We joined a CSA a few years ago and have definitely noticed a difference in our shopping habits and our meal prep each week. There are many things I love about our CSA and several reasons I continue to pick up a bag every Wednesday at the Farmers Market.
If I had to nail down one thing I love more than anything, I would tell you that I love to know where my food comes from – and the CSA helps us do that. Aside from that, there are a multitude of reasons that we continue to pick up a bag on a weekly basis – everything seems much fresher, produce lasts longer, I love the variety in our meals, and I’m actually helping our local farmers that have the same mindset.
Did I mention I despise the grocery store? I do – and I haven’t been in quite a long, long time.
Yesterday I saw an infomercial from Walmart promoting their local produce. Y’all… local produce means from your backyard or from your local farmer and your CSA. This local CSA share we get weekly is everything to us… it comes from local organic farmers with the same mindset of health and wellness … not a huge monopoly of a grocery store that wants to profit from what seems to be growing in popularity. . . #thinklocal #localproduce #farmersmarket #tasteofparadisecsa #csafarm #organic #localorganicproduce #realfoodforkids
Of course, I will admit that the CSA that I belong to isn’t your average CSA. I can opt in or out of the CSA at any time.. pay on a weekly basis, and drive just down the street to pick up my bag. I can also customize my bag if I don’t like what is being offered on any particular week – and because I pick up at the farmers market, I can shop from the tables as well and add on anything I may have forgot to request in my bag that week.
And the eggs…. good golly, pastured eggs from a local farm are something to be envious of!
It’s pretty fantastic, and it’s better than any grocery store because the produce is fresher, and costs quite a bit less than what I would pay for conventional organic produce. But it’s more beautiful. And lasts longer.
If anything, it has encouraged us to be willing to try new things – peruse Google, Pinterest and pull out all of my old cookbooks to find new and fun ways to prepare our weekly share. And if I get a long run of any particular veggie, it almost forces me to find new and creative ways to prepare it. After all, are only so many carrots one can eat before you realize that you are getting really tired of carrot cake.
Not that I hate carrot cake or anything but there are only so many times I can make carrot cake before the kids turn up their nose and say “again???”
The best part of having a CSA? It literally makes meal planning effortless.
Here are a few ways to meal plan using your CSA:
Preview the Bag
Many times, your CSA will tell you what produce will be coming up in the bag the week prior – so you can plan ahead. Everything you get in your bag can be used for something or other – meals, canned, or even frozen.
If you get too many cucumbers, it’s relatively easy to make refrigerator pickles, and too much zucchini can be frozen so you can use it all winter long in stews and stir fry. The same with sweet corn – if you can’t use it all that week, it works in stews all year long if you freeze it properly.
Carrots are not difficult to use – they work wonderful in stir fry, can be steamed and made into carrot rolls, and can be shredded and used in carrot salad, added to meatballs, or even baked egg rolls. I love cutting up carrots into sticks and fermenting with turmeric and ginger – it’s a healthy snack for the kids and great to take in your lunch for work.
Plus.. who knew that carrots could make the most fabulous mac and cheese?
Invest in a Seasonal Cookbook
Some CSAs will send out a newsletter with each delivery – while others will post recipes on their Facebook page to help inspire you in the kitchen. But one of the best things you could invest in is a CSA cookbook that will give you some tips for using all of your CSA bounty – from fresh cooked food to tips to freezing and preserving.
One of my favorite books is this one Bounty from the Box – my Dad lives over 2,000 miles away and sent this to me earlier this year… it has been quite incredible. I love reading through it and my oldest daughter does as well. The recipes are really simple!
Keep a Recipe Box
Make a file of recipes that you can use to help assist you in future meals – that way, you can browse your recipe box for inspiration. Or, if you aren’t using a recipe box, pin your favorite recipes that are tried and true to a Pinterest board for CSA veggies to help you find them quickly as a reference.
If you find yourself freezing veggies from season to season, make sure you keep a freezer log so you can keep track of the items you throw in the bottom of the freezer.
Invest in a Dehydrator and Instant Pot
A dehydrator is wonderful to use in the summer to help store some of your garden bounty – you can dehydrate kale, peppers, tomatoes, and herbs to use in the winter months when you make soups and casseroles. An Instant Pot is a wonderful way to plan quick meals in a hurry without too much effort, too – almost everything can be made or used in a soup or stew, and things like broccoli can be pureed into a pasta sauce.
Fermenting and Canning are Options
If you have an abundance of any fruit or veggie or are simply looking for a fast way to use something without too much effort, invest in fermenting lids, canning jars and a water bath canner – between those three, you will be able to ferment or can everything from carrot sticks to cauliflower, apricots, peaches and more.
Though these items are an up front cost, you will quickly earn your money back as the seasons progress and know you are feeding your kids wonderful choices at the same time.
Use your CSA Bag as Meal Inspiration
Your CSA bag will truly make your meals so much easier to plan — look through your bag and start to determine what you may want to do with all of your bounty. Over time, you will realize that your bag can truly stretch across the entire week.
You’ll likely find that your bounty of carrots can stretch as far as 3 meals – soup, rolls and even salad. Or, use your cilantro to make pesto, and your tomatoes to make pasta sauce. Potatoes are great as a side, but can be diced and added to Loaded Potato Soup. The possibilities are endless!
Are you part of a CSA?
If you are, do you use your CSA share as meal planning inspiration for the week?