Frugal isn't always cheap...

And cheap isn’t always frugal. According to the dictionary, cheap means costing very little , inexpensive,  or of small value. It can also mean poorly made or shoddy. Frugal on the other hand, means economical in use or expenditure, not wasteful, though, it can also mean meager or scanty.

When it comes to purchasing the things we need or want in life, value is the key to healthy frugality. For instance: when it comes to food, value and safety should trump cheap every time. After all, we put food inside our bodies where it is free to nourish or poison us depending on the ingredients.

One of the growing trends in food production is Community Supported Agriculture. In my local area there is a farm that offers a CSA program. What this means, is the consumer helps support the farm and in return, enjoys a share of the crop.

This gives the consumer an opportunity to enjoy fresh, locally grown produce with knowledge of the growing methods of the farmer, at a reasonable price. It is also a terrific way to support your local farms.

The program I am joining is with Underwood Family Farms in Moorpark, California. Underwood Farms offers a quarterly program for $268.00 that includes 13 boxes of seasonal produce for locals to pick up each Tuesday. This comes to $20.16 a week or $2.80 a day. The sample list of items on a recent week’s box included:

1 Bunch Red Carrots

1 Bunch Yellow Carrots

1 Head Green Cabbage

1 Cherokee Heirloom Tomato

1 Basket Red Pear Tomatoes

1 lb Yellow Wax Beans

1 Head Romaine Lettuce

1 Head Lettuce

4 Colored Bell Peppers

1 Easter Egg Radish


Best of all, they offer recipe ideas for the contents of your produce box. Underwood Farms practices sustainable farming. For more information on sustainable vs. organic click here.

Local Harvest is an informative website that also offers a comprehensive CSA database you can search to find a farm near you. For more information on CSA programs click here. For Local Harvest’s search feature try here.

The exciting thing about utilizing a CSA program is the challenge of avoiding waste by finding a use for every piece of produce. This may mean new recipe ideas, sharing with your neighbors or composting if all else fails. It might even mean donating items to a local food program, if you know you aren’t going to have the opportunity to use all you received on a given week. Just try not to experiment with new life forms in your produce drawer. I have priors for this and have yet to create anything useful.

TJ Smith is a reformed American Consumer and blogs at


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