What’s In Your Basket?

In rural areas of Wyoming, finding fresh reasonably priced produce can be a challenge.  In lieu of spending $9 on a pound of asparagus, I turned to a thing called Bountiful Baskets.  It’s a food co-op, where members pool their money to purchase produce and other related food-products.  You log in to their website, choose what you want to buy, contribute your money on a Tuesday, and the following Saturday (in my case, at least), you meet at a central location at a designated time to pick up your basket of produce.  Easy-peasy.

photo (12)I order from Bountiful Baskets at least once, if not twice, a month.  Some of my friends and family, who live within walking distance or a five-minute drive of a grocery store, just can’t understand the concept.  But as the Monkees would say…I’m a believer.

Why I love Bountiful Baskets
1.  Reasonably priced produce is readily available.  First and foremost, as long as I am living in rural Wyoming, Bountiful Baskets will be a bargain for me.  Unless I shop the store sales exclusively, my grocery bill for fresh fruits and vegetables would be cost-prohibitive.  For instance, at our local grocery store this week, cauliflower was selling for $4.88/lb, orange peppers were priced at $3.08 each, and a 5 lb bag of potatoes was almost $5.  That’s 35 to 45 percent more than these same products cost in the next closest town of any size.  But for $18.50, I can get a laundry basket full of produce.  For me, $18.50 for a basket full of healthy fruits and vegetables is a much better deal.  And often, it’s products that aren’t available locally, like persimmons, mangoes or watermelons.  You can even specify that you want 100 percent organic produce for an extra fee, and it’s still a bargain in my book.

2.  You never know what is going to be in your basket on any given week.  The organizers use the power of a group to bargain for better discounts.  You are buying a basket of food vs. selecting specific kinds of produce you want.  Some people can’t relinquish control like that.  But that surprise factor is one of my favorite parts!  It has forced me to try new fruits and vegetables.  Case in point – I’d never had fresh mango before I participated in Bountiful Baskets.  Frozen, dried, sure.  But fresh?  I didn’t know the first thing about how to prepare them!  Then in my basket one week, I had six mangoes.  Should I peel them?  Chop them?  Eat them like an apple?  This was uncharted territory.
Not to be foiled by tropical fruit, I looked up how to cut up a mango in my cookbook, then wen to work with my favorite paring knife.  One bite of it’s fresh deliciousness and I was hooked for life.  Now, I cheer whenever mangoes appear.  In fact, last week, I bought a Bountiful Baskets extra offering, a giant flat of mangoes.  Smoothies, fruit salads, salsa…here I come.

I’ve had similar experiences with brussel sprouts, blue potatoes, parsnips and spaghetti squash.  Now, I know how to process and prepare them all, and we even buy these items from the grocery store when the price is right.

3.  Bountiful baskets gets me to think outside the box.  Sometimes, we get in a rut with our eating.  It seems like I rely on the same 15 entrees most of the time.  Then I’ll get a Bountiful Basket and have 10 pounds of potatoes I need to use.  So I go in search of new recipes and suddenly instead of another night of meatloaf and canned green beans, my family is enjoying Baked Potato Soup, Shephard’s Pie or Oven Roasted Sausage, Potatoes and Peppers.

I’ve also discovered new ways to use old favorites, like creating freezer jam out of extra strawberries and peaches.

A food co-op, like Bountiful Baskets, might be a great decision for your family.  Here are some pros and cons to consider, taken from Laughing Lemon Pie.

Pros Cons
save 50% or more on produce some items may not be in good condition (you do have the
right to refuse a basket and receive a credit to your account)
try new things you don’t get to pick what you get
you get produce on a regular basis food co-ops may have very specific rules about when you pick up, etc.
you get involved with your community you may be asked to volunteer your time

For our family, Bountiful Baskets is a blessing.  Consider trying it this week and see what’s in your basket.  Check out their site, BountifulBaskets.org for a pickup location near you.

Happy and Healthy Eating!



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