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I often go to Whole Foods, but I feel like I'm getting ripped off there. I can walk out having spent $120 on a single bag of groceries. I try to get to a Farmer's Market occasionally, but not often enough I guess.

Are there other ways to buy as close to the farm as possible?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

You can look for a CSA in your area, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community-supported_agriculture:

CSAs consist of a system of weekly delivery or pick-up of vegetables and fruit in a vegetable box scheme, sometimes including dairy products and meat.

You can use http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ to try to find one in your area.

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Oh wow. This seems right up my alley. –  hobodave Jul 18 '10 at 21:47
    
Have you done this before Nick? How is the cost compared to a grocery store? –  hobodave Jul 18 '10 at 21:51
    
I haven't, but a lot of my friends and coworkers do it. Cost is my area (Philadelphia) is around $30/week, but you typically pay for the season, so several weeks in advance. So, definitely comparable if not cheaper than the store. Only problem is that you don't get to choose what you get, so you might wind up with a weeks worth of eggplant. –  Nick Canzoneri Jul 18 '10 at 22:09
    
I receive produce from a CSA (theproducebox.com), and think it's WELL worth it. In a recent blog post, I compared the cost to the grocery store, and it's very close. If you're interested, I also blog my menu each week, since as Nick mentioned you don't get to choose what you get & have to get a bit creative. –  JustRightMenus Jul 19 '10 at 1:03
    
Additional benefit: since you don't know what you get, you'll have to learn and improvise - which will lead you to new recipes for food you've never cooked before! –  Boetsj Jul 19 '10 at 6:08
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I've had friends and family go in on "buying a cow" from a farm.

You order a whole cow from them, they will get it butchered and you get all the various cuts from it, ground beef, etc.

You can do it yourself and fill up a big chest freezer and thaw as you go.

If you have other people in your area interested, you could always buy together, divide up the goods and that way be able to order more frequently with less freezer usage.

Here is an article about it hitting on some good points http://www.culinate.com/articles/culinate8/cow_sharing

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What if you can get the milk for free? –  hobodave Jul 18 '10 at 21:38
    
Well, most farmers don't give their milk for free, and I think would really have issue with you taking various parts off their cows to eat :). –  ManiacZX Jul 18 '10 at 21:42
    
Most of the places I know will sell a half cow, if they have two interested parties. The problem is when you get to smaller lots than that, it's not as easy to divvy evenly. Some farmers use butchers that will cryovac, but not all will. –  Joe Jul 19 '10 at 1:01
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Similar to @Nick's CSA suggestion, I've got friends who formed a (sort of) food conglomerate.

It needs to be a decent size (4 - 8 families). Once a week, one family goes to the wholesale markets and buys the fruit & veg for all families.

Its one of those things where it is financially cheaper, but time and resource expensive. (8 families of fruit is a lot of apples and wont fit on your backseat)

Once you have your routine down, it is very effective!

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Just taking the "produce" part of your question, what about growing your own? Even if you don't have a lot of garden most sources of advice for novice gardeners will talk about how to make the most of even limited space.

Foodies & cooks will want to focus on:

a) produce which tastes substantially better homegrown e.g.:

  • tomatoes (especially)
  • strawberries
  • cucumbers
  • peas

b) produce which is expensive and/or stores badly, so that having a fresh and abundant supply outside the kitchen door is really a cook's delight e.g.:

  • herbs
  • lettuce
  • rocket
  • beans

For these reasons I tend not to bother too much with cabbage, leeks, potatoes, onions, courgettes (arguably) etc all of which are cheap and store well and taste decent from the shops. But I got into an argument the other day with someone who reckoned I had onions completely wrong and didn't I know homegrown onions were divine. So I could be wrong.

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I live in a tiny apartment in Chicago. I wish I could grow my own. –  hobodave Jul 20 '10 at 23:43
    
too bad. hope some of the other answers have helped. –  Tea Drinker Jul 21 '10 at 8:43
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Really, a Farmer's Market is your best choice. You need to start going there more than "occasionally" :)

You have full control on what you are getting (unlike a CSA), you can taste the same produce (e.g. a Peach) sold by different vendors and decide who has the best tasting one, etc. etc.

@hobodave, your profile says "Chicago, IL" -- here is a website I found with a list of Farmer's markets in Chicago:

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Yea I've actually been to a handful of those. The problem with the occasional bit is I have a hard time waking up before noon on a weekend. :-\ –  hobodave Jul 20 '10 at 23:44
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