Tuesday, March 15, 2011

REVIEW: Community Helping Produce Co-op

For those of you who are not familiar with the Community Helping Produce Co-op it is a community based produce co-op that serves the St. Louis area and the surrounding communities, including a few areas in the Illinois Metro East.  The deliveries run every 2 weeks to the many designated delivery sites throughout the area.

It's a simple process.  From their website you place your order.  (Be sure to check the website for the different location's delivery schedules and that will determine when the online ordering becomes available for purchase.)  For only $23 you order "a basket".  At the time of your order you do not know what produce will be included, but I can assure you it is well worth it.  If any of you have looked at the prices of grocery store produce lately $23 is a fantastic deal for the amount of produce you get.  The more people that order...the more produce you get.  Your $23 is pooled together with the other orders in your group.  Then the coordinator works her butt off and finds the best deals, orders cases, bushels, and pounds of different produce.  The delivery truck pulls up the day of your delivery and the coordinator along with other group members unload the truck and start dividing out the produce into the awaiting containers.  If you get there early you are encouraged to help and there is usually some leftover items that the coordinator offers to those who do so.  For example:  If a bushel of apples yields 5 apples per basket, and there are 15 apples left from the bushel....those 15 apples are available to grab a couple extra.  Some days I don't help, but on those days I do not grab anything extra either.  Sorry, just a little pet peeve of mine.  Help and you get rewarded, right?  Don't assume it's free though...make sure you are given the okay.  However, throwing in an extra $1 or $2 is well deserved.  These ladies who put this together do a fantastic job and it isn't easy work.

My first co-op experience (about one year ago) I got the newbie job of bagging 3 bushels of fresh green beans into gallon sized plastic zip top bags.  Not a fun job, but there was one extra bag after it was all said and done.  Score!!! If you knew how much my family loves fresh green beans....you would understand why I was so excited.

One of my favorite aspects of this group, is there is no long term commitments like other co-ops and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) groups.  If during the winter months you don't feel like getting out in the elements to pick up your basket, don't order.  If during the summer you have your own gorgeous garden in your own back yard, don't order.  If you are out of town, or you just feel like going on a Twinkie binge - don't order!  Simple as that.  Also, don't expect all organic or even all local produce.  They try really hard to stay local as much as possible, but bananas, oranges, lemons, limes are a little hard to find local.  They do try, but at times it just isn't possible.  So...it's produce....the same stuff you find in the grocery store, but cheaper.  Period.

I also love that there are many extras that you can order as well.  Currently there are over 200 extra items that can be purchased and picked up at the same time you pick up your basket.  Items range from extra fruits and vegetables, different pastas, eggs, jams/jelly, local honey, local made pizza crusts and tortillas as well as fruit butters, peanut butter, jars of pickled vegetables, bulk varieties of nuts and even tortilla chips.  This extra added bonus can almost make this a one stop shopping experience.  You would still have to go to a grocery store, bakery, or butcher shop for dairy, baked goods, and meat items.  Well, I guess you could always bake your own bread and milk your own cows.  No?

So, last week after awaking from my long winter's nap...I placed my order and today I picked it up in Maryville, IL.  I highly encourage anyone with a family, who loves a variety of fruits and vegetables, who likes to save money and who can eat the following amounts of produce during a two week period to check it out.  It really is a great group and we can all use a little more produce in our lives, right?  Okay, enough of my blabbing...this is what I got for only $23.

1 head of cabbage
1 cantaloupe
1 vidalia onion
2 bulbs of garlic
4 large red potatoes
6 Roma tomatoes
6 bananas
1 lb. strawberries
8 oz. mushrooms
1 bunch of scallions (green onions)
1 head of leaf lettuce
1 quart of snow peas
1 lb. baby carrots
3 grapefruit
6 gala apples
5 navel oranges

I also ordered a few extras:

18 oz. local honey (Salem, IL) for $4.75
Bag of 5 lemons/5 limes for $2.75
4oz. green bean chips for $3.15

Stay tuned for my first ever video blog review on Green Bean Chips!

1 comment:

  1. Picked up my Produce today. We got a lot.
    1-Bag Grapes
    1-Head Red Leaf Lettuce
    1-Head lettuce
    4-Ears Corn on the cob
    2#-Green Beans
    1-Bundle Celery
    1-Green Pepper
    1-Head Cauliflower
    1-10 oz grape tomatoes
    I also ordered a 10 oz grape tomato(never even thought I would get some)and 5# russet potatoes and some million dollar pickles.