the vegie box

So we've joined a vegie co-op. This is our second week and so far, so good. Indeed I think it might turn out to be a very good thing for us. Two years ago if you'd have told me that I'd be joining a newly formed organic vegie co-op I'd have laughed out loud because although I'd have thought that it was a good idea, in theory, it just wasn't the my sort of thing. Shopping for food is hard thing for me to let go of (ask Gerard) and I am picky about fruit and when I think certain things are past their best. For example I rarely buy grapes past Easter and I wont buy apples that smell like they have spent years in a cool store (control issues, me?). So with something like a co-op, I worried that the vegies would be too expensive, not nice, that I'd have no choice of what we got and that it would just be far too much trouble. But this neighbourhood has a funny way of working on me and things that would never have been the go in Brunswick, well they just seem to work out here. There is a degree of what I'd call peer enthusiasm and the geography itself is persuasive. I can walk to most members of the co-ops houses with Grace without having to cross more than one big road (not even a very scary one at that) and none of the walking is down big horrible or industrial streets. We mostly live in a variation on the same house which I find endlessly fascinating. And lastly, I guess that the shopping around here is also not that convenient. There's no good supermarket within a five minute walk. And really, I'd like to not go to the supermarket as much as I have been, because it's boring, time consuming and expensive.

Enter the vegie box. You join together with some neighbours and everyone puts in $40 a week (or $20 for a half box). Someone is in charge of paying the bill and the admin stuff and everyone takes a six week turn at ordering from Ceres. It's a good deal price wise, cheaper than going to the Ceres market. We buy most produce by the box, some by the unit or bunch. It's fresh and seasonal. We've got information on food miles to consider and this has got me to thinking about a whole heap of food issues in general. I've decided that imported organic sugar is a bit silly but that bananas, avocados and the like from Queensland are fine. Tinned tomatoes, I'm going try and find an Australian brand I like and chocolate and coffee I'd like to do a bit better with too, but we'll see.   

We had our turn at picking up the boxes and unfortunately, I have to say it could of gone better. I was really anxious about us driving through Ceres (anyone familiar with Ceres might understand this) and then we were half way home and I realised we'd forgotten the onions! Doh! Anyway we got home before anyone arrived to pick up their box. But hadn't finished sorting when Zoe turned up. She was a great help, especially as I was faffing a bit. Still, it was all totally fine in the end and I don't think it will be all that long before we've all totally got the hang of it. And it was lovely having people come and pick up their boxes. Much more fun than the supermarket. The Ceres bit will be fun too, now that we know where to go.

In this weeks box we got onions, bok choy, utterly delicious navel oranges, bananas, grapes (a bit ordinary - but they'd been cool stored), pumpkin, some very sweet dutch carrots, and a cauliflower. It doesn't sound like much but there was rather a lot of everything except the bok choy. And we still have carrots, potatoes and apples left over from last week. That's OK. But now I've decided to work on a menu plan system and on Thursday night brainstormed a number of possibilities, pumpkin and cauliflower being tricky vegies round here. So far we've had pumpkin and red lentil soup, brown rice with eggplant, broccoli, tofu and almonds (using up broccoli and eggplant from last week), cauliflower macaroni cheese and salad, potato and carrot beer fritters with indian spicing, silver beet from mum's garden and soft boiled eggs from childcare (cheap and free range), raw carrot fingers as a side dish. Tomorrow night G is making pizza with cooked pumpkin and rosemary on top and if we get to the end of the week and it isn't finished, I'll make pumpkin scones or something. I've been reading my cookbooks again and it's good. Hopefully over time we'll get into some really good dry goods habits and eventually reduce our food bill, be a bit kinder to the planet and still eat well. And have more fun. Well, that's the plan.


sooz said...

We have tried all kinds of box delivery arrangements over the years, and the best was from O'Connors farm - picked from their own organic farm on a Tuesday, delivered overnight and waiting on Wed morning. Man I loved that box of super fresh low miles veg and fruit. Everything lasted weeks int eh fridge, weeks I tell you! But it was entirely season and local and this gave rise to some real kitchen challenges, especially in winter. I'm glad you are enjoying it and I look forward to more menu tales!

kate said...

My veggie box experience leads to three bits of advice:
1. Read your cookbooks cover to cover so you have an idea of where to look when you get an ingredient you weren't expecting.
2. is really handy. You can search for veggie recipes by ingredient, and because she tends to cook seasonally (albeit in California) you don't get weird combinations of things that aren't available at the same time of year.
3. Any veg left over a the end of the week go together just fine in a curry.
I found we ate more veggies once we started getting a box, it sort of set us a goal. I miss it, but I haven't found one that I'm happy with locally here. The local farms tend to deliver to Melbourne instead.

sue said...

What a fantastic idea. I wish we had a fresh farm idea like that around where we live instead of having to drive to the fruit shops. Some things look great but then deteriorate so fast in the fridge that you've wasted your money. I am sure soon enough that you will find many great ways to cook everything up.

Kel said...

these boxes look great!
i love the idea of community in buying veggies
we used to get boxes delivered when we lived in melb, but now we live in the country, we can't get delivery from any of them.... go figure

Kate said...

I had some great cauliflower soup the other day. I love the flavour but not so much the texture. It was basically boil the cauliflower, then blend. Asdd cream. I improvised on top of that cos it was a bit bland.
There's a box type thing in adelaide that is very good, but a wee bit pricey. But I think I might start doing it again - only problem is, that I do end up wasting stuff, because it's really too much for two people, and I always have to do a top up shop because of course you need things that aren't in the box - although it's not a co op, it's more like a local grocer without a store front, so you can order that stuff from them, too. It's not quite as nice as a co op, I think. And the bananas are always hard and the avocados are shocking.... hmm, maybe I'll stick with the old fashioned way :P

mim said...

how fabulous is the co-op thing?!
I love getting the vegie box and seeing all of our amazing community at the same time.
So glad yours is up and running! x

mary said...

Could you stop with your recipe ideas please.
My tongue is finding that licking the screen isn't good.

Michelle said...

That's a fabulous idea! And a great way to immerse yourself further in your own community.
Menu planning is a great thing. I splashed out on the Kikki K ones, and boy, it makes a difference. I facto in the nights I go out to quilting group and choir and make sure those are leftover or quick-dish nights. I only come a-cropper when I can't home from work in time to cook (not a problem now I'm not working) or when my husband says "oh, please no spinach and mushroom risotto. Please" on spinach and mushroom risotto night.

di said...

Sounds so good!! Such inspiring things happening in your life and your community. I agree with the imported organic sugar, and am very keen to hear if you find a good source for local organic tinned tomatoes- I've always been so unsatisfied with so many that I've tried!
I regularly do a very easy pasta or gnocchi sauce made with slow cooked leeks and pumpkin and stock, cooked until it's all mush. Goes down well with all of our family.

Uncle Red said...

Get G to work in the bloody garden... if only he didn't waste so much time on those faggots!