Lately, I feel that too much of our money is going to super markets and mega stores. I once was a very conscious consumer. I checked if products were made in this country. I checked if they were marked “fair-trade”. I was also a very conscious consumer of groceries. Organic? Local? Equal treatment of workers? As my family grew by a husband, one child and another child, I somehow lost my sight. When I look at our purchases recently, I realized that very little money goes back to our community.
So, we decided to give CSA a try. Currently, we subscribe to three CSA's; one of local grass-fed beef, and a small box from two different semi-local CSA's. I like getting one small box from each vegetable CSAs because we have somewhat more varieties of vegetables and fruits during the week. I also like that these CSAs have different delivery days: one on Wednesday, and one on Saturday. The challenge with CSA boxes is that you don't get to choose your own produce. You get what you get. You have to find a way to cook, otherwise they all go waste, which defeats the point. In order for us to eat all of the produce we receive, meal planning is crucial, at least for me. Most CSA organizations provide what’s in the box a few days before the delivery day, which is very helpful for me to start organizing and planning our family meals for the week. Here is what I do.
I write down everything (veggies, fruits, and proteins) left in my refrigerator or in the pantry first. Then, I write down the contents of Wednesday’s box and the contents of Saturday’s box. From this list, I make a list of meals I can prepare for the week. I consult books or websites for ideas, and I make a list of groceries that I need to buy from stores. Meals are assigned to each day of the week, but I am flexible to switch them around. When I assign meals, I am mindful of our schedule, too. For example, Wednesdays are full days with homeschool co-op and piano. We are out of the house from 8am to 2pm, and my husband and my oldest daughter leaves for Aikido class at 5:30pm. So, between 2pm and 5:30pm, I have to prepare meals, eat dinner, and send them off to their classes. I am usually beat when we get home, so the dinner is most likely something very simple such as soup, sandwiches or pasta. Tuesdays are my husband's off day from teaching Aikido, so I try to plan something we can enjoy longer at the table. Usually, this meal is accompanied with a bottle of wine, my husband’s favorite. Thursdays are my work day in the evening, so I prepare something that does not require many pots, pans or plates. Otherwise, I have to face the dirty dishes when I wake up the next day.
There is a lot of legwork on Wednesdays, but once I have meal plans written, it is pretty easy to follow for the rest of the week. If I have 30 minutes in the morning, I can start cutting the veggies, soaking grains, or marinading meats.
I also noticed that frequency of our trip to grocery stores decreased greatly, which gives me peace of mind because going to grocery stores with my girls can be very challenging. I am also feeling motivated to try new recipes with CSA veggies. Right now, I have three heads of green lettuce in the refrigerator, and there will be more coming next week. So, I have to really think of a way to use them before they go bad.
I am also planning to work on my "freezer meal" skills in the months to come so that meal planning can be more simple for me. I hope to share my experience with you soon.