Product Review: Bountiful Baskets

I recently picked up my first Bountiful Basket down in Millard.  The concept is awesome:  an online-contribution co-op for very fresh, as local as possible, vegetables and fruits. It costs $15 for a Conventional Basket, and $25 for a 100% Certified Organic Basket, plus a newcomer’s fee and a processing fee, bringing my total to $19.50.

They encourage volunteering on distribution day, and offer standard baskets as well as fresh bread and specialty items (like 20# of tomatoes, for example).  The location I used distributes every two weeks, on Saturdays, near 108/Q.  You order on the Monday prior, and you never really know what you’re going to get till you pick it up.

I arrived early, and was really glad I did.  I was toward the front of the line, but the customers lined up behind me very quickly.  Many people in line were saying how wonderful it was to be surprised with their baskets each time.  I used my own reusable shopping bags to pick up my goods.  Since I was brand new to the game, a lovely lady helped steer me the right way.  Thank you, lady!

Here’s what I got for my $16.50 (regular price after processing fee):

2 bunches green onions
1 long English cucumber
1 beautiful cauliflower
about 1# green beans
1 head Romaine lettuce
several Hatch chile peppers
1 bunch bananas
1 small pineapple
1 honeydew melon
2 yellow squash
8 oz nice white mushrooms

The food was absolutely fresh and absolutely delicious!  And it was certainly a potluck of veg and fruit.  I didn’t realize certain things were in season.  And the contents were plentiful.  I had no interest in the Hatch peppers, so I skinned and prepared them for the freezer.  I had intended on stuffing them, but they all split.  A week later, most of the rest has been put to use in salads, stir-fries, side dishes, and on Monday, a soup.  The cucumber may not get entirely consumed, I fear, because I’m the only one who eats it.  The green onions are abundant, and may not all get consumed, either.  And the remaining bananas are starting to get spotty even though we’re eating them — may need to freeze for smoothies.

I added up what the grocery store cost would have been, including current week sales.  It came to about $14 for the same items if I’d bought them conventionally.  But I wouldn’t have bought all the same items.  Admittedly, they wouldn’t have been as fresh, either.  For the way I cook, and our family’s preferences, it helps to get the food that I know my family will eat, so less gets wasted.  The drive down there and back also used a lot of gas.  And I still had to supplement with more colored produce, like tomatoes, grapes and apples.

Will I buy again?  I’m not sure.  Maybe in the winter, when I get tired of the same ole boring stuff in the grocery stores.  I’ll volunteer, now that I know more about how it plays out.  But while I’m trying to keep the grocery spending under tight surveillance, I’m going to get just the produce we need, in just the amounts I know we’ll use.  (Like .98 for 5# russets this week at HyVee.  Time for some twice-baked potatoes!)

Do I recommend it?  Depends.  If your family enjoys all kinds of fresh veg surprises, and you enjoy the challenge of Iron Chef-esque surprise ingredients, I would definitely recommend it.  If you are on a squeaky tight budget, and buy as-needed items, you probably might want to stick with price matching and seasonal deals (even organic).  But HEY!  Check it out yourself, and see if it’s a program for you.  It could be just what you’re looking for, and worth the drive.

Have YOU tried Bountiful Baskets?  What did you think of the program?  Please share!

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