Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Economical Kitchen-Bountiful Baskets Edition

Yesterday, a friend of mine shared a link to an article that identified ten American foods that other countries have prohibited because much of our food, as we know, is total junk. Of course, everything we read on the Internet has to be taken with a grain of salt; however, we all know that the food situation in America is problematic on a myriad of levels. I've been thinking on the issue of sustainability, environmental responsibility, and most importantly, the health of friends and family due to food we eat.
The scene of the crime in a local elementary school parking lot.
So glory be! I finally got online at the right time to buy a Bountiful Basket! I tried a couple of times before my dissertation ate my life to get one, but the attempts were halfhearted at best. What's a bountiful basket? This is a co-op run by volunteers. Baskets cost $15 ($25 for organic) and you can add on other options from the website (40 lbs of honey crisp apples, anyone?). You will also pay a one-time fee of $3.00 for your first basket, and a small processing fee ($1.50-$3.50 ) each time (this may vary depending on what part of the country you're in). The fees are so that every penny of your $15 can go towards food. The point is Bountiful Baskets is three-fold: 1) To give people an opportunity to buy wholesale fruit and veggies, allowing folks to eat healthier for less money, 2) To include local and thus more environmentally responsible produce as the bulk of the food offering, and 3) To foster a sense of community and understanding where our food comes from.
It's a terribly dreary day (which I love), so I'm sorry the pictures aren't cheerier.
It's a pretty cool deal. You can go to their website (see the above link) to get the scoop, but basically, they offer baskets on Saturdays on a rotating basis. There are A groups and B groups that flip-flop every weekend (this weekend I'm going to an A group. I could do that every two weeks, or I could do a B group the weekend after if I wanted a basket every week). Check the website for locations (this co-op is all over the nation, btw, so check it out even if you're not in the Dallas area). I'm lucky enough that there is a pick-up site about five minutes from my front door. Basket buying begins on Mondays at noon. Some of the sites sell out quickly, which is why I missed getting a basket in the past.

This week, however, I was determined. So there I was at work, frantically grading papers with the BB website up on my laptop. I had my alarm set for 11:58 so I wouldn't miss the opening, but I also had a conference call to dial into at noon. Oh, THE PRESSURE. Anyway, it was fine. The leader for the call was five minutes late and the baskets did not sell out in the thirty seconds it took my to get my s@#$ together.

I was so excited to get my baskets (they sort everyone's produce into laundry baskets, but you have to bring your own baskets/bags to take things home in). And look at my treasures!
I think this is a great deal for $15! Six apples, 7 bananas, a cantaloupe, a big bag of grapes, 3 small potatoes, one large bag of Yukon potatoes, 3 huge onions, 3 cucumbers, one bunch lettuce, one big bundle of celery, a bag of carrots, and two giant sweet potatoes. It's kind of an adventure because you don't know what you're going to get.

I know right off that I wouldn't eat the cantaloupe before it went bad, so I found a recipe for Vanilla Cantaloupe Jam. Vanilla and cantaloupe together are a revelation! Who knew?
My little bountiful basket cantaloupe became a lovely pot of jam, which became this:
There was a bit more, but in all honesty, I ate it. With gusto. 
My sweet potatoes became the Rosemary Sweet Potato Gratin I linked to a few weeks ago. It was wonderful.

So here's my review: the people were really nice and I got a ton of produce that was in excellent condition. I like not having to pay the grocery store for being a middle man or taking home more plastic sacks. I did not love standing around for 25 minutes in the freezing cold waiting to get my basket, but I thought that overall, this is a worthwhile effort, particularly if your family is on a tight grocery budget but you really want to eat more fruits and veggies.