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lexes42

CSA and budgets

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My grocery bill has doubled... and while my 'eating out/ starbucks' budget has shrunk to nearly zero... post whole30 I must reign it in if I want to eat this way forever.

 

Part of that is better meal plannig to be sure... I'm wondering, though how people feel about their CSA's from a budget standpoint.... is it helpful? Or are its perks more along the lines of sourcing good / new food?

 

I live close to Whole Foods - but don't shop there regularly given the 'whole paycheck' issue - and can get to Wegmans, Farmers markets etc.... but CSAs have always interested me.. Just wondering how they affect the monthly budget :)

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I'm in the same boat - I'm on Day 28, and plan to generally keep eating this way, but for me to do that I need to seriously rein in my budget! I have a weekly CSA that costs me about $40 a week (I got a small discount for prepaying). For that $40, I get 1/4 bushel produce, a "portion" of meat (could be two pounds ground beef, a whole chicken, a pound of sirloin...), and six eggs. To be honest, I don't think it saves me much money, and there are things I have to give away (like all the fresh corn!). The benefits to me are knowing that I have high quality meat coming, knowing that my produce is local and fresh and helping others in the community, and being forced to get out of the cooking ruts I get I to when I don't have a CSA.

I don't think I *lose* money either, but I do always need to supplement my meats and veggies even though I have what is normally a two-person box to myself. When they say two people, they don't mean two Paleo people! My first strategy for getting the budget under control is going to be to keep the fancy recipes to one a week. I get so excited and cook a bunch on the weekends when I can, but it ends up with me being overworked and in the kitchen all day, and spending tons of money on recipes. I made two Asian-inspired recipes yesterday and used over half a bottle of coconut aminos to do it - and those aminos are not cheap!

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My CSA is the smallest size and I pay $22 per week for it. Just fruits and veggies. Not sure if it saves any money. Been thinking about that lately. Because I still have to supplement it with more fruits and veggies from the store. I think once I get a few more regular recipes that I like and can regulate and buy in bulk I might cut down. I am in the same boat, eating out budget is now $0 from probably $100 a week. But still spending SO much $$$!

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Yeah. My hubby is on board for eating more fruits/veggies and less chips/cereal/bread...but our grocery bill for the two of us this past week was $200 (excluding the alcohol he wanted). I'm sure we'll be getting the hang of it, since we didn't eat a significant portion of it thus far...but still. Yikes!

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It stands for 'Community Supported Agriculture'.  Farms will basically take subscribers and for a set weekly amount you receive a basket of that weeks produce / meat or whatever.  It can be pricier then your grocery store - depends on a number of factors.  But it's also helpful in getting you to eat your vegetables, knowing what is on your food,  and sticking to eating what is in season!

 

Here is an example in MA:

 

http://www.localharvest.org/csa/M6805

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Yeah, my grocery bill for the month of August - my whole 30 - was about double the usual.  I'm interested to see what folks say about budget wise paleo...

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There are lots of threads about budgets.  You should be able to find some good ideas.

 

On the CSA, I love mine, but I don't think I save money over the grocery store or even the farmer's market.  I love it, though, because I know I'm gettnig fresh, organic produce, I get a good variety of vegetables that I may not otherwise think to buy, and I'm supporting a small, local, organic farmer. 

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CSA shares are wonderful, but it is not for everyone. 

 

First, there is a lot of prep involved. Most people are used to looking up a recipe, then gathering the ingredients. With a CSA share, you have to figure out what to make out of the random assortment you got. It will definitely stretch your cooking boundaries -- a good thing, but more effort.

 

The vegetables aren't always pretty. You may think this doesn't matter, but wait til you get an ugly tomato or buggy broccoli. You will get used to it, but there's a reason store veggies have been bred to look perfect shape, color, etc despite being nearly flavorless. People keep buying them! Our eyes aren't always our friends.

 

Finally, you are investing in supporting a farm, a wonderful thing to help ensure real, local food will be available in the future.

If the CSA does well, you will have more tomatoes, squash, etc than you know what to do with -- but remember, the farmer could have a terrible year and you get next to nothing, and there are no refunds.

 

Inevitably, there will be times you run out of time or ideas and some of your food goes to waste, and you will have guilt!

 

In summary, saving money probably isn't the reason to join a CSA.

 

That being said, I really love being part of one!

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My main reasons for joining a CSA is it forces me to eat local, in season, and a variety of foods and supporting my local farmers. I also really get overwhelmed at a farmer's market. Definitely shopping around for a price and program that works for you is the best way to go. 

