather and seasons impact what you eat.
You might find that you develop a greater appreciation for the food you eat – local produce is fresher, and more nutrient rich, and grown by farmers who have a vested interest in you and the environment.
Are you Part of a CSA?
Here in Phoenix we are fortunate to have several CSAs – the most notable is Taste of Paradise:
Taste of Paradise – a local Phoenix CSA with locations all around the East Valley to include Scottsdale. You can order one time or as a regular repeat customer – and choose between full ($25/bag per week) or half share ($17 per bag/per week). You will receive a weekly bag of produce that will contain 8 pre-selected varieties of locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables. The produce will vary each week and throughout the seasons.
You can go week to week, or you can pop in and get a bag when needed. There is no requirement to pay a quarter at a time, you basically pay by the week. They post on Facebook each Friday what will be in the bag the next week, and you comment with your location for pick up, size of bag requested, and can opt to swap out up to 3 items.
That next week, you pick up your bag. It’s that easy.
We have many more here locally. You can see a larger list CSA’s for Phoenix.