Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bountiful Baskets

I am so excited that Bountiful Baskets has come to our area.  For those of you not familiar with it, it is a produce co-op that serves some of the western and southern states.   For just $15 you can get a conventional basket and for $25 an organic one.  You can add on extras, like bread for $2 a loaf or whatever they have in stock that week (example: 25# roma tomatoes for $11 or 48 ears of corn for $14, etc.)

Bountiful Baskets has been such a blessing to our family.  Our growing kids continue to eat more and more and more!  In the last year I have not been buying as much produce as I'd like to because it is just so expensive!  We usually eat salad, bananas, and whatever fruit happens to be $1 a pound that week.  I stock up on frozen peas, beans, and corn when they go on sale and usually have carrots around, but beyond that, it's too expensive to bring much variety to our table.

That is until Bountiful Baskets!  I love the suprise element of not knowing what you are going to get until you show up to get the basket you paid for.  It's like someone else does your grocery shopping for you and you get to try new recipes to work with what you have!  In the past 6 weeks of getting baskets (they only come every other Sat.) we have gotten to eat kale, figs, mangos, asian pears, italian plums, yukon gold potatoes, sweet potatoes, mini cucumbers, pluots, etc.  I'm lovin' it!

The contents of this photo's basket? 
I ordered 2 regular baskets and added on 10 loaves of bread (for an extra $20). 
The produce included:
4 large bunches of green leaf lettuce
5 huge bunches spinach
9 bananas
2 stalks celery
10# yukon gold potatoes
8 peaches
20 italian plums
10 asian pears
3 large mangoes
2 heads of cauliflower
Since it's a bit of a drive to get our baskets, my friends and I are taking turns with the pick-ups.  However, after picking up for 10 friends, I realized that was TOO MUCH!  My poor van was stuffed to the max, even with all the seats out of it!  So we've decided to divide into groups of 3 or 4 for the future.  And hopefully soon someone will head up starting a drop-off point in our town so we only have to drive a few blocks instead of half an hour to pick-up.  I don't mind doing pick-ups since my friend Tracy and I go together and get some girl time in!  She brings mochas and I bring chocolate muffins!  Unfortunately our drop off is at 7am and if you don't get there within 20 minutes, your basket, which you've paid for online with a debit card, gets donated to the local food shelf!  So, the only draw-back for us is the early morning run!

This is what came in the organic basket (above).  A little less produce for a bit more money but still less than half of what we'd pay for organic produce at our local grocery stores.

So, what came in this basket?  This last time I got 2 regular baskets.  So I spent $30, plus the $1.50 shipping fee you get charged each time.  I got:
14 mini cucumbers
22 pears
14 bananas
8 Gala apples
8 giant plums
18 sweet potatoes
6# brocolli
5# grapes
5 large yellow onions
3 packages of figs
(and some zuchinni and yellow squash someone was giving away for free at the drop-off site)
This week my friends and I had the challenge of figuring out what to do with figs.  I'd never had them before!  I found a great recipe online (from Emeril) for Fig Preserves that called for two ingredients.  I washed the figs (24 oz. of them) and cut the stems off the top and threw them in a pot with 1 c. brown sugar.  (You could use honey, agave nectar, rapadura, etc. if you wanted to).  You simmer on low, stirring occasionally, and after 30 minutes, it's done!  I did add a dash of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves just because I thought it would give it an extra kick.  Then I put it in a blender and blended so my jam would be smooth (for the kids).  It made 3 cups of jam which I stored in the fridge as it will be gone soon!  A friend sent me a link to a sweet potato biscuit recipe so I made those and topped them with warm fig jam!  Yum!

Sweet Potato Biscuits

2 C. whole wheat flour
2 t. baking powder
1 stick of butter
1 mashed banana
1 large sweet potato, peeled, cooked, and mashed
(or use 8 ounces of sweet potato baby food)
1 C. milk

Mix dry ingredients and then cut butter into flour.  Using a pastry blender or fork, mash until butter and flour has formed into little pea-sized crumbles.  Then mix in banana and potato.  Add milk all at once.  Stir just until mixed in (don't over-stir) and then drop large spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 400 until lightly browned on top (12-15 minutes).  Makes 6 large biscuits.

Since I'm such a smoothie addict I freeze whatever can't be used within a week or two.  The one week we got about 5 huge bunches of spinach, I froze most of it, which will keep my spinach-yogurt smoothie habit going for a long time!  I freeze the extra loaves of bread and it's so nice not to ever be out of bread or to have to make 6 loaves by hand once or twice a week!  So far, 2 regular baskets are lasting us 2 weeks and the kids are eating fruits and vegetables every day for their snacks and we're having more vegetables with dinner each night.

I've also discovered that kale is delicioso when you chop it up, stir it up with melted butter, sprinkle with sea salt, and cook on a cookie sheet in the oven until it gets crispy like chips.

And cauliflower?  It is WONDERFUL when you chop it up and put it in a cake pan, drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil, sprinkle with a garlic-herb seasoning, roast for 45 minutes in the oven and then sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  FABULOUS!

How do you save on produce and feed your family healthy food on a dime?


stamplady said...

I love bb, and Ive decided we need 2 maybe 3 organic baskets every 2 weeks (they are smaller than the regular) and at least 2 bread packs, I find myself constantly snacking on fruit throughout the day,and we have such a big variety of veggies at mealtime.

Lea said...

We've been using the local farmer's market, which I love, for veggies. This next year we're switching to a CSA. Our time to run to the farmer's market is getting lower and we still want our produce. Since I blanch and freeze what we don't use that week, I'm not at all concerned about getting large amounts of vegetables at one time.

I buy fruit at the grocery store ($1/lb price limit for me!) and then get apples or grapes from friends and relatives. We seem to have a good variety at the local stores so it hasn't been a problem. We have a strawberry plant and raspberries and are hoping to have our grape vines start producing soon!

I always find it so interesting to hear what other people do. Thanks for sharing!

Nisha @ Healthy Mom's Kitchen said...

We've been getting Bountiful Baskets for a while and I'm now the Volunteer Site Coordinator for our location. If you spread the word enough in your area, you could get trained to run a site so that you're not picking up baskets for 10 families! That's nice you have the trunk space, but as the word spreads, you could bring it closer to home! Excited to network with you and share recipe ideas!

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