You know those bins of organic produce that people have delivered from farms? You get a random assortment of what’s in season, along with recipes for vegetables that might be less familiar. I used to see those bins delivered to my coworkers and I was so jealous. I always wanted my own CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), but the bins were so big, they were designed for at least couples if not big families. After losing my office job, I didn’t have the opportunity to share one with anyone.
Recently, my local CSA delivery service, Dandelion Organic, recognized the fact that our politicians are still catching up with, that fully 40% of my voting district consists of people over 40 living alone, and they introduced the Personal Bin. You can get all vegetables or a mix of fruit and veggies, which is what I ordered. There’s still a lot of food in it, so I set my frequency at every two weeks instead of weekly. It’s not as expensive as I expected, in fact, my grocery bill has plunged because I buy ingredients to supplement the CSA instead of buying prepared foods.
I did this for all kinds of reasons, mostly for fun, but I didn’t expect it to make such a dramatic change in my life. People like us—people with health issues, often don’t eat as well as we could. Cooking takes effort and planning. Our lives are already regimented with medicine and therapy routines, and cooking often isn’t a priority. The take-out diet is rampant among this blog’s audience.
What I’ve found in the month since I started getting my CSA is that I have a newfound joy in cooking for myself, and the food is much more satisfying. When I’ve had my fill of something fresh and healthy that I made myself, the packaged cookies and chips on the counter lose their appeal. In my rush to eat all the produce before it goes bad, the good food crowds out the junk. I’m losing weight without even trying, but I feel like I’m eating twice as much food.
I never buy potatoes, except for one chowder recipe I make in the winter. They’re a lot of work, and the American fascination with mashed potatoes is lost on me. That seems like destroying a perfectly good vegetable by reducing it to glop. Faced with 5 red potatoes in my CSA bin, I turned to the recipe email that arrived the same day as the bin. Last night I made roasted potatoes with garlic scapes. It was so easy! And they were grotesquely delicious.
CSA is getting me to make the effort to eat better, and I’m loving it! Every bin is an adventure. This week I also got a bunch of kale and a pint of strawberries. The strawberry-kale salad in the recipe email had 12 ingredients and was way too much fuss for me, so I ate the strawberries fresh and sautéed the kale with a touch of rice wine vinegar to soften it up. I never buy kiwi because I’m intimidated by it, but there were 4 in bin, so I looked up online “how to eat kiwi” and discovered that the skin is optional, and it’s easy to scoop out with a spoon if you choose not to eat the brown fuzz.
I was in a rut before. I ate pretty well, but I bought the same things most of the time. I ate green beans maybe 4 nights a week. I love green beans and they’re good for you, so that’s not a problem, but I was bored and uninspired. Cooking was a chore. It’s still tiring and often painful, but it’s become an adventure. I put on music while I cook and I’m careful to take breaks and stretch things when they start to hurt.
My CSA inspires me to try. The food I make brings me a ridiculous amount of joy and contributes to better health. I’m stretching my own food budget and supporting small organic farms in my own region. It’s a win all around.
If you live in a small household and your local CSA service doesn’t offer an appropriately sized bin for you, be sure to let them know you would subscribe if they did. If they know enough demand exists, they’ll offer it. What barriers to healthy eating do you encounter? Have you found any good ways to overcome them?