1) Food differences
First off, I had no inkling farm food and store bought food would be in any way different. Lettuce for example. It requires quite a bit a washing. Five weeks in we got a salad spinner and thankfully the kids liked doing that part of the job.
But why does it more washing than I was used to? Besides having more of it (and it not being packaged) it actually had dirt on it! It dawned on me- I had never seen dirt on the lettuce I typically got. Hydroponics! I quickly youtube'd it, and found I really am in the dark when it comes to where my food comes from. It was a odd realization.
Second was the overwhelming potency of the CSA onions. Never in my life has onions made my eyes sting that bad. Friends with different CSA's confirm, it's just that it is locally grown fresh onions. It is crazy. Next year, I get swim goggles, 'cause the lacrosse ones weren't cutting it. I'd have to cut half as fast as I could and sprint across the room to cool down for 15 minutes. An onion took about an hour to finish chopping.
Third, I'd say was the taste of the carrots. They were just different. More earthy. Still haven't figured that one out.
2) Veggie distribution
I felt we had an adequate amount of most of the common veggies (common = the ones I knew how to identify). It was really nice to have a useful supply of lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, garlic and onions throughout most of the CSA. I'm super happy to still have a good stock left of some of them.
I was a bit disappointed we didn't get more corn, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, peppers, spinach, herbs and melons. There were surprisingly few.
I was really bummed we didn't get any fruits, like the apples, pears, tart cherries and strawberries that were listed on their website.
As for over abundant foods, the only one that stood out to me was too many beets (and maybe parsnips). The other ones I feel would be a good amount... for people who like them.
3) Variety & Use
There was plenty of new foods we hadn't ever been faced with preparing. For some we rose to the occasion and had a good meal. I was surprised to find I liked bok choy and collard greens. Others, like brussel sprouts and beets....
Finding use for the food we tried and knew we didn't like was tough. We tried to make beets work again and again, but there too many to keep up with it. Our biggest use was making Beet-za (beet-pizza). It turned out pretty good, but still didn't use up enough of the beets.
And at the end of the CSA, the squash was overwhelming that some of that didn't get eaten. And Kale. We couldn't find anything we liked that used kale. We tried Kale chips twice to no avail.
We didn't meet our goal of not throwing out any, but that was mostly due to not knowing what to do with some foods... or completely hating them. By October we didn't bother fighting it, and when a food came we didn't like, we just gave it away to someone who would take it before it went bad.
Sometimes, the timing was just off. I found I'm much more likely to enjoy the lettuce after it's only been here a day or two. Sometimes scheduling just didn't allow for quick use.
For the extra common veggies we froze them, which came in handy for quick meals on soccer nights. There wasn't really enough extra to do any canning or sauces with them.
Looking at money last, we paid $565 for 20 weeks. Doing the math, we should have been getting about $28 dollars of food each week. Looking at the pictures here I wouldn't say it's exactly $28 dollars of grocery store veggies we got, but looking at prices at organic food markets like trader joes, it's not far off.
But the other part of the consideration is how much we didn't spend on other food because of veggies. Below you'll find a graph of what we labeled as 'groceries', which I feel is fairly accurate.
I use a program that helps automatically tracks my money, otherwise I wouldn't done this. (lies, haha) April is the month we paid for our share. You can see there is a real drop for the summer months. (Note: May was lowest and the CSA hadn't started yet. We traveled in May so our restaurant/gasoline bills were probably higher. Ignore May.)
Alright, I'll get to the numbers!
Before: $438 a month (ignoring May)
After: $462 a month (absorbing cost of the share)
So for an extra $23.35 a month we ate organically, ate healthy, and made some friends happy giving them the food we didn't like. I'd say that's fair.
When it comes down to it though, we choose to waste some (ie. fed to pigs) and could have probably bought less convenience foods at the store... I feel it could have been a money savings. But small steps people. We tried.
Overall, a good experience. Hopefully, we'll have a house with a garden next year, and be able to focus more on what we like... but we'll see!