Farmers Market vs CSA: Weeks 1 and 2

24 Jun

We stopped by the Bloomfield Farmer’s Market last evening (in the middle of a wicked summer storm) and scored these babies, three for $1:

20110624-051410.jpg

Highlighter added for size perspective

Fairly large zucchini for the middle of June. I sliced one up tonight and sauted it in a tablespoon of butter for a veggie side with a plate of whole wheat spaghetti and semi-homemade tomato sauce; even after each of us ate a large portion there still are enough leftovers for tomorrow. That leaves two monsters hanging out in the crisper for meals next week.

I love farmers’ markets. Not only do they allow consumers to meet the people who grow their veggies and ask them questions, but they usually prove to be much more economical than the grocery store. And there’s something about the hustle and bustle of crowds with cloth grocery sacks weaving among the piles of unwaxed produce  in the open air that makes an afternoon truly feel like summer.

Last year we hit the market on a weekly basis, spending $20-25 each trip.  Because of the timing of the market, we tended to go prior to eating dinner, which meant we were shopping hungry (huge no-no in some schools of shopping thought). Often it did lead to impulse purchases based on misconceptions: “Sure, two dozen pierogies at $6/dozen is a good buy”, “Of course we can eat two gigantic heads of lettuce and three pounds of plums before they go bad”, “A bushel of peppers doesn’t look like that much. And it’s only $5!”. Sometimes we wound up throwing food out either because we couldn’t eat it fast enough, or we were tired of the lack of variety provided by buying too much of one item. Either way, the end result was that there wasn’t a whole lot of savings in our monthly food budget of approximately $250 a month.

This year we are trying a combination approach to see what works best. As always dry goods, snack foods, dairy and meats are being purchased at one or more of the chain grocers (it isn’t uncommon for me to visit two different stores on grocery day). Veggies and fruits, however, are being obtained through one of two ways: the farmer’s market and a farm share.

Farm shares, also known as CSAs (or Community Supported Agriculture) allow the consumer to purchase a percentage of a farm’s yield for that year’s growing season. Generally payment is either by installment or in-full sometime in late winter/early spring, but either way most require complete payment prior to the first disbursement. The farm we chose offers both a full share (every week pickup) and half share (every other week) option. For now we’re doing the half-share, since we worried the full share may prove to be too much for a household of two people. We can always supplement from the farmers’ market, which is less offensive than throwing away spoiled food.

We’re lucky enough to live in an area saturated with CSAs, most of which participate in some form of city dropoff program. After a lot of comparisons of plans and informal polling of friends who have tried a CSA, we settled on a half share priced at $260 for 11 weeks of deliveries, running from early June to the first week in November. This averages out to a cost of $23.63 per disbursement, or $11.82 per week if the produce is enough to feed us for two weeks. We picked up our first crate on June 16, which you can read more about here (in the future, I’ll either be cross-posting or exclusively posting here for CSA-related entries). The produce lasted exactly one week to the day, except for a lone apple lingering around the fruit bowl, which is about what I had expected for this early in the growing season. Hopefully it picks up as the summer progresses.

Regardless, the CSA provided a variety of items that I’m not sure we could have gotten at the farmers’ market for the same price. And it inspired us to approach the market with a little more forethought than we have in summers past (also, we ate dinner before we went!). Our haul from the market amounted to the following for $11 even:

  • one pint of cherries
  • the aforementioned three monster zucchini
  • two heads of young broccoli
  • a quart-sized box of Anaheim peppers (7 peppers total),

all of which should last us for yet another week.  Now I just need to figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of those zucchini…

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2 Responses to “Farmers Market vs CSA: Weeks 1 and 2”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Chocolate Zucchini Bread « The Grocery Project - 06/30/2011

    […] how I chose to utilize the second of our three massive zucchini from last week’s trip to the Farmer’s Market. The following recipe only needed half of one of the monsters to equal 2 cups of grated […]

  2. Add It Up « The Grocery Project - 01/09/2012

    […] you’ve been following this blog, you know that last year marked our first foray into a CSA, receiving a disbursement of farm-fresh veggies every other week during the summer. This year we […]

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