This week, I would like to share with you how to plan out your weekly meals with produce from an organic vegetable co-op bin. I’ve mentioned before on the blog that we are members of the Emerald Coast Organic Co-op, an organic fruit and vegetable co-operative based at Cafe Organic in Fort Walton Beach, which allows us to purchase a bin of assorted fresh, organic groceries at a discount twice a month. Because the co-operative orders seasonal produce for the entire group, we never know what fruits and vegetables we will get until we arrive to pick up our bin. The variety of produce challenges me to try new recipes. I had never cooked leeks, kohlrabi, beets, bok choy, or watercress before we joined the co-op, and now we have them all on a regular basis!
Meal Planning with Co-op Veggies
Meal planning based on the produce we get in our co-op bin is not unlike how vegetable gardeners or frequenters of farmer’s markets might meal plan. Basically, you just center your recipes around the produce you have on hand. I’ll take you through this week’s bin as an example. We normally cook at home three or four nights a week and eat leftovers or eat out (usually at La Paz) the other nights.
Each bin is FULL of produce, more than my family can typically eat, so we actually split it with a friend – we take turns picking items from the list until all produce is accounted for. From the bin this week, I picked lettuce, collard greens, sprouts, broccoli, corn, onions, potatoes, ginger, and garlic.
My husband likes to grill out steaks, ribs, or wings one night each week, so I always choose vegetables that will make good sides for that night. This week, those sides will be oven roasted corn on the cob (I add salt and pepper to the foil packs in the linked recipe) and creamy mashed potatoes.
I usually try to do some type of chicken recipe as well, again centered around whatever veggies we receive. This recipe for caramelized onion and garlic chicken looks delicious! I’ll probably make my favorite crock-pot collard greens (I add red pepper flakes) as a side, along with some crusty French bread.
The third home-cooked meal of the week is either breakfast (bacon, eggs, and fruit), spaghetti (in which I throw any and all remaining vegetables into my favorite tomato sauce base) with steamed frozen peas on the side, or a crock-pot freezer meal that I’ve prepared in advance (I make 20 or so freezer meals every 3-4 months just to have on hand for easy suppers – possible future blog post to come on this!).
We will use the lettuce and sprouts in salads and sandwiches for lunches this week, and my sister picked the ginger to use in homemade juices. We love the variety and quality of the organic produce we receive through the co-op, and the discount to what we’d pay in the store is nice, too!
Planning around seasonal veggies is something human beings have been doing for a long, long time, and I find that the extra effort of doing so is definitely worth it. With high-quality vegetables, you can sautée, roast, or steam them with just butter, salt, and pepper, and you get an absolutely delicious flavor with very little work involved. All that to say, I highly recommend participating in your local co-op or buying seasonal produce from your local farmer’s market and meal planning accordingly!
While I was sorting vegetables, this is what my little monkey was up to….
Anyway, some of my favorite sources for easy weeknight recipes are listed below. Enjoy!