The Ottawa Good Food Box was my first such experience (about seven years ago). It's a community development initiative - promoting good food eating and accessibility in a community-sharing sort of way. It tries to be as local as possible and now they have an organic option. You pick up your box monthly at one of the city's sites.
A couple years into marriage, Ben and I tried out Community Shared Agriculture (CSA). Miss Greenish Thumb did the same that summer so we swapped CSA stories and experiences. Her summer experience rocked. Ours was disappointing: the farm was small so the crop was limited, it was a rainy summer and much was lost, and our pick-up time was through rush hour. When it works, it's great, but it's a bit risky too because you depend on the success of one farmer's crops.
And finally, we've been ordering an organic fruit and veggie box from Ottawa Organics for about a year and a half. Ben and I both love it. It's a bit pricier than other options but everything's organic, it's year round, it's delivered to your home, you get it whenever you want (weekly, biweekly, occasionally), you can select items you never want to get, and they try to be as local or regional as possible, depending on the time of year. Bonus bonus and bonus.
I find that instead of following the recipes sent in the box or looking online for recipes, I usually just make variations of a few standard meals. Here are dishes I find are convenient and make the most of the box contents:
- Salad. I love to add fruit and nuts and sometimes meat to salad to make it a full meal. This is one of the first things we make with our weekly veggies. The lettuce tends to turn pretty quickly, so it's best to eat it at the beginning of the week.
- Stir fry. Also a good one for the first half of the week. Bok choy also goes bad quickly, especially when it's organic. I like to stir fry cabbage - I'm always trying to figure out what to do with that cabbage. I love varying the stir fry sauces. Sometimes I just use sesame oil, salt and pepper. Often the I'll use variations of the "red sauce" - the oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, soy sauce, ketchup combo. I also love a good oyster sauce or adding peanut butter.
- Steaming. The secret to steaming for me is not overdoing it and usually running the veg under cold water right when I know it's done so it doesn't keep cooking. Steamed asparagus and broccoli rock. I often steam beets (takes about twenty minutes).
- Mystery Sauce! A Schulz favourite! By mystery sauce I mean tomato sauce loaded with veggies so that it usually turns a funny sort of brownish colour, especially if you puree everything together. This is a good way to use up chard, kale, spinach... Also, mushrooms, peppers, celery, zucchini... so tasty. I usually include meat and eat it over pasta. Cream cheese, sour cream or some sort of cheesy dairy is lovely in mystery sauce.
- Soups! Pureed. A good use of winter squash and root veggies.
- Roasted veggies. Another great way to eat root veggies (potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, turnip). I just chop everything up, run olive oil overtop and season with salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, oregano (or any herbs, really). When it's baking, I check it and stir it up frequently (every ten minutes) so it doesn't stick to the bottom.
- And finally, on weeks where cooking just doesn't happen as much, I'll freeze foods to use later. Eating frozen foods is the next best thing to fresh. Usually all that's needed is some chopping, a quick sautee or steam and then a cool down. Laying the foods out flat initially in the freezer makes it easy to grab small portions to add to mystery sauce or soups later on.