Sometimes, like everyone else, I’m a bit of a hypocrite. What I say, think, truly believe doesn’t always match up with what I do.
I Truly Believe: The fresher, the better. I’d love to be one of “those vegans” who can just step outside their back door and pick a tomato for lunch, a few squash for dinner.
Reality: Although I love picking vegetables from other people’s gardens (and playing with the ladybugs and hoppy toads), I don’t like digging in dirt. Ewww.
I Truly Believe: Eating local is better. Food travels a shorter distance (and time!) from farm to plate, so it’s fresher, tastier, and has more nutrients. And, I love the idea of supporting local farmers.
Reality: I like going to farmer’s markets, especially in the fall when the air is so crisp, cool, and clean. But I also like sleeping in.
I Truly Believe: Eat Seasonal.
The Reality: Standing in the middle of the Taj MaTeeter, I realize I have no idea what “seasonal” is. I’m privileged enough to live in a city where I can get strawberries in January and asparagus in December. I know watermelons are “Summer” and pumpkins are “Autumn” … but beyond that, I don’t have much of a clue.
I Truly Believe: Eat A Variety of Produce/Eat The Rainbow. It’s the best way to ensure you get a wide range of vitamins and nutrients.
The Reality: Some weeks the only rainbow I eat is a package of Skittles. I stand in the supermarket after a long day at work and try to decide what to buy. What’s on sale? What looks fresh? What is easy to cook? – and wind up buying broccoli. Again.
I Truly Believe: Spend less time in the supermarket.
The Reality: I visit far, far more often than I would like.
These beliefs fueled my interest in joining a produce delivery service … and finally I wound up with The Produce Box, a North Carolina company with delivery areas in Charlotte, Wilmington, the Triangle, and the Triad.
The idea is simple. Pay a yearly $18 membership fee; then each Friday select a pre-curated box (out of a selection of about 8 boxes, including an organic box and a fruit box). You can also choose a Market Box and create your own 100% customized order. Make changes/modifications as often as you like over the weekend … then, at 9:00 pm Sunday, your order will be finalized and you will receive your delivery the next week. (You can also “skip” weeks.)
The Produce Box offers a truly impressive variety of local, seasonal produce. They also offer a good selection of organic and pesticide-free produce. If that’s not enough, they also offer a changing selection of local artisan products you can add to your order – breads, cheeses (even sometimes vegan cheese!), jams, salsas.
They even include newsletters in each box, explaining the best way to store your produce and how long it will stay fresh. The newsletters also include recipes/meal ideas.
I’ve been extremely pleased with The Produce Box. The produce has been beautiful and delicious; the customer service excellent.
Has The Produce Box Helped Me Align With My Beliefs?
The Fresher, The Better. The produce is about as fresh as you can get without growing it yourself, and it is beautiful, and DELICIOUS. Seriously, you will not believe the difference in taste.
Local Is Better. Your purchase supports 70+ local farmers, who get paid on the day they deliver their produce to The Produce Box. (Supermarkets often pay farmers 30-60 days after delivery!)
The Produce Box also donates produce to local charities like Second Harvest Food Bank, PORCH, and YMCA’s Camp High Hopes. You can get in on the action by purchasing a box to be donated for only $20.
Also, your weekly box is delivered by local stay-at-home moms and dads – so you’re helping provide jobs to the community!
Eat Seasonal: This has been an experience I’m only now fully beginning to appreciate. When I joined in early spring, my boxes were all about leafy greens (kale, collards) and root vegetables (turnips, radishes, and lots of beets).
Then they vanished, to be replaced by summer squash, eggplant, corn, and okra.
My last delivery included a first-of-the-season butternut squash. And the menu for next week includes acorn squash and muscadine grapes – a sure sign Autumn is coming.
As someone who is privileged enough to live and work in a climate-controlled environment, this really does help me connect to the changing of seasons and the passage of time.
Eat A Variety of Produce: This is a no-brainer if you belong to The Produce Box. Menu selections change every few weeks as the seasons and local crops change. Quite often there are items available that are difficult to find in local grocery stores or new to me. Lovely lavender and white Rosa Bianco eggplant. Purple potatoes and purple asparagus. Sprite melons, pear melons, canary melons. Okra that is tiny and green and perfect, not long and spotted.
Spend Less Time In The Supermarket: The Produce Box hasn’t completely eliminated trips to the supermarket for fresh produce. There are some items I need The Produce Box doesn’t provide – citrus fruits, bananas. And sometimes I still want some plums along with my North Carolina peaches or some raspberries to mix with my local blackberries. But shopping trips are shorter, more focused, and less frequent.
A Few Tips & Tricks:
Pre-curated Produce Boxes seem to be designed for omnivore customers. For example, the O’Natural (organic) Box usually contains a head of Bibb lettuce, a cucumber, a tomato or box of cherry tomatoes, plus a few other items. Ho-hum.
Power veggie users like myself and my other vegetarian/vegan friends will probably be happier ordering a Market Box and customizing it to our liking.
New and organic menu items often sell out quickly, so place your order as soon as you can on Friday. You have until Sunday at 9:00 PM to make changes and finalize.
If something is wrong … SPEAK UP! You can request credit for a particular item on the website. If it’s more than one produce item, contact your Neighborhood Coordinator. I’ve only had one negative experience (my quart and pint containers were only partially filled). I received a credit for those items, PLUS the Charlotte Area Manager dropped off some extra blueberries, cucumbers, and corn!
Is The Produce Box Cost Effective?
The answer to that is a big, It Depends.
Prices run roughly about what I’d pay in the supermarket. Some items a little more, some a little less. I could probably save money by shopping produce sales or Trader Joe’s.
However, there are other factors to consider:
I’m paying for convenience, for someone to select and deliver top-quality produce to my home.
I’m also paying for the taste. Ohmygoodness, the taste!
Since the produce is so fresh, it tends to stay fresher far longer than produce from the supermarket. That means I have a longer time window to cook and eat it. Which translates to less waste.
Because I have to choose my produce a week in advance, I’ve become much better about meal planning, which also reduces waste and extra trips to the supermarket.
And, the fewer trips to the supermarket, the less I’ll splend on impulse purchases. “Oooooh, Cherry Pepsi … and look, Oreos are on sale … That magazine looks interesting … I just put in a 10-hour day at the office, I deserve a glass of wine … Wet cat food is on sale, I’ll buy the furbabies some as a treat … If I buy them something, I better buy something for Scruff too … Ooooh, SKITTLES!”
If you are interested in an easy way to upgrade your food and simplify your life, I highly recommend The Produce Box.