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In AZ, we have something called Bountiful Baskets. It's in other states, too. It's $15 for conventional, $25 for organic, one round laundry basket full of veg, one full of fruit (or there about). It's a great deal. You don't get to choose, but I often trade things on site with people. You do have to go pick up your stuff, usually Saturday morning, but it's a great deal, and for me, it forces me to be creative with my food, which I like.

Alternately, find an Oriental Grocery kind of place. Usually their veg is much cheaper, quality is still great. I can't speak to organic/conventional/pesticide residues, though. But if you pick from the clean veggies anyway, you would probably still be okay. 

 

I also do frozen veggie blends, pick them up when they're on sale.

 

Aaand, with the exception of salad greens, I pretty much only buy what's on sale, and get creative from there. I don't mind buying an odd tomato or single avocado if I want/need it, but if it's gonna be a side veg, I need cheap and good! :D

 

ETA - Here's a link http://www.bountifulbaskets.org/. Their website isn't... the best, navigation is funky, and I think streamlined is a word they've never heard of, but still, the veg is good. If the site is too wonky, I can help if needed.

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I'm actually blogging about my CSA experience now as I do my second Whole30.  The first Whole30 I was a little uptight about organizing recipes and planning every meal in advance.  I realize CSAs aren't for everyone but I am enjoying having a little more "mystery" to what food I'm going to get, and becoming more comfortable experimenting in the kitchen with new vegetables.  Check out some of my meal ideas here!  http://ourfareshare.blogspot.com/

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I'll be participating in our first CSA this summer (June - September). Looking at last year's weekly crop, it looks like it didn't get off to a very exciting start (lots of different types of lettuce - paleo taco salad, anyone?) But towards the end of the summer, lots of yummy things were coming out.

 

It's $28/wk - I thought I might save some money, but good to know it's probably not a saver. Still, I feel good about supporting a local farm and knowing that what I'm getting is "in season," not shipped from 1000+ miles away, and fresh. And I'm looking forward to getting creative with meals!

 

My whole 30 ends in two days and yes my grocery bill is larger. Yes, I'll be adding in the occasional starbucks or meal out, but not as much as I used to in order to level out the budget.

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I'm curious to hear what an average food budget is?  I was going to keep track of how much we spent on food once we started the Whole30, but both of us buy food.  So it was hard to keep track of the receipts.  My husband leaves them in the bag, in his pants pocket, on his dresser etc etc.  Also it was another thing to do, so I stopped after a few days.

 

I was talking to a friend recently and she said that her family of three spent $1000 a month on food.  I thought that was crazy expensive and then I thought about it.  It's a little over $10 a day per person.  Not sure if alcohol was included (maybe some) but that will bring the expense up.

 

Interested to hear other input.....

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I spend about $125 +/- $25 a week for 2 of us (me and my husband). I've always eaten mostly paleo (say 80%) with the addition of whole grains (infrequently) and oatmeal so my budget hasn't really changed at all actually. My husband eats regular potatoes, corn, beans, etc. (basically meat and starch, no veggies). 

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I have bought a CSA for the past 10 or so years.  In the past, I had major guilt for throwing out vegetables that had gone past their prime languishing in our refrigerator (especially cauliflower- now I gasp!).  During my first W30 in August, nothing was tossed out.  I really enjoyed the challenge of cooking up tasty dishes with the ingredients of the week.  Savings?  Yes, for maintaining local farmland, better health (fresh veggies have more available nutrients than those traveling around the country), and flavor.  It's nice to have the connection with your farmer.

Food budget?  I'm afraid to even keep track!  I heard a saying long ago...."You can't spend too much money on good food (I think the saying is actually that "and lingerie," but you get the idea of priorities, right?!)."  :) 

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I love our CSA.  It's painful in the spring because we pay upfront for the whole season (29 weeks!!!) and it works out to about $28/week.  BUT, in the winter (like now) I spend significantly more than that on fresh produce because I pretty much insist on organic (and local if possible).  

 

There are two of us and we do get a full (family sized) share but if we are eating Whole30-level of veggies, we can consume it all before it goes to waste.  I love it.  The taste of the veggies is heads and tails above anything we buy in a store (even organic stuff) because the varietals are better.  And we are always getting new things to try and finding favorites.  I fell in love with both celeriac and Chinese broccoli last year.  I can't wait to see what things they've experimented with this year!  We also are expected to volunteer a couple of times a season to help with the harvest - so we get to get our hands dirty and that's a huge bonus, too.

