Monday, August 18, 2008

The Coop...What it is & How it works

I've had a lot of inquiries about the coop I joined recently and since it was "my turn" to do the buying last weekend, I wanted to share a closer look at what it is and how it works.

The particular coop I joined has been going for over 13 years. {I know this because my aunt & uncle joined 13 years ago and it was established then}. Ten families in the same neighborhood agreed to pitch in $10-15 per week, every week {forever} towards buying fresh produce. They formed a neighborhood association, got a tax ID number and opened an account with the local produce wholesaler across from our Farmer's Market.

They drew up a schedule, and once every 10 weeks each family got to pick the produce for all, buy it, split it out and contact the others when it was ready & collect their money.

It's a simple, beautiful idea. Every week you get a mystery box of fresh fruits and vegetables. It challenges you to cook more and try new things and ensures you're eating fresh, seasonal and locally grown ingredients.

Through the produce wholesaler, you can get a list a day in advance and fax in your order so it's ready when you arrive. You can then check the market for bargains and buy "extras" to have available when people pick up as long as they last.

Over the years, spots in the coop have been few and far between, but due to some people moving we were finally able to secure a spot. Some of the permanent positions have been split into half orders for smaller families - so that's what we have - a half order a week, which comes to $5-7.50 a week.

Seeing the cycle...
Or local wholesaler is called Paradise Produce. I had the list faxed to me on Friday afternoon and made a wish list of everything that sounded good. Then I started the math juggle. My goal for the order was for it to be between $120 & 140, and to have everything on the list be easily divisible by 10. {not as bad as it sounds}

My Aunt Carol went with me this time to walk me through the process. We got to Paradise at about 7:30 and were greeted with tables of the most wonderful fruits! {All priced by the box} Then went and stood in line with the other restaurants & coops buying that morning.

We had an impulse buy for extras this week. We saw strawberries for $5 per flat, which came to .63 cents per pound! So we picked up some for us & some for the group. {we so should have bought more!}

So once they got our order pulled they loaded it in the back of my aunt's van...

So we were off to her house to split all the boxes out into their individual portions.

Each household has a stash of boxes from the week they bought, so we all sort into recycled produce boxes. Some things are easy to figure...on the smaller items you may have to do 3 or 4 passes to get everything passed out, but it goes pretty quickly.

Before long we had a row of boxes...

Someone was out of town this week so instead of my usual half, I picked up a full order. It's particularly great since I had plans for most of the box & still had plenty left over to share with Matt's sister {who is taking up a lot of the subbing spots we used to take before we became permanent}.

Here is what $14.60 {full order} bought us this week:

20 bulbs of garlic
8 russet potatoes
6 green peppers
4 ears of bi-color corn
10 peaches
9 nectarines
12 black plums
2 mangoes

And I splurged and spent an extra $2.50 on 4 pounds of strawberries.

You can see why we usually have to get a half order and why we had to split this one with Tracy!

So what am I planning to do with all this you ask??? I plan to make stuffed bell peppers (dinner for 4) one night and baked potatoes another. The corn will get cut off the cob & sauteed with garlic & cumin and be served with jalapeno slices {yum!}. I'll roast an entire casserole dish of the garlic to freeze for future use. Matt will eat all the plums, I'll cut up the peaches & mangoes and take with lunches. Meg & I will eat the strawberries as is.

Now that we have a produce plan we menu plan backwards and build a grocery list based on our box. And we really stick to the plan, cooking at home, because another box is coming next week and who knows what fun it will bring?


Anonymous Suzanne Webb said...

Fabulous photos....your coop sounds like a win/win situation...I'd love fresh produce every week!
Have a great day!

6:02 PM  
Blogger Lily said...

yummy. I love the coop idea. I belong to a service that delivers organic veggies weekly and I just love it.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Mimmers49 said...

Wow, that is a super cool idea. I have never heard of something like that. Then again, we don't have a fresh market here...just the grocery stores.

10:15 PM  

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