A facebook friend posted a link this week to a produce co-op site that she was thinking of trying out. Because I’ve been working hard lately at cooking for the family (versus eating takeout) and cutting grocery costs, I found the concept interesting.
Apparently the basic idea behind this particular co-op (and I understand that there are other interpretations of this general concept) is that produce is purchased in bulk by what’s currently in season and if you choose to purchase, you have to follow the rule my five year old has so much trouble with at kindergarten: That’s what you get and you don’t throw a fit.
It was $18 to purchase one ‘basket’ of produce and it had to be ordered and paid for online between Tuesday at noon and Wednesday at 10pm. My kids eat a ton of bananas, apples, grapes, melon and the like, and that is the sort of stuff I could vaguely make out in the picture of the basket on the website. I figured for $18 it couldn’t be a total disaster even if it was mostly radishes and rainbow chard.
This morning at 7:05 (the website said we had to be there at 7:15 AM, but I just tend to generally run a little early) we pulled into the parking lot of the Gene Autry Sports center, about 4 miles from our house to pick up our food. The operation consisted of about 10 ladies and 6 rows with blue and white baskets filled with produce. We got in line and showed our printed off receipt to a woman with a clipboard, who pointed us over to one of the rows.
We were then instructed to empty two baskets of food (one filled with fruit, one with veggies) into the box we brought from home (a medium-sized storage container). Here’s what we went home with:
6 apples (fuji)
2 butternut squashes
1.5 bunches of bananas
1 large bag of green grapes
1 lb of strawberries
1 large bunch of romaine lettuce
1 small bag of carrots
3 small bok choy
I was a little weirded out by the bok choy, just because I’ve never used it, but once I voiced this on twitter, I was immediately pointed to three recipes that contain bok choy that all look excellent. Other than that, I was thrilled with the amount and quality of food we received for $18. We went right home and cut up the melon and some of the peaches and strawberries for breakfast and washed and froze the grapes for snacks. I’m going to make roasted butternut squash with flank steak and bok choy for dinner this week.
Besides the money we saved on the produce, I also like that it is seasonal, and that it forces me to try things I might not otherwise. Cooking for a family of five on a regular basis can get a little monotonous and this is a fun way to mix it up a little.
I will do it again. Maybe this isn’t something that would work for a single person or a very small family, but I think it’s just the right amount for my boys.