Monday, March 30, 2009

If You Are What You Eat, What Does That Make Me?

Anybody who knows that my daily lunch always consists of a peanut butter sandwich and a banana will be surprised to learn that I've recently been thinking a lot more about the food I eat.

I'm a fairly healthy eater. I eat meat about 4 or 5 meals a week and eat fruit (the aforesaid banana) and vegetables each day, although not as much as I should. I don't eat a lot of chips or junk food, although I do have a soft spot for chocolate and Chips Deluxe cookies.

My concerns are now centered not so much on what I eat as on where that food comes from. Exactly how much gas and energy does it take to ship those bananas my way? Do I really need to eat strawberries in the middle of the winter, or can I substitute them for something that's in season?

I like the idea of eating organic foods, but I'm just too much of a cheapskate. It's hard to spend double -- at least -- when the picture doesn't even look good on the box. I like the idea of buying local and plan on making more of an effort to do just that when the greenmarkets open around here in the next month or so.

"Buying local," however, is relative. In Ohio, that means it was planted and picked maybe a couple of miles away. In New York City, it's from a couple of hundred miles away.

I recently heard that our neighborhood is trying to start a food co-op, so. Paul and I got up bright and early Saturday morning to attend a meeting at the public library to learn more. They hope to open late next year and stock it much like a grocery store-- a one-stop shopping experience for co-op members who put up a couple of hundred bucks (refundable) to become part owners.

It's an intriguing idea, but the emphasis seems to be as much on saving money as getting good food. Members would cut an anticipated 20 percent off of their grocery bills but also would have to volunteer at the co-op for a few hours every month. I'm cheap, but I guess I'm also lazy. I think I would rather just pay a few cents more and be able to stay at home.

Which brings me to another option: a CSA. Bay Ridge's Community Supported Agriculture program brings "farm-fresh, pesticide free, locally grown, affordable" vegetables to the neighborhood, according to the website. Members buy a "share" of the harvest and receive their portion every week (or every two weeks) between June and November.

This seems like a good option. But what if I get vegetables I don't like? At $495 for the every week option (or $265 for every other week), I definitely don't want to be throwing produce away.

Well, I'm off to make tomorrow's peanut butter sandwich. I would appreciate any suggestions, tips or advice!


  1. $495, holy crap .... we don't spend that on groceries in a month (though we eat out way more than we should, so all told, we probably spend that or more on food/alcohol.)

    As you know, I basically live on soy burgers because they are cheap, healthy and easy to prepare.

    I am also obsessed, OBSESSED, with Trader Joe's. I buy organic food there are reasonable cost. Actually, it's much cheaper to shop there than at a mainstream grocer, even for organic foods. And they have all kinds of vegetarian foods, ethnic dishes, various assortments of Belgian chocolate .... if there is one near you, I highly recommend checking it out.

  2. It's $495 for the entire season, which comes out to about $20 a week. It wouldn't be a bad deal if I knew for sure that we'd get food we like.

    There's a Trader Joe's in Manhattan that I've been to a couple of times, but needless to say, it's kind of a pain to get a full week's worth of groceries when you have to haul them on the train. Fairway (I don't know if they have those in Maryland) is similar and within driving distance, so we've gone there once.

  3. We did a CSA in Springfield for a couple of summers. We finally stopped largely because Luke and Jacob were still young and it was hard enough to get them to eat carrots and broccoli, much less fennel.
    That CSA did have some good practices. You good take stuff out of your bag and leave it if you didn't want it. That might not seem like a good thing, but it worked out well, because somebody else might leave something you liked and you could exchange for the stuff you didn't want.
    We also enjoyed the experience of going to the farm once a week and picking up our bag, which often had unusual vegetables which we wouldn't have tried on our own initiative.
    I think you should give it a whirl for one season and see how it goes.
    I still don't like fennel.

  4. My friend Katie tried a CSA once... it seemed to work out all right for them. (She posted photos of each week's haul on Flickr: The thing I recall is that the selection of veggies was a bit unusual at times, or there would be bizarre quantities. So I guess you'd have to be pretty open and flexible with your meal plans. Katie is a genius at making delicious things out of whatever is around, so that probably wasn't an issue for her but it would be for me :)

  5. Wow, I completely misunderstood. All your other readers are going to think I'm an idiot!

  6. I was confused by the price at first too. Even so, I'm not sure we'd get our money's worth. Even worse, you have to pick up your share on Saturday mornings by 10:30 a.m., which would be a pain. The location is far enough away that we would have to drive, and it's not like our car is only steps away anymore.



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