Recently, I started getting a CSA box. A CSA box is when you pay a subscription and get a box of random fruits + veggies periodically delivered. My local farm is $30/box, and I set it up for once every two weeks, delivered to my workplace. I figured it’d be a good way to break out of the rut of veggies I default to. I usually just get non-organic veggies from our local grocery store, but it’s always good to eat more greens, right? Support local businesses and all? To evaluate the success of the CSA, I decided to log everything I made using the ingredients from the box, including the cost per meal.
Meal 1: Chicken + Radish Salad
I’m not a big salad fan, but the CSA box included three baggies of pre-washed salad green, so I had to find a way to use them up. What’s the simplest way use up salad veggies? Make salad! I cooked the radishes and added the salad greens. I also added 1/3 jar of sun-dried tomatoes, 4 chicken tenderloins, and some leftover green beans. My default dressing is balsamic vinegar and olive oil, because I haven’t learned to make anything else.
Taste: 3/5. It tasted all right… for a salad 😛 Hey, at least it looked pretty with the pink radishes.
Cost of extra ingredients: Sun-dried tomatoes ($2) + chicken ($2). 4 meals.
Meal 2: Shrimp + Pea Shoots Pasta
The CSA box included a mysterious stem + leaves green thingy. I originally thought it was arugula and painstakingly pulled off all the leaves, which took forever, until I realized that they were actually pea shoots, and the stem is edible So I chopped them up and cooked them in a pan with a little bit of oil and some garlic from the box. By the way, the garlic definitely feels different than the one I used to buy at the grocery store. “Crisp” is the closest adjective that I can find to describe it. Costco garlic is similar, which I guess means that Costco garlic is good quality (I can just hear you saying: stop is with the Costco already! sorry, what can I say, I’m addicted! ). I also added pasta, shrimp cooked in butter (yum), and parmigiano-reggiano cheese. Can’t go wrong with more cheese.
Taste: 3/5. Good, except the the pea shoots were a bit tough. I should’ve chopped off the ends and cooked the more tender parts.
Cost of extra ingredients: Pasta ($1) + 1/4 lb of shrimp ($2.50). 3 meals.
Meal 3: Asian style
For this one, I decided to use the boy choy. Boy choy implies Asian food to me, so I stir-fried the boy choy in my big ol’ wok and added some soy sauce. I also pan-grilled a bag of Trader Joe’s pre-marinated Korean short ribs in a cast-iron pan. Btw, cast iron pans are amazing for cooking anything (steak, fish) that normally requires a grill. We’re not allowed to have a grill because we live in a condo, and there’s a huge fire hazard around here. Also, rice, but that’s basically a given in our household.
Taste: 4/5. Most of the flavor was provided by the ribs. Maybe I should learn to make the marinade on my own, it looks simple enough.
Cost of extra ingredients: Korean ribs ($10). 3 meals.
Meal 4: Arugula Pesto
That pesky arugula! It’s so bitter, and I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. I decided to try making pesto out of it, which I’d never down before. Drowning it in olive oil sounded like a good way to get rid of the bitterness. I think this one worked out OK, but I wouldn’t make it again. Actually, this has been a continuing problem because they keep giving me arugula, and it’s so bitter (to me at least) that I don’t know what to do with it.
Taste: 2/5. The good thing is that I learned how to make pesto, and it’s super easy (just blend herbs and olive oil together).
Cost of extra ingredients: Pasta ($1) + 1 cup of olive oil ($2). 3 meals.
The box also contained oranges, grapefruits, and lemons. Did you know that California is the US’ second biggest citrus producer, after Florida? The oranges and grapefruits were great for post-dinner dessert, since I’m usually too lazy to buy my own fruits (they always go bad before I have a chance to eat them!) The grapefruits were these oro blanco pommelo-grapefruit hybrids, which have super thick rinds and are really sweet and delicious.
Oh, I also started made green smoothies to use up all that extra spinach. It’s amazing how much spinach can go into one smoothie without it affecting the taste! In the pic below, I put about 2 cups of spinach in and it tasted fine, without any noticeable spinach taste.
After that first week, I decided to continue with the CSA box. It’s fun to get a box delivered and open it up to see what goodies are inside (kinda like getting a package of clothes delivered… hm…). It definitely forces me to get more creative instead of just cooking the same things over and over again. It’s also improved my vegetable identification skills (“oh, they’re not just all called lettuce?”). S calls them “cow vegetables”, but they’re green and leafy, so they must be good for us, right?
On the other hand, I feel some stress to finish all the box and not let anything go to waste. Especially when S was away, it was a challenge as one person to finish the box, and I definitely threw away some old veggies, which I felt bad about.
It’s also been confusing with some mysterious vegetables, but that’s mostly my fault because I have no idea what they are. Someone really needs to invent a machine learning algorithm that can tell me how to cook this thing! Although when in doubt, saute-ing with a bit of oil and salt always seems to do the trick.
Total cost: $30 (CSA box) + $20.5 (extra ingredients) = $50 / 13 meals = $3.88 / meal.
Pretty good, I would say! I didn’t compare to buying the ingredients from the grocery store, but ~$4/meal with meat and seafood sounds reasonable to me.
Have you ever subscribed to a CSA? Did it expand your cooking repertoire? Any tips for using up extra lemons and arugula, which are the two things I constantly struggle to use up?