I created these 20 Steps to CSA Success based on about a dozen interviews with successful CSA members and I hope that you find this guidance useful!
Before you pick-up:
1. Clear out all the vegetables in your fridge. (See Step 20 for more tips.)
2. Figure out a system for organizing your fridge. You can buy a clear sided bin with a loose fitting lid to act as in extra crisper bin or just assign a certain spot for veggies to “live”. Don’t let veggies get pushed to the back of the fridge, they’ll be more likely to freeze back there and more likely to get forgotten.
3. Read the forecast email. You’ll know what to expect and you can plan a meal for the night of pick-up. There are usually a few relevant tips or recipes to get you thinking. You can also think about what you might need to swap (if you are picking up downtown) and you might want to consult the CSA Members Resources for vegetables you are not familiar with.
Quick Tip: Keep tote bags, a basket or a box in your vehicle or back pack so you don’t have to remember them on the way out the door.
4. Open the box and see what you got, if there are either/or items you can check to see which one you received.
5. If there’s something you know you won’t be able to eat, use the swap box (downtown pick-up locations only). This is an easy way to get more value from your share and reduce the chance of having waste.
6. Pack your veggies in bags or a tote box with heavy stuff on the bottom or in a separate bag or container. Bringing 2 bags, makes this easier. If you have other errands to do on the way home, consider bring a cooler and ice packs. Some people bring a bunch of produce bags and sort veggies as they pack it up. If you want to do this and it’s busy please find a out of the way spot so others can continue to come and go.
7. Take a photo of the chalk board and don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t know what something is. If you are at a staffed pick-up ask your farmer. If there is another CSA member there, they might be able to help you.
When you get home from pick-up:
8. If needed, finish identifying all of your vegetables. If you weren’t able to ask at pick-up, you can also use process of elimination using the chalkboard list and do a Google image search. Or search inside our vegetable storage guide (Hint – some keyboard shortcuts for searching PDFs are Ctrl F, F3 and Command F.)
9. Before putting everything away, write an inventory list of what’s in the share and post it on your fridge. Highlight, circle or put an Asterix beside anything like greens or super-ripe tomatoes that you know is highly perishable. (Hint – eat the baby lettuce mix, arugula and mustard greens first! Head lettuce, spinach, chard and kale will usually last longer if stored properly.)
10. Next promptly and properly store your veggies. The next 3 steps give more specific advice and don’t forget that fridge organization is addressed in #2 above.
11. If you don’t know what to do, consult the storage guide. Most things (but not everything!) goes in the fridge in open or vented bags or hard-sided containers. Don’t tie bags up or condensation will build up inside a humidity will cause veggies to go soft sooner. Take the tops off root veggies like beets and turnips. Never put basil or sweet potatoes in the fridge!
12. Some people like to wash all their veggies right away, especially if trying to make a half share last more than 1 week. If you do this make sure they are mostly dry before putting them away. You can use a salad spinner (faster) or air dry (takes longer and don’t forget to rotate or to put them away promptly when dry).
13. Take tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, ground cherries and onions out of the plastic bags. Use boxes, bowls, bins or baskets for these items and anything else (like winter squash) that you are going to store outside the fridge. You might want to go out and buy something for root veggies that fits well inside your pantry/cupboards. Tomatoes and ground cherries can sit out on the counter.
When meal planning:
14. Plan your meals for the next few days to use the most perishable things first. Ideally you will use some greens the same evening and aim to use up all the greens in the first 3 to 5 days. If you think you need to make some greens last longer you can try the more advanced methods of washing and spinning them right away and wrapping them in a towel in a vented hard-sided container. Or you can put them in the freezer. For example, baby kale is usually pretty much freezer ready when you receive it and it makes a great addition to smoothies and soups, stews, curries or sauces (puree, mince or finely chop it before adding to the pot and don’t over cook it.)
15. Buy groceries that complement your veggies. Some examples:
- Wraps and pitas allow you to add more quantity and variety of vegetables to your lunch than bread.
- Salad dressing (or ingredients to make your own) and fun toppings like cheese, nuts and dried fruit make salad easy.
- Dips and hummus make snacking on raw veggies easy.
- You can make great veggie frittata, omelettes or scrambles if you have eggs in the house
- Frozen berries or bananas and dairy or dairy alternatives for making smoothies.
16. Throughout the week, plan your meals to match the veggies you have on hand.
17. When you are stuck for what to make, use our dinner launch pad list to get ideas.
18. Use online recipes and cookbooks to get ideas but don’t be afraid to substitute ingredients for the seasonal vegetables and herbs that you have on hand. It might taste a bit different from what you are used to but when you start with quality tasty ingredients and an open mind, you might find that different is better! Plus you’ll never get bored.
Note: Proceed with caution for baking recipes because this substitution advice doesn’t apply to non-veg and non-herb ingredients!
For example, you can substitute sage for basil in a herb scone and you can substitute sweet potato for zucchini in a loaf. However, don’t substitute flours, liquids, eggs, fats, rising agents without researching it first.
And in baking you should stick to the proportions given. In a stir fry you can put an extra cup of carrot without significantly effecting the outcome but with a carrot cake, adding an extra cup of carrot may not give you the desired result.
Before the next pick-up:
19. If you are having trouble with storage, please consult the storage guide for specific suggestions or ask for ideas in the Root Radical CSA Members group on Facebook.
20. Aim to clean out your fridge before the next pick-up day. On day 4 or 5, assess if there’s more vegetables than you can eat fresh in the following 2 – 3 days before the next pick up. If so, we’ve come up with 17 options for veggie overload. Use a few of these strategies to avoid “vegetable overload” in the next 2 to 3 days:
- DIY veggie broth or soup (Great for using up extra carrots, onions, herbs and greens)
- Drying (Herbs especially easy to dry and the method is covered in the preserving herbs guide. Most other veggies require a dehydrator.)
- Pasta primavera
- Frittata or quiche
- Vegetable smoothies or juices for breakfast or snacks (Simple to make and refreshing and nutritious in summer especially!)
- Roasted vegetables
- Vegetable boosted tomato sauce
- Kale chips
- Stir fry
- Fried rice
- Greens n’ eggs for breakfast
- Breakfast hash