Recently, I joined a produce co-op in my area and I just keep asking myself why I didn't do it sooner! It helps that a friend of mine was already involved in one, so she got me the contact information to get started. Every other week I drop off a laundry basket and $20 to the person who organizes our co-op. The next week, I go pick up my laundry basket full of produce. Most of the produce is local, but during the off season, they do have to get some of the produce from surrounding areas. Here are some things I LOVE about being a part of a produce co-op:
1. I would NEVER get as much produce for $20 at the grocery store! Here is what I got in my last basket to the best of my memory: 4 oranges, more red potatoes than I felt like counting, 3 green peppers, a head of iceberg lettuce, a head of cabbage, two bunches of broccolini, a large bag of spinach, 16oz of strawberries, 4 kiwis, 1 large squash, 1 large zucchini, 3 bags of carrots, celery, a container of grape tomatoes, and approximately 3/4 pound of pea pods. (The picture above is from a different week)
2. The produce is fresh and delicious. Sometimes I get good produce at the grocery store and sometimes I don't. That is part of the reason why we started a garden at my house and stick to farmer's markets and picking our produce whenever possible. It is just not always possible to avoid the grocery store for many obvious reasons.
3. Getting a load of random produce challenges me to prepare produce that I wouldn't normally purchase. For instance, one time I got some cauliflower and I wasn't thrilled about it. I ended up making a casserole out of it and it was pretty yummy.
4. There is ALWAYS produce in the house. Granted, I do find myself still having to buy some fruit at the grocery store because what I get in my basket won't feed my family for two weeks. However, the vegetables seem to keep us covered. I keep frozen vegetables on hand just in case, but I'm finding that I rarely use them.
5. This operation supports many local farmers, which I think is awesome!
So, if being a part of a co-op sounds good to you, look for one in your area. You may be able to find some information on LocalHarvest.org or you can google local produce co-ops in your area.