Would you look at all those tasty fruits and vegetables! All of this amazing produce came in our weekly grocery box. And, it’s all organic! Grocery boxes are the coolest things ever! Let me tell you why.
When you read my “organic produce on a budget” post (coming later this week) you will see how much we rely on our grocery box. We didn’t even know what a grocery box was until we starting looking into vegan and plant based alternatives. We love our grocery box so much that I wanted to share our grocery box experiences with you, things to look out for and what you should focus on when comparing providers.
So, what is a grocery box? Grocery boxes, sometimes referred to as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box, are a super easy way to get your hands on fresh, delicious produce (and even other goodies depending on the box supplier), usually at a discounted price. For example, through the grocery box program that we subscribe to, we get a wide assortment of local and imported organic produce on a weekly basis, delivered to a pickup depot about 8 minutes from our house. We could even get it delivered straight to our doorstep if we wanted – talk about convenience! Want to know how to get yourself into one of these sweet deals? Keep reading!
I’ve done a quick comparison of some local organic grocery boxes in our area, the benefits, savings and locations at the bottom of this post. In my Organic Produce on a Budget post that will be posted later this week, I have even done a price comparison of what we’d pay for the organic produce we received in our most recent organic grocery box at a few different grocery stores so that you can see first-hand what the savings can be like. Basically, I’ve done a lot of homework so that you don’t have to! If you’re located in Southern Ontario, or more specifically the within a hundred kilometres of the GTA, there are links at the bottom of this post to grocery boxes that might interest you. For my readers outside of the GTA area, don’t fret – I’ve also included some links to other resources that can help you locate a grocery box service in your area. It should be noted that not all grocery boxes (like grocery stores) are strictly gluten free, so always make sure you’re doing your homework if you have specific intolerances. There is an awesome table at the end of this post that compares all these points.
Variety and Benefits of Grocery Boxes
When looking into grocery boxes, make sure to check out what variety of foods you’ll be getting – nothing is worse than getting 10 pounds of carrots, potatoes and cabbage every week in the winter (unless you love these things…then it’s awesome). If you are only interested in locally grown organic produce, than be prepared for some repetition in the winter. Ontario is brutally cold, so you obviously aren’t going to get any oranges or bananas grown in Ontario when it’s -30C out. We were lucky that our organic grocery box gives us a lot of variety and even options for customization – our food box has options for both locally grown and imported organic produce, which allows us to still get the fruits from the warmer regions in the winter. I go bananas for bananas and having an option for imported produce helps to ensure that I can get my hands on these tasty guys year round 🙂
When exploring grocery box providers, you should ask if customizing your food box is an option and whether there are costs associated with this. Customizing your box comes in handy if you have any allergies or really dislike certain vegetables or fruits. My husband can’t eat mangoes, unfortunately, so we can’t have this delicious fruit fraternizing with all the other produce in our box for fear that he might get sick (can you tell I miss them?). Our grocery box provider accommodates our allergy request without any hiccups, ensuring that we never have to worry about a mango sneaking in with the other goodies.
Delivery or Pick-up Location
From what we’ve gathered, there are two types of grocery boxes: ones that are delivered and ones that require local pickup. Whichever method you choose is really a matter of personal preference. If you don’t have access to a car, then delivery might be the better choice. If the pickup location is only a 5 minute drive, than maybe you choose to pick your box up personally and get a bit of exercise in the process – win/win!
Generally speaking, having your produce delivered is going to cost more than picking it up yourself. Although our organic grocery box does have the option of delivery, we choose to pick ours up ourselves. Our organic grocery box service utilizes pickup depots, usually a member’s home or a small business that volunteers for the job, and you pick up your prepaid grocery box from there. We are really lucky and one of the pickup locations is only about 8 minutes from our house, making things super convenient.
Cost Savings with Organic Grocery Boxes
Cost can be the driving factor for many of us and this was, and still is, one of the primary drivers for us as well. I’ll be posting about “organic produce on a budget” later this week – make sure to check it out, there are a lot of good cost saving tactics in there 🙂
The cost of organic produce is heavily dependent on the grocery stores available in your own geographic area so it’s really hard to pinpoint exactly how much each of you would save with a grocery box. From our own experience though, I can tell you that if you choose a grocery box that is a good fit for your lifestyle, you will definitely end up saving money. You need to look at the type of produce you’ll get in the grocery boxes in your area and then compare that to how much those items typically cost in store. We’ve done a quick comparison of costs below to give you some examples. Remember, you need to compare the price of typical organic produce to the contents of the box, not just items on sale or non-organic produce, and make sure to look at the cost per unit (or $/kG or $/lb) and not just the total price.
Another thing to watch out for is that some grocery boxes make you pay up front for an entire year or season. Some of these payments can even be non-refundable. We weren’t interested in dishing out $400-$600 for a service we hadn’t even tried yet so we made sure to find a place that allows customers to pay in smaller amounts.
I think when we first started, we committed to 2-months at a time and paid 2-months in advance for our grocery box. This was totally way more manageable when compared to paying $400-$600 for a season’s crop. What’s even better is that our grocery box service has since changed their payment options and we can pay-as-you-go without any commitment really. We just order what we would like and change our order whenever we need (with a few days notice). We can even put our box on hold if we go away for holidays or have weeks where we have special events going on that make it uneconomical to get a grocery box for the week. Talk about convenient!
Organic Grocery Box Providers
Although this list isn’t complete, it is a list of services that are available around the GTA. We have only used Plan B Organic Farms and do not have firsthand experience with any other provider. We do not advocate for any company; this is just simply a list of organic grocery box providers that we were able to find in our area.
Please let us know what your experiences have been like with grocery boxes – it would really help everyone out! I’d love to be able to add organic grocery box providers to this list from around the world, sharing your experiences for others to learn from.
Again, each grocery box provider has different strengths and weaknesses and the vendor you choose is your choice completely. Looking at the price per basket is difficult because the content and quantity of each basket varies.
[table id=1 /]
For those of you in Ontario who are outside of the GTA, check out the Ontario CSA Farm Directory to find out how to get local CSA boxes in your area. For all my American readers, check out Local Harvest where you can search for local food services in your state.
If you’re just starting out, I highly recommend trying a service that doesn’t require you to pre-pay for the whole season and see if you like the concept of using a grocery box before committing. And don’t forget to let me know how your organic grocery box experience went 🙂
Lots of love & happy eats,