Food on a Budget Tip #3: Join a CSASustainability

I joined my first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) a couple of days ago! Chow Locally, is a subscription based service that serves the Phoenix area. It offers a box of certified naturally and organically grown local food, available for weekly pick-up. All of the providers are located within 150 miles of Phoenix, which is one way to support the local economy.

So what is community supported agriculture? Community supported agriculture, commonly called a CSA, is a way for consumers and farmers to take on the benefits and risks of producing food on a farm.  The consumer pays upfront for a share of the farmer’s production and in return receives a weekly or bi-weekly share of produce for a season. Because the farmer receives upfront payment for produce, the farmer is able to purchase seeds and other materials needed to support the farm. Both the farmer and the consumer assume the risk that it might be a poor growing season. Despite this risk, many are joining CSAs because it fosters community, supports the local economy, and promotes healthy eating. Often, a stipulation is that the consumer volunteer for a couple of hours; this further fosters a sense of community. All depending on the CSA, they offer a variety of options: fruits, vegetable, eggs, meat, etc.

CSAs made the food on a budget list  because when I broke down the numbers, took into account the quantity and quality of food received, and the social and economic benefits; it is worth the cost.

My subscription is 23.97 a week (including tax), which comes out to 95.88 a month for a box of packaged produce. Chow Locally, does not operate like a traditional CSA in a couple of ways. The company offers service year-round, in comparison to most CSAs that operate seasonally. Chow Locally, also offers the option to pause or cancel subscription anytime without a fee, in comparison to most CSAs that do not offer an option to opt out. Chow Locally, also does not require volunteer work, in comparision to most CSAs that suggest a couple of hours a season spent volunteering in some capacity. However, like most CSAs, Chow Locally, does offer recipes that coincide with the weekly share.

The great thing about CSAs  whether it is a traditional or hybrid model, is that there are many ways to lower costs. You can split a share with a friend and many CSAs are based on income.

Because of my new subscription to the CSA, I actually have been able to reduce my food budget by 40 dollars. Instead of operating on a 200 dollar per month budget, I now will be on a 160 dollar per month budget. After the costs of the CSA, I am left with $64.12 a month to spend on miscellaneous items, like grains, eggs, fish, etc. For the month of September I will test out if I need to go back to my original budget.

Next time you go to the grocery store, ask yourself if you would rather know the origins of your food and pay a low cost for it or spend more money on food that traveled international waters from a farm you don’t know.

If you decide to try out a CSA, check out Local Harvest or Organic Consumers Organization to find a food subscription option in your area.

***Lisa-Marie 

An urban planning PhD student finding peace in creating a balance between the mind, body, soul, & environment.

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Photo Credit: Chow Locally

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