I woke up at my normal Saturday time: about 745am. I don't like getting up at 745am, but I do it for a reason. After throwing on whichever clean, semi-matching clothes are near me, brushing my hair and teeth and putting in my contacts (sometimes), I walk across the street to Chaparral High School to participate in my weekly produce co-op.
I grew up in a world of farms and gardens, fresh and home-jarred fruits and freshly baked bread. I do not have a farm, I don't even have a yard in which to plant a garden. Besides, I live in Las Vegas. We can't keep geraniums alive outside during July and August; I don't see veggies making it.
I also decided that I don't really have the patience for baking my own bread. I've tried it and I'm actually pretty good at it, but I have to block out an entire day on my calendar. Something like "the cable guy is coming between 9am and 3pm today, I can bake bread because I can't go more than six steps from my house or he'll show up." I do occasionally bake, but again, we try to avoid adding extra heat inside the house.
So, that leaves fresh and jarred fruits. Ok, THIS I can do. At first, Mike and I looked around for farmer's markets. There was really only one in town and it was a) expensive and b) only open on Thursdays from 8am-11am. WHAT??? Who can go to that?? Clearly, we couldn't. We went once or twice when we had days off school, but couldn't afford to buy much.
After some grumbling, a friend of mine told me about Bountiful Baskets. I'm going to give them a plug here because they are awesome and a co-op - in the true sense of the word. (http://www.bountifulbaskets.org)
For the low-low price of $15, I get a whole bunch of random fruits and vegetables. All of the money is pooled together and then used to buy large quantities of fruit and veggies to be split among the participants. There are also weekly options for "extras", such as a whole case of tomatoes or organic breads, or Mike's favorite, a Mexi-pack (a big bag of onions, peppers, cilantro, limes and other things to make Mexican food).
It's almost like a produce "grab bag", because you have no idea what you're going to get. You can sort of guess based on the season (right now, I'm likely to get a melon and some berries, in the winter - oranges). It's supposed to be half fruit and half veggies and usually works out that way. You pay your $15 on Monday and then pick up your basket on Saturday morning at an appointed place and time. Luckily my place is across the street. There are hundreds of sites across the country and more coming all the time.
In addition, you volunteer. They ask that everyone do this once a month, but no one holds you to it. People like Mike and I volunteer most weeks & there are other "regulars" at our site. You show up, you help unload boxes and distribute them into baskets. This takes about an hour, give or take, depending on how many people show up.
For those that have never heard of it and are considering giving it a try, this is what I got today & what I'd probably pay for it at my local (Las Vegas) store:
- 1 honeydew melon (2)
- 9 apples (4)
- 2 mangos (2)
- 1lb strawberries (2)
- 1 pkg blackberries (3)
- 10 apricots (I have no idea... 3?)
- 1 bunch bananas (1.50) - but to be fair, my site coordinator allows me to change out my bananas since I'm allergic - this week I got extra blackberries.
(as you can see, I'm already at over $15 and that's just the fruit side)
- 8 large tomatoes (4)
- 1 head romaine (2)
- 1 bunch spinach (2?)
- 6 avocados (3)
- 5# baby red potatoes (5)
I will grant, Las Vegas produce prices are extremely high. For us, this represents about 50% savings. The catch is, we have to figure out how to eat all of it. This week will be easy; other weeks we end up with things like jicima, beets, radishes and other items that we just won't eat.
Nonetheless - it's amazing. Long story short, we love it!!!!! So again, www.bountifulbaskets.org
When I got home, I decided to make some of the fruit more accessible and made a giant bowl of fruit salad. I took leftover fruit from last week (1 pineapple, a large orange, 2 kiwi, some small apples) and mixed it with some ripe fruit from this week (some berries and a big apple). I tossed the whole mix with a lime-honey dressing. Oh, so tasty!! I've found that it's so much easier to eat a bowl of fruit salad than have to convince yourself to actually deal with a whole pineapple. :)
After that, I was feeling pretty good (and healthy), so I checked the schedule for my gym and found that I was just in time to get ready for a dance class. The class I went to is multi-genre. Today, we did some disco, hip hop, country, and latin. Since the whole class consists of learning and doing dance step combinations, the hour flew by - and while tired, I feel amazing!