Save Money on Food: Join a CSA

There’s no better way to save money on food than to join your local CSA.

When it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, it can be tough to save money on groceries. Sure, you can clip coupons for cereal, and buy your household items when they’re on sale, but you’ll almost never find coupons for fresh vegetables.

We all know that a healthy dose of fresh fruits and vegetables needs to be part of our daily food intake. Many people don’t eat as many fruits and veggies as they like simply because fresh produce can be expensive.

CSA Week 2 © by whitneyinchicago

Take heart, there’s a wonderful alternative to buying produce in a grocery store. And it can save you hundreds of dollars a year. That’s right, hundreds. It’s called, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA for short).

My husband and I have always been quite handy in the garden, but we live in a city with very small lots. No amount of container gardening can keep up with my family’s fresh produce needs. A few years ago my tomatoes weren’t blooming and the only thing I could grow was flowers. I love flowers, but most aren’t edible. With limited space and some veggies not producing, I decided to give up on growing vegetables and join a CSA. Boy, has it paid off!

How Most CSAs Work

Community Supported Agriculture is a concept much like the beginnings of the stock market. Community members share both the risks and rewards of their local farm. Members pay a one-time fee all at the beginning of each growing season. In my area, CSA memberships range from $220 to $450 for 15 weeks of produce to feed a family of four.

Before each growing season, select a local CSA to join. In my area, there are at least half a dozen local farms with CSA programs. CSA members purchase a weekly box of produce, fruit, eggs, or whatever the farm provides.

You don’t usually get to choose what’s in the box. But, if you’ve chosen a farm with a good reputation, you can bet you’ll get a good mix of tasty veggies.

Save Money on Food: Rewards of Joining a CSA

Because you share both the rewards and the risks with the farm, some seasons you may get an abundance of amazing veggies. On a good week, my CSA even throws in flowers!

Another big reward is that you save money on food! How much? In our case, about 50%. Last year, my local grocery store sold fresh figs for $5.50 for 6 figs (almost $1 per fig)! Figs are locally grown so my farm had an abundance of them. I received about 30 in my box, which also came with a week’s worth of other veggies that were already worth what I paid weekly. In this case, I could almost imagine I got the figs for free. In my experience, there is usually an abundance of food that can be frozen for later use.

Want even more rewards? With a CSA, you not only save money on food but you save the environment. How? You’re purchasing local food that doesn’t need to be shipped across the country. This saves on fuel costs. Plus, most local farms use far less pesticides than commercial farms. Many CSAs are organic or practice organic farming methods even if they aren’t certified organic.

There are numerous benefits and not enough room to list them all, so I’ll just mention one more. CSAs help your community. When you support a small farm, you’re helping support a family business, a local business, and a worthwhile organization.

Risks of Local CSAs

On the downside, there are risks to joining a CSA that you should be aware of before diving in.

A drought might mean you don’t get as much produce as you would on a fertile year. Storms and other catastrophes can also lead to less production. These same factors drive up prices in grocery stores. The difference is that with a CSA, you’ve already spent your grocery money, and can’t choose to get a refund should bad weather happen.

Other risks are involved as well. Small, local farms are often run by one or two families. Crises such as death or divorce could affect the farm’s yield. However, most farmers feel a gratitude and sense of responsibility toward their supporters, and will do their very best to make sure members get what they pay for.

Save Money on Food: Join a CSA in Your Area

There are thousands of CSAs across the United States. If you’re in a big city, don’t think that you can’t join a CSA. There’s almost always a local farm an hour away that delivers to your area. You can visit www.localharvest.org to find your nearest CSA. Simply put your zip code into the LocalHarvet.org search tool and a variety of local farms will appear.

About Jennifer Scheffel

Jennifer Scheffel blogs about saving money, living frugally and how best to save with coupons. Jennifer’s goal in life is to pursue all things, even ordinary chores, with passion and purpose. Her interests include education, classical piano, running, cooking for friends, hosting parties and homemaking.

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