I have had a hard time buying vegetables since I moved to San Francisco. Trader Joe's uses too much packaging and I often discover part of the vegetables are already bad when I get them home. Whole Foods is too expensive, and Safeway's vegetables look too waxy, and are often just as expensive as Whole Foods. Also, since I live in San Francisco I do not have the traditional warm summer that inspires one to eat summer's bounty. At the end of last summer I realized that I had almost missed out on the entire fruit season. So this spring I signed up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) box. When I signed up for the box I thought my fruit and vegetable problems would be over and I would be a vision of vegetable mastery, but alas, like usual my vision was a bit off.
The CSA I chose does not offer a lot of options for how often and how many vegetables you get, but the online reviews rated the quality and variety of this CSA as high. I am on my 11th week of getting the box and it is the first time I have used all of the vegetables. This is no small feat. For two people the amount of vegetables can be a bit overwhelming. Especially since I do not pick-up the box until Wednesday and I have standing activities on Wednesday and Thursday nights. On Friday nights I tend to be a bit lazy, and it seems like recently every weekend has been an endless crush of weddings, wedding and baby showers, birthdays and graduations. Suddenly, my compost transporter was overflowing and my kitchen smelled of rotting vegetables (I compost at my mom's house, so I only get rid of my compost as often as I see her).
Another problem that I only recently worked through was prolonging the life of the vegetables. While I have always trimmed the extra greens off of the vegetables I still was not getting a very long shelf life. I have recently been trying to cut down on my plastic consumption, I'll talk about this in my next post, and so I was excited that most of the vegetables come without plastic bags. Plastic bags, however, are helpful in keeping things from spoiling the the fridge, and I was unsure of what to do until I discovered the crisper. My greens do not wilt as quickly and my carrots now are not limp after 2 days, in fact, I have a few from two weeks ago.
By prolonging the life of my vegetables I have been able to start using the vegetables when I am at home. I also do not feel as overwhelmed by the sheer amount of product that can go bad. I have started making lists , using the recipes that come with the vegetable box and just adding a few extra vegetables to things that I might normally not. The process is getting easier, and less is headed to the compost heap.
Aside from the obvious benefits of eating locally grown, family farmed foods there are many other benefits I am discovering. The box has made me do a better job at planning what I am going to eat. I no longer wander the aisles of the store after work wondering what I should make for dinner. Instead I get to go directly home from work, and that means I get home earlier and eat earlier. This leaves me with much more time for myself later in the evening. I am also cooking more. I have always enjoyed cooking as a way to wind down from the day, but I tend to get a little lazy when take-out is so close. Having a ton of wonderful vegetables in my fridge inspires me to cook. Another great thing is the money I save. When I cook more I eat out less not only for dinner, but also for lunch, and I am now finding that I have extra money at the end of the week. The final benefit is the few pounds I have dropped, maybe it is because I am eating more vegetable or maybe it is because I am eating out less, but the scale has not been creeping up like it used to.