Friday, August 10, 2012

One Step Toward Eating Better: Bountiful Baskets

Back in June I started contributing to a co-op called Bountiful Baskets.  They deliver every other week in our area and it has been such a blessing to us to be really getting our fill of fresh fruits and vegetables.  We have been very pleased with the way it works and with everything we have gotten so far.   One conventional basket is just $15 and provides enough produce to almost fill a good sized laundry basket.  After a time or two I increased our order to 3 baskets (the maximum) to push myself to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into our diet and to greatly decrease what I am buying from a store.

3 Conventional Baskets + 1 cute helper
This past week's delivery  (ordering 3 baskets) included:
3 heads romaine lettuce
3 green cabbage
3 melons - Galia? - new to me, but they tasted like honeydew
3 6oz. packages blueberries
3 avocados
28 red potatoes
20 bananas
3 bags cherries
19 tomatoes - organic
12 peaches
15 mangoes

3 baskets @ $15 + $1.50 processing/order fee = $46.50 for everything above.

What I love about Bountiful Baskets:
- Good quantity, quality, variety and freshness make it seem like a good value for our family
- When I buy more fruits and vegetables, we eat more fruits and vegetables.  Imagine that!
- We are getting more variety than I used to buy at the store because I was always just buying the basic things that are always cheap and whatever was on a great sale that week, but passing on lots of other stuff.
- The kids get excited to see what I come home with each time. And they have been more willing to eat their veggies.
- We've been able to greatly increase our produce consumption without increasing our grocery budget.
- The add-ons we have tried have been good, too.  We've gotten about an 18 lb. box of Rainier cherries for $25 and packs of 5 loaves of sourdough bread for $10.  Every ordering cycle they have different extras to choose from if you want, though I understand that the extra items are often sold out fast. Some of the extras I've seen are 9-grain bread, whole wheat bread, granola, Asian veggie pack, Mexican veggie pack, box of plums, box of mangoes, box of strawberries, box of pineapple and box of blueberries. The extra produce offers will vary based on what is in season.
- There is no commitment.  If I want to skip a pick-up week or stop ordering altogether at any time, I can without penalty.
- You never know what you are going to get.  This keeps cooking a little bit more interesting and challenges me to use what we have in new ways. So far, so good.

Challenges & Considerations:
- You never know what you are going to get.  This makes it more of a challenge with menu planning and shopping for my other groceries.  Now I just need to pick up Bountiful Baskets first and then do my other shopping so it all works out.  Each time it is a different combination of types of produce so you can't count on getting your favorites or avoiding your dislikes.  So far we've been able to use it all up.
- All that fresh produce takes a lot of room (because I buy 3 baskets) and we don't have a big fridge.  So now I really work to have the fridge cleaned out and orderly before I go for pick-up.
- The pick-up time is early on a Saturday morning.  Truthfully, I'd rather sleep in.  But who I am kidding?!  Days of sleeping in are already so few and far between.  And being in the car in the quiet of the morning alone is pretty rare, too, so that's a bonus.
- Volunteering at your site is even earlier.  Since this is a co-op, volunteering at your site is part of the deal and is expected at least every 6 times you pick up.  But you do get to pick an extra piece of produce from what is left once baskets are filled when you volunteer.
- You've got to be on the ball.   They only allow 20 minutes after your pick-up time to get there to get your order and then your order is forfeited.  They'll be donated and you won't get your money back.  Also, ordering is only open between noon on Monday and midnight on Tuesday.  I have always ordered close to noon on Monday, but friends have tried to order in the late afternoon on Monday and haven't been able to order for their preferred site or for the extras they wanted. 
- I've noticed a greater weekend workload in the kitchen on Bountiful Basket pick-up weeks because of the washing, cutting, etc.
- You've got to be strategic in using things as they are freshest.  We haven't had anything go to waste, but I have been careful to use the things with the shortest shelf life first and save the hardier stuff for the second week (potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onions, apples, etc.).  So we use the berries and cucumbers and ripe fruit first and go from there.  You could also prep and freeze what you can't use in a timely manner, but so far we haven't needed to do that.
- They also offer an organic box for $25 instead of $15, but for where we're at right now, I'm putting quantity and price above making sure everything is organic.
- Most of the produce is not going to be local, but probably as local as what you're going to find at your mainstream grocery.  If you have more leeway with finances, joining a CSA may be a better way to go.
- Consider how you'll get all the produce home.  When I order 3 baskets, I need the stroller to haul it all back to my car.  If you do the conventional basket, you need to bring your own basket or bags to transfer the produce into to get it home. 
- If you order extras, you need to inspect them before you sign for them and pick them up.  If they aren't up to your standard, you can get a credit, but only if you refuse them at the site, not if you get them home and later realize the quality wasn't as good as you had hoped.

The information on the website is extensive, so if you are interested, be sure to read all of it.

What are your best sources for fresh produce?

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

I know Jenn told me about a CSA last year, but we decided it could be redundant since we have a garden. And with just two of us, it is hard to get through stuff before it spoils.

I tend to use the same method you did... buy what's in season and on sale. Which means we don't end up eating a lot of fresh produce, because even when its on sale it is so pricey, like raspberries.

I would be more than willing to shell out $15 for a laundry basket of produce, though!