 

Overall, we spend a LOT of money on food, but really...I have no choice.  I've turned into a food snob so how our food is raised is as important to me as how I prepare it once in the kitchen.  In fact, we've cut back spending in other areas because high quality food is very important to us.  Weekly, we spend about $150 for two of us but that includes very little meat since we have a freezer full of pork and beef from a local rancher.  We don't buy alcohol or grains/dairy/legumes except the occasional small container of heavy cream for my husband's coffee.  The part that annoys me the most is the cost of eggs.  We sold our farm a year ago and until then, had more amazingly high quality eggs than we could eat.  Now I'm paying $15 a week for eggs that are not even as good! Grrr!  During CSA season, that $150 drops to about $60 or so (partly because we buy so little at the store and partly because what we do buy is local and in season, so it's cheaper).

 

I try to justify the cost in my head by looking at the flip side of eating well.  Our body weights have normalized and remain stable so we no longer throw away money on buying clothing in varying sizes.  Neither of us has been to a doctor for anything other than a check up in two years (we are mid-40's in age).  We have the lowest premiums on our life insurance and we get discounted health insurance because of our health markers.  We also don't get simple sicknesses like the flu or the common cold (oddly enough) so we spend less on stupid stuff like Nyquil!  There is the obvious cost savings for not eating out as much, but since we have a lot of acceptable options in our local area, we don't save as much there as others might.  It's the hidden curse of living in an area where a large % of the population cares about where their food comes from! ;-)

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I feel like I spend a crazy amount on groceries, but I'm actually feeding my best friend too. He is a poor college student and he comes over almost every night to hang out with me, play video games and watch TV or movies, etc. and I feed him dinner. I usually spend about $100-125 on groceries each week. I feel like I spent a lot less last summer as I bought veggies at the farmer's market and I had my cow in the freezer (I've pretty much eaten Gus, so it's back to grocery store meat :( that is until this coming fall when I get another cow and a lamb!)

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I thought about doing a CSA, but I'm just not there yet.  I totally appreciate the idea behind it and what it ultimately represents, but i feel like I would either waste alot or spend even more b/c I would run to the grocery store to get the items i "wanted".

 

I have found, though, my food budget has not changed much this W30, and I don't know if it was because we were paleo (semi-paleo for kids) or what.  I do know that I've gotten better at spending to much on splurges in my shopping.  For example, I used to buy several different kinds of oils.  Now, I just stick to 2.  I also used to overbuy fresh produce that I just didn't get around to using.  For example, I would buy heads of cauliflower with intent on making it into cauli-mash or rice, but never use all the heads.  So, I've started using frozen where I can (i.e frozen carrot slices for my chicken soup, frozen broccoli for the fast veggie to steam, frozen cauli for cauli-mash).

 

Honestly, if my kids were 100% paleo, we would go even lower to cut out some of the non-paleo stuff i buy for them.  But they are on a slower progression and probably won't be 100% paleo anyway.

 

We spend about $200-$250/wk for a family of 5.

 

ETA:  i also think if I meal planned better, I would get under $200/wk.  I'm just very terrible at planning...anything. lol

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If you're not much of a planner, keep in mind that big boxes of stuff may just end up wasted.

 

I don't have a CSA, but I get organic veggies delivered and they are actually cheaper than from other organic sources. The only bummer is that you have to order in advance, so if you change your mind or your plans, you may end up with food you're not going to use.

 

Overall I've found it much cheaper and the stuff is a nicer quality (I'm really lucky) and I find it more satisfying. Some other organic stores have bigger items, but I really like these ones. They'll even include biodynamic eggs and meat too (expensive, but worth it).

 

Read reviews of your local one if you can, and if there's a choice, see if you can try a box from each one and compare.

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I'm late to this party, but wanted to throw support for CSAs. Mine costs $45/week and I can certainly buy similar products elsewhere for cheaper. I consider it to more in the "think globally, act locally" category of expenditures in that if we don't support local growers, there won't BE any local growers. Sometimes the cost is painful, but it helps keep me out of the car and out of a grocery store for a day or two which helps cut down on impulse purchases.

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I spend $100 every other week on meat, $20 every other week on produce (may bump to weekly) and another $60 or so a week to fill the gaps at the store.

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I have a different kind of CSA in that there is no subscription.  Each week they email the list of vegetables and you can choose to buy it or not.  It's $23 for 7-9 different vegetables (or fruit).  Probaby enough for two though my boyfriend and I barely get through it all in a week.  I prefer this over the subscription CSAs since we travel a fair amount and it can put it on hold on the weeks we aren't here.

 

As far as groceries my boyfriend and I spent about $200 a week but we eat meat daily and buy organic veggies to fill gaps from the CSA box.  We generally dine out 1-2 nights a week which I'm not even counting towards the food budget.

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I've done a local CSA for a number of years now.  I'm going to echo what most others have said.  I see the benefit in being supporting local agriculture and getting forced to try some new things.  I haven't found any savings in it.

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