The Good Food Box

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Behold, the bounty of the GFB!

In the summer we are lucky enough to have a CSA drop off right down the street from our house. We get a basket of fresh veggies, eggs, and cheese weekly from this CSA and while it’s only been the first year we have done it, it’s been amazing.

Our last CSA basket was in the middle of October where they sent us on our way with 25lbs of potatoes and 25lbs of onions and told us to have a nice winter. Ah Canada, your short growing season is problematic. Still, there is no reason to give up the hope of having fresh vegetables in the house, so I looked for an alternative. I know some people like to hit the bargain bins at grocery stores or make deals with managers but I am more of the shop-for-sales type. So enter: the Good Food Box (GFB).

In all honesty, I can’t remember how I heard about this program but I have purchased it on-and-off for years. From their website, they are a “non-profit community-based initiative bringing neighbours together to buy a variety of delicious and nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables at wholesale prices. Our goal is to purchase food that is in season and is grown as close to home as possible. It works like a large buying club with centralized buying and coordination. And it’s open to everyone – with no membership fees.” So while it is designed with food-insecure people in mind, the actual purchasing is open to anyone. Besides, the more people who buy, the better prices they get and the more we all get for our money.

In our city, you have 5 options and an add-on:

Large box ($20)
Medium box ($15)
Small box ($10)
Organic box (medium only, $25)
Fruit bag ($5)

According to their website, a large box is best for families, medium for 2-3 people, while a small box is best for singles.

The GFB tries to source as many of their products locally as possible, so I have seen wonderful ripe, fresh berries in the summer and succulent squashes in the winter. Otherwise, they buy in bulk from wholesalers and pass that savings on to their clients. Generally, the content of the boxes is pretty standard fare with only the occasional new and interesting fruit/vegetable popping up in the mix when prices are right.
While the actual amount of food varies from month-to-month, for November’s basket we received the following things in our large basket + fruit bag ($25 total):

10 lbs potatoes
2 lbs carrots
2 lbs onions
Acorn squash
Fennel bulb
Large bunch of kale (seriously the largest I have seen)
Broccoli
Green beans
Container of mushrooms
Two tomatoes
10 bananas
9 oranges
8 applies
Two pears
Two plums
One lemon

Obviously, in the summer months when produce is at its peak the amount of value for the money increases as there is a lot more food. Still, even as winter sets in there is a good amount of food for the price here, and there is a great variety.

The only downsides to the GFB are 1) its only once a month, 2) you get no choice as to what you get, 3) the pickup locations & times can be inconvenient. I determined that a drive to the closest community centre was worth the hassle given the value of the GFB but people in other areas of the city may not have as ready access. We also eat a lot of fruits and vegetables so a box twice a month would be more ideal for our family. Since we are good eaters we don’t mind experimenting with new fruits/vegetables but if you have picky eaters in your family (or you are one) then the GFB may not be of value to you and you would be better off shopping the sales.

Still, if you have a program like the Good Food Box in your city, it may be a worthwhile venture to see if it fits your needs. People in more southern climes probably don’t have the challenges we face procuring inexpensive fruits and vegetables in the winter but for those of us up north it may be a good addition to a frugal grocery strategy. Either way, I am also a big fan of community-based initiatives so it’s nice to know that my support of the GFB is beneficial for both me and for my community.