My mom taught me about seasonal vegetables at a young age. One Thanksgiving, when shopping for the big meal, she decided that $7/lb for tomatoes was just too much for our big family. No kidding! Just one slice for all seven of us would total $8. Ouch… With that dent in the weekly grocery budget, it’s easy to tell what’s in season and what’s out.
In California, though, it’s a lot harder. Farms here can grow lettuce year round, and strawberries started up in February (which my niece, Annabel, enjoyed for the first time). At Whole Foods or the local markets, you can buy kale, corn, zucchini, or any other veggie at any time, because it’s imported from Mexico, Latin America, etc…
I’ve been told and have read that you get the most nutritional bang-for-your-buck if you buy produce that has a chance to ripen on the vine, tree, or stem. Logically, then, a fruit picked green in Mexico, pumped with gas to make it ripen, and transported here isn’t as nutritious as something grown closer and more naturally.
Going to the local farmer’s market would solve this issue, but I work during the times when they are running. Because I want to spend my hard earned cash on things that are healthy, I decided several years ago to join a CSA- Community Supported Agriculture; the community buys into the farm and, therefore, gets a share of the season’s produce. It takes the guessing out of what is seasonal and what’s imported! Around here, it’s also a way to get organic stuff at cheaper prices than the grocery store; plus, it’s often delivered to your neighborhood- so no shopping!!
When I first started, I tried Live Earth Farms. The produce was amazing- but way too bountiful! There was no way that I could keep up with the amount that I was getting each week, and, honestly, there were only so many weeks that I was willing to try to figure out how to cook all the new types of veggies. It was exhausting!
After taking a few years off, I started up again with a less daunting CSA, Eating with the Seasons. In this program, I pick which produce I’d like from what’s in season. For me, that’s been fun, because I can plan meals for the week ahead (because I know what’s coming), try a new item every so often, know how to use the rest, and am assured that what I’m getting is local and seasonal.
The extra options- like corn tortillas, local honey, rice, and preserves- make the CSA an even greater treat. With some CSAs, you have to pay in advance, but a lot of these now let you pay monthly. EWTS even lets you order more items and charges you each month for the extra.
Some weeks, things go bad, but that was one of the reasons I bought a juicer. If I know that I’m not going to eat something before it expires, I just stick it in the juicer and- voila!- a healthy snack.
This has taken some of the pressure off of me to grocery shop, because at least I always have some veggies around. Occasionally, I don’t even go to the grocery store, because I just order tons of vegetables. So I’m eating healthy AND saving money. Even in cold weather climates, there are CSAs at your disposal- not all are year round like ours, but many let you buy a share for produce, meat, milk, eggs, bread, and other amazing goodies.
Are you a part of a CSA? What have you found to be the benefits/drawbacks? If you aren’t a part, why not?