Tag Archives: csa

How to Find Organic or Local Produce for Less

People often complain about the cost of organic and local produce, and rightfully so. It’s hard to buy them on many budgets. Since I’m working this month on buying local and/or organic produce for my family this month, I thought I would share some tactics for getting it for less.

Join a Co-op

This is where I’m getting my organic produce right now. The co-op tries for local as well, but that doesn’t always work out since they run year-round.

What I like about them is that since they are not attached to a particular farm they can respond to member preferences. There’s a thread on the member discussion board for people to ask for things they’d like to see in their baskets. You also don’t have to worry about crop failures. They buy what they can find from a variety of sources each week.

The challenge is in learning how to cook some of what is provided. This group provided my first experience with collard greens, for example. But that means more excuses to experiment with recipes!

Join a CSA

A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a way to buy a share of a farmer’s production in advance. It’s much like the co-op I’m a member of, except that it’s attached to a particular farm.

You really don’t know what you’re going to get each week, so once again it’s an excuse to try new recipes.

Visit the Farmer’s Market

In my experience, some farmer’s markets have really great prices, others not so much. You may have to shop around a little to find the one that has the best combination of prices, produce and quality in your area.

Not all produce at farmer’s markets will be either local or organic, but you’re always free to ask. And even if the prices aren’t spectacular they can be cheaper than the prices for organic produce at the grocery store. Just know your prices well enough to be sure of what you’re getting into.

You can also check back late in the day to see if anything has been marked down so that the farmer doesn’t have to haul it back. This won’t always work, and of course it’s been picked over all day, but it can be worth a shot.

Start Your Own Garden

If you have some space, this can be a lot of fun. It can add up if you aren’t careful about the supplies you buy, but for organic gardening you shouldn’t be spending a ton on fertilizers and such anyhow. You’ll do far better if you can get a good compost pile going.

Gardening can be both delightful and frustrating. Sometimes you’ll get an amazing harvest. Other times you’ll get nothing, and of course everything in between.

If you live in an area with water shortages, gardening may not work so well. I found it harder to keep a garden really thriving when we had a lot of rules about which days and times we could water. Just kind of limiting and hard to deal with on the hottest of summer days.

Don’t forget to share excess produce from your garden with neighbors. Not only is it fun, if they have excess they’re likely to reciprocate.

Organic Foods on the Cheap – Money Saving Mondays

The problem many people have with buying organic food is the cost. It’s often significantly more expensive than conventionally grown produce. That’s rough when you’re on a tight budget.

But there are several ways to get organic food for less.

My own favorite way is to grow a garden. There’s some initial investment and a lot of time spent, but you will generally get back more than you put in. It’s likely to cost you less than what the conventionally grown produce would have cost you at the grocery store.

Although you do run the risk of failure if it’s just a bad year.

There are other ways to get organic food for less. These are a few.

1. Check the farmer’s market.

Some farmer’s markets have better prices than others, but you will probably find a good selection of organic produce there. If not organic, it’s probably locally grown, and that’s not a bad choice either.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount if you’re buying slightly damaged produce, and check out some of the less familiar foods. You can find some really interesting foods at farmer’s markets.

You’ll need to know what the prices are at your stores for organic produce to know what you’re saving at a farmer’s market.

2. Join a CSA

This one’s kind of tough, as the investment is upfront. However, if you check out this study done at the University of Massachusetts, you can see that you may be getting significantly more for your money with a CSA. No guarantees, of course, as anyone can have a bad year, but I wouldn’t expect that to be a regular problem.

If you have trouble with the cost or quantity of food, try splitting a share with a friend.

3. Buy in season.

Produce always costs less when it’s in season. If you have the space, the time and the inclination, you can freeze or can any excess you buy for later use.

Where to Find Local Food Resources

I’ve talked a bit lately about my garden. I love being able to grow my own food. In fact, my husband came home the other day with an early Mother’s Day gift for me – more plants for the garden. I liked it.

I know, of course, that gardening isn’t for everyone. So today I wanted to get into local food sources. If you can’t garden, if you don’t want to, if your garden fails, whatever the reason, buying local is a great option.

Farmer’s markets are often an easy choice. There may be several in your area. The USDA has a page all about farmer’s markets, and it may be a place for you to start searching if you haven’t spotted them already on your own. But it definitely doesn’t have all of them listed. I searched for a farmer’s market I know of in my area, one that has been going on for years, and it wasn’t listed.

Local Harvest is another great resource. Once again, they didn’t have my local farmer’s market listed, but it did show another that I know of nearby.

Local Harvest can also help you to find a CSA to join in your area. Community Supported Agriculture groups are a great option if you don’t mind prepaying and not knowing what exactly you’re going to get. I haven’t tried one yet myself, but every time I read about someone who has, the selection impresses me.

The Eat Well Guide offers similar resources.

If you want to learn more about sustainable eating, I suggest checking out the Sustainable Table website. It has some great tips that will help you understand why you want to avoid conventionally farmed foods when you can.