Saturday, October 11, 2008

Community Supported Agriculture (and other cheap produce options)

I am blessed to live in Southern California.

For the first year that we lived here, I could not understand why produce was still relatively expensive in most regular grocery stores. At times, even the organic whole foods produce was cheaper! This is why I tell people to definitely shop around and compare prices. Even here, the stores will fleece unsuspecting customers.

And then I discovered...the 99 Cent Only chain of stores.

I was tipped off by a Hispanic co-worker. She scoffed at the price I was paying for fruits and vegetables. "Just go to the dollar store."

I had never heard of a dollar store that carried real food. I said, disbelieving, "They have produce?"

She laughed. "They have tons of it!"

So I sojourned out one day.

Oh my.

Here is where I discovered fresh Roma tomatoes. Six to eight of them, for a dollar. Previously, I could only find overripe, mushy Romas for over two dollars per pound.

I was sold.

Here, fresh salad mixes, zucchini, and bananas (3 pound bags) were always in stock. And, as the season allowed, was fresh fruit. Right now, there are 3 pound bags of plums, nectarines, or peaches for a dollar per bag.

Today I saw mini seedless watermelons, and rubber banded bunches of asparagus. The display was bursting with green peppers -- two for a dollar. There were even some red and yellow peppers -- you know how expensive those are. They were three for a dollar. Large heads of cauliflower, celery hearts, and Mexican squash rounded out the rest of the produce section. Occasionally there will be some organic produce as well.

It's a great way to save money. Right after picking up two pounds of asparagus and two pounds of zucchini (total: $4), I stopped at a chain grocery store, where the asparagus was $2.49 per pound.

Another way you may be able to save on fresh produce is to purchase a farm share through Community Supported Agriculture.

I realize the site is a little vague, but most of them give you a (bushel) box of produce, ranging from 20-30 pounds. Some of them will tell you what's in the box, and some won't. Some are more expensive and some are not as expensive. You can choose weekly pickups, or every other week pickups.

Obviously because I am on the SCD diet, there's a lot of food I can't eat, so it's important that I know what is in the box, and it's important that I can eat a majority of it. So I would need to find one that does list the contents of the boxes.

You have to pick up the box yourself, and there are usually multiple drop-off locations. Some of the farms will allow you to mix and match a couple of items -- for me, this would be ideal. But all of the produce is fresh -- generally picked the same day -- and organic.

I am definitely planning on taking advantage of CSA once I have a little more money. Things have been a little tight this week, so I'm happy to share my tips with all of you!

I would be remiss if I did not mention Costco. I can get a five pound bag of organic baby carrots for $5 every time I go. Right now, they also have five pound bags of organic frozen green beans for around $5 as well. I use them for soup and steam them for lunches and snacks. They also have a pretty good price on avocados most of the time.

Another great buy is their canned wild salmon from Alaska. Six cans for $9 is a fantastic price, and wild Alaskan salmon should have very low to no contaminants of any kind. I personally like to eat it with oil and wine vinegar. Chow down!


infmom said...

Our local 99¢ store only started carrying produce a few months ago, and they don't have anywhere near the quality or quantity yours does.

However, we have Golden Farms just a couple blocks farther up the street. It's an international market that has Armenian, Middle Eastern, Russian, Asian and Hispanic groceries. And in amongst the lavash and pierogi and gyro meat and luleh kebab mixture and tortillas and boxes of stuff with labels in Persian, there is a produce section to die for. They have better produce, at lower prices, than any chain grocery, and they have a lot more available than the 99¢ store does.

Next time you guys are in the neighborhood, let's go there. :)

Sherry said...

Is the produce at the 99 cent store organic?

The SCD girl said...

Hi Sherry,

Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. You've got to read labels, just like everywhere else.

I know I've come across some information on the best or most important things to buy organic. I'll try to dig that up for a future post. Thanks!