In my area, Bountiful Baskets is the food co-op. Or it was, until they decided not to do it anymore. All the same, I wanted to write about why using food co-ops can be a great money-saving idea. As a bonus, they can also be pretty good for your health!
(I realize this is still written in the present tense. The principles still apply, even though I am not currently able to obtain Bountiful Baskets in my area. 🙁 )
- You can choose how often you participate. I purchase a basket every other week since that’s what works for me, and the location I use only offers them every 2 weeks anyways. (Many locations are every week, but I live in a small, remote town.)
- It saves money. How much depends on what you normally buy at the grocery store. In Idaho, I only ever bought cheap veggies and fruits, averaging less than $1.00 a lb. I was spending about $30 for two weeks of produce. When I started doing Bountiful Baskets, I spent about the same but received a much better variety of things to eat. In small-town Utah, it saves me money no matter what I buy at the grocery store. Produce here costs up to 50% more than what I paid in Idaho.
- The fruit and veggie basket is standard, but Bountiful Baskets also offers other awesome things, such as bread, tortillas, coconut oil, granola, or boxes of produce that are in season. Think big boxes of peaches, apples, or strawberries. I’ve been very pleased with the quality, too.
- I can still buy my “essential” produce at the grocery store since a basket doesn’t quite last us 2 weeks. I wait until after I’ve gotten my basket to grocery shop so I don’t end up with duplicates. (Now that I have a family of 7, I would buy 2 baskets!)
- Despite what I’d heard before, I don’t get too many weird things. (I guess that’s somewhat subjective, too.) I have yet to eat something that I’ve never heard of. Most “weird” items are simply a different variety of something I’m already familiar with, like savoy cabbage or Asian pears. It’s fun to try new things, especially when I can’t find them at my local grocery store.
- It saves space in my shopping cart. That’s always a plus, and I have less produce to worry about smashing under all the other groceries.
- It helps us eat more veggies and fruits! Being healthier is always a good thing.
- Having to pick up the basket on Friday night is not always convenient.
- Sometimes, I get things I’m not in the mood for that week. It’s not a big deal because my kids eat them.
- I wasn’t able to volunteer for the longest time due to pregnancy and little babies, so I felt really guilty about it. Once I finally did, I loved volunteering. It’s sort of a pro and con together. When I spend the extra hour, I feel good about helping out and get to socialize with people I wouldn’t normally get to see. As a bonus, I get to choose my basket!
Using It Up
- When I get my basket, I make a list of the all the fruits and veggies I received. I refer to the list when I’m making meals and use up the most perishable items first.
- I don’t plan my meals around my basket, but I do make sure to include the produce in my weekly menu. If the veggie doesn’t naturally mix in with the meal (like a casserole, soup, or stir fry), then I include it as a side.
- I rarely do any complicated veggie sides. If I have to cook a veggie by itself, it’s usually steamed or roasted with some seasoning, that’s it. I don’t have to make a whole separate recipe and get stressed out. If in doubt about how to cook a new veggie, roast it!
- When we can’t use up things in time, I freeze them. That’s pretty rare, unless we get extra celery or bananas. Bananas go into smoothies and the celery works great in soups. I don’t think I’ve ever had to freeze anything else. We eat it all!
We love Bountiful Baskets as a way to save money and improve our health. Check out http://www.bountifulbaskets.org/ to see if they are available in you area. I don’t know if my town will ever have them again (or any other food co-ops), but I still check the site for any news. If/when they come back to my area, I’ll be there volunteering in a heartbeat.
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