CSA, Bountiful Baskets, or Traditional Grocery Store?

This is the time of year that I really start to strategize our produce spending.  CSA (community supported agriculture) signups are in full swing and I have recently discovered Bountiful Baskets.  We need to quickly decide if we will participate in our CSA and each week I have a hard time deciding if we will order a Bountiful Basket or not.  It is a bit difficult to decide on Monday what we will be doing late morning on Saturday (when the BB pickup is).  As the weather warms up I like to be free to head out and go on a fun adventure as a family on Saturdays.

This rambling leads me to today’s experiment. I was curious to see how much organic produce $26.50 would buy me while I was grocery shopping (the total of the organic Bountiful Basket plus small fee they charge and also almost the exact price per week for our CSA basket).

I started out at our local natural grocery store called LifeSource to check for any great sales, and then went to Trader Joe’s to get the things I was not able to find there for the price I wanted to pay. Fortunately they were having an awesome sale on Navel Oranges for 79 cents per lb. and Fuji apples for 99 cents per lb.  I prefer to get my produce from LifeSource when possible because they are a locally owned and source local produce when possible. I have been able to find prices close to that here and there lately for those items, but this definitely helped me get a great value for what I was looking to spend today.

Here is what I purchased today for a total of $27.01

  • 8 large bananas 29 cents each (T.J’s)
  • 6.44 lbs of oranges (on sale at LifeSource)
  • 4.62 lbs or apples (T.J’s)
  • 3 large onions $2.49 (T.J’s)
  • 7 lemons $1.79 (T.J’s)
  • Bag of local raspberries $2.99 (on sale at LifeSource)
  • Fresh Broccoli Florets $2.49 (T.J’s)
  • Baby Lettuce Mix $1.99 (T.J’s)
  • Chopped Spinach (pesticide free not organic) $1.49 (T.J’s)
  • Rosemary $1.79 (T.J’s)

So the verdict is that I think I actually prefer picking out our own groceries and hunting for sales.  It was interesting how close I came to $26.50 without even trying. I definitely got more for my money this week than I would have from either of the other options.  I still really believe that CSA’s and Bountiful Baskets are a good value and doing a huge service for their consumers, but this week has proven that I can do okay without them too.  I will probably still order from BB from time to time.  It will also be nice to just modify our weekly purchases this summer as our garden starts to produce, rather than being committed to our CSA.  Because I go grocery shopping weekly it takes me no more energy or trips to choose my own produce and hunt for the sales when I am already in the stores.  It does take a bit of time to know what the best prices are, but it is worth it.  I love being able to feed my family organic foods for an affordable price.

I hope this post helps you as you decide your “produce strategy” for the year. Prices and availability of various types of produce and buying options will be different for everyone.  All of the options I mentioned today will likely provide your family with quality produce for a good price. I just geek out on this stuff a little more than most people.

 

How to Make Your Own Elderberry Syrup

One of the supplements we give our children on a regular basis is Elderberry. It is fabulous for immune support.  The stuff is pretty spendy and I wondered if I could make my own.  We were initially paying about $13 for a 1oz bottle, and then started buying the 4oz bottle for a little over $40 when I realized that our store carried it. It would last us a little over a month, but it was worth it.

After going through a couple of the 1oz-ers and one of the 4oz bottles, it was time to jump in and try to make it myself.  I checked at our local health food store (LifeSource) and they did not carry Elderberries in their bulk department, but were happy to order them for me.  About a week later I had my 16 oz bag from Mountain Rose Herbs waiting for me at customer service.  With most regularly priced bulk special orders they give you 20% off. My bag came to $16.80.  After doing some research I decided that I could not find just the right type of recipe so I just looked at some of the ratios they used and then made up my own guess.

 

Here is the recipe I have used twice now with great success:

1/2 cup of dried Elderberries

2 cups of water

1 generous tablespoon of local raw honey

 

Odds and Ends Needed:

1 pot and lid

Measuring cups

Cheese cloth or metal strainer with very small holes

Spoon for string

Something to mash with

A bowl

A bottle or container for your finished product

 

Directions.

Measure and pour 2 cups of warm water into a saucepan and then add 1/2 cup of the dried elderberries.  Let simmer gently with a lid on for about 25-35 minutes and stir occasionally.  After it is finished cooking use some sort of tool for mashing it up a bit to get the juice from the berries (I used our potato masher that has lots of surface area on the part that mashes). After it has cooled a bit strain through some cheese cloth (works best), or a very fine strainer.  If you use cheese cloth be sure to put a glove on before squeezing out the last of the the juice. Last time I made it I went to an ICAN (c-section support group) meeting at Bella Vie with one very purple hand.

After you strain it out and have it in a bowl stir in a tablespoon of honey (I used local raw) while it is still warm enough to mix in. This will help sweeten it a bit and is also supposed to act as a natural preservative.

The first time I made the recipe I cooked it a bit longer without a lid and ended up with about 7+ ounces. The second time I made it I got 11.5 ounces.  I am guessing my 16oz bag will be enough to make at least 5-6 batches.  Although the potency may not be quite as strong (I have no idea how to actually know), the value is incredible over the store bought Elderberry Syrup/Extract. We have been just as healthy, if not healthier that when we were using the Elderberry from the store.

 

 

Condensed directions-Simmer water and berries for 30ish minutes, mash up a bit, strain, add honey while elderberry is still warm, bottle and refrigerate. So simple!

*I give the children about 3/4ths of a tablespoon everyday by spoon or in their supplement mixture and they have no problem taking it.

*If you have a little one too young to have honey yet you can just leave it out. It might be a bit tart, but would still taste good. You could also mix it into something else if you are having trouble getting them to take it from a spoon or syringe.

Hope this is helpful to other families! Anything that saves money and contributes to good health is a “win” in my book.

 

Life in Bullet Points

 

  • We have had some of my family in from out of town and it has been so fun.  Gatherings everyday and many shared meals.  Sadly, they head home today.  Good news…we get to party with Hubs side of the family tonight. Life is full… and I am tired.
  • I told Hubs that I can care for the Littles and carry out a busy schedule, but I can not care for the Littles with a busy schedule, AND keep up on the house.  Can you say laundry mountain? Good thing I have some awesome laundry basket dressers to hold it all while it waits.
  • Captured one of the all time best toddler lineups. Love those sweet faces and wish we saw them more often.

  • Little Man sweetly looked at me nursing our youngest yesterday and said, “You are like the cow….and she is the bucket.”  Good observation.
  • Summer has been a little late in coming (like the last two years) and this morning I brought down a tank and shorts and Little Miss said, “Are we doing summer today?”

  • After a father daughter trip to Home Depot on Father’s day bead board has been purchased.   They are waiting to be installed into my eating area.  I am super stoked! I will post updates as things get moving.

  • Just got my catalog for the Nordstrom Anniversary sale.  Lots of cropped trousers. I am 5 feet tall and looking forward to a different trend.
  • Had a chat with the produce guy at LifeSource (our awesome local health food store) yesterday.  The only organic fruit in the fairly reasonable range for the last couple weeks has been Valencia oranges.  He said we should be seeing some stone fruit coming down in price fairly soon and that most of the organic apples are now from outside the country and will remain spendy till September-ish when we have local apples again.
  • Had an awesome time at the OCEAN Homeschool Conference last weekend.  It is kinda like going to summer camp for homeschool moms (and dads…but I am not sure they get the same buzz from it).  🙂  So encouraging and fun!

I will leave you with this gem.