I’ve been teaching couponing classes across the Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York for almost three years. One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “How do I cut my grocery costs when I’m spending a large portion of my weekly budget on fresh fruits and veggies?” The answer is not to cut out eating healthy stuff, but to approach the situation from a completely different angle.
The best advice I can give is to purchase a share in a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs link local farms with people and essentially cut out the middle man, which reduces the cost of the fruits and vegetables. Most CSAs cost between $400 -$600 dollars per season. My local farm, Easy Pickin’s, costs $525 per share and runs for 20 weeks, which translates into just $26.25 per week. In addition to the low cost, the produce you are getting is so much fresher because it hasn’t been transported across the country on a truck for weeks before it gets to your grocery store. When you participate in a CSA, you are buying a share of what your local farm produces. Therefore, you get a whatever your chosen farm is picking that week. Usually, this is a huge box of freshly picked fruits and vegetables barely 48-72 hours off the vine. For example, Easy Pickin’s offered blueberries, plums, turnips, apples, potatoes, basil, Spanish onion, and carrots this time last year, while earlier in the season they offered greens, radish, and other early spring veggies.
The point is you have to learn to eat with the seasons, which is another tidbit I often give my couponing class participants. If you want strawberries in February, just know you’ll pay a very high price; and they won’t be anywhere near as good as the ones you get in June. Furthermore, you also need to use your freezer. Often, the box of CSA produce you get is much more than your family can eat in a week. Discipline and creativity are needed to use the produce before it goes bad. So freeze the fruit; blanch the veggies; or make soups, stews and other dishes that can be frozen for consumption during the winter months.
I realize CSAs aren’t for everyone, but if you and your family are spending a fortune at the grocery store every week on fresh fruits and vegetables, you may want to consider trying it out.
To learn more about Connecticut Community Supported Agriculture, visit CTNofa.org.