One of my goals for 2013 has been to feed my family more foods made from scratch, and healthier foods. I can’t say the year has been an outrageous success, but there definitely has been a positive shift in the way we eat around here. I’ve been working on changing my attitude towards cooking, including finding easier ways to get food on the table that don’t involve the car and my wallet. We have definitely tried a lot of newer *to us* things and there have been some outright misses, as well as some glorious victories.
One serious help for us has been joining and participating in Bountiful Basket. If you are not aware of how to participate a detailed description follows, if you are, feel free to skip ahead to the “~~~~~.” On Monday or at the latest Tuesday before 10 PM you go online, find your closest delivery site and then order your basket, you always get a basket when you order, you are able choose to add $10 and get an organic basket instead with about half as much produce, but it’s organic. If you want you can add some side treats at reasonable prices. Sides include cases of seasonal produce (lemons, peaches, apples, pears, etc.), bread, granola, coconut oil, or packs of a grouping of stuff (we like those, examples to follow), things like that.
Your money then goes into a pool with all of the other contributions. Then the coordinator volunteers get to work with farmers and distributors, and try to make every single penny stretch to the max, getting 4-6 fruits, and 4-6 veggies for every basket. As you will see below, things that are small usually come in multiples, and things that are large or more expensive are singles.
Saturday morning, volunteers (including you every few times you participate) get to the site early, they unload a truck with dozens of cases of produce, and other packs, they set out the laundry baskets, and get to work sorting the food into the baskets, as fast and carefully as possible before people come for pick up. After all the baskets are equal, any case ends are distributed as evenly as possible after the volunteers get the first pick of an extra item or two for their work. The boxes from the cases are sent home to be recycled by participants. All side packages are presorted. When you volunteer you need to wear work clothes, bring some clean work gloves, and a water bottle.
Then you (the participant) show up with bags and boxes, and your order confirmation form, printed or digital. The coordinator checks her forms, has people initial, signals to a volunteer how many baskets, and whatever else, you go and unload their baskets into the boxes or your bags, and off you go with your yummy fresh and healthy treats.
Right now baskets are $12.50 with a $2.50 handling fee (gas, truck driver, etc), so $15 flat for just one. There is a $3 first time fee for the local coordinator to get some new baskets to keep at the site, you still need to bring your own container in case there are no left over case boxes. I like to bring my light framed IKEA cart to help haul things back to my car. Side items range from about $8-40, and are always competitively and reasonably priced.
The myth that kept me from ordering was that once I signed up I had to always order on A week or B week, every other weekend, every time. You do NOT have to order every other week, if your first order was an A week, and you don’t need anything, or you went to the farmers market, or whatever, you don’t have to order on A week again, you can order on a B week if it happens to land on a B week when you know you’ll want produce.
One thing I really like is that I suddenly have all of this healthy stuff, I will try things I might not have (or at least get the kids to), and it’s nice to refresh out of the rut that we sometimes get into with family meals.
Finally, We’ve made it to this weeks order. I know I’m long winded, thank you for making it through. Today my basket looked like this. 2 heads of romaine, 1 bunch celery, 2 bundles of green onions, 2 green peppers, one pack of skinny asparagus, 1 package of snack tomatoes, one sweet potato/yam (yup, I don’t know the difference), 7 bananas, 3 grapefruits, 6 red pears, 7 tiny green apples, and 4 yellow apples.
This week I chose to buy the harvest pack for $15. The description was “Harvest Pack – Hoping for assorted small pumpkins, mini and large Indian corn, tiger stripe squash and more.” I was really hoping for some fun things for decorating, but also some for eating, things like butternut squash, spaghetti squash, or other winter squash varieties, but it just didn’t pan out this time. However the two bigger pumpkins are probably pie pumpkins, so they should be great for baking or cooking, one of them has a damaged area where the stem got knocked off, so it’s going into the oven today. Everything else will make cute decorations on the entry wall or our table. 2 pie pumpkins, 2 ears medium Indian corn, three ears mini Indian corn, and 7 various mini pumpkins.