Chow Line: Advanced meal planning one way to benefit from Community Supported Agriculture

Photo: Getty Images

I joined a CSA this spring for the first time, and now I’m getting so many vegetables in my weekly shares that I don’t know what to do with them all. Some of the produce spoils before I get around to using it. How can I better manage this bounty of fresh foods?

It’s great that you’ve joined a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. CSAs are a wonderful way to access fresh, locally grown produce and other foods. 

While every CSA has some slight differences in how it operates, all work by allowing consumers to purchase a share—some call it a subscription—to a farm in return for weekly deliveries of farm-fresh, local produce, goods, and foods. Farmers benefit because they are able to derive income from the shares, which are often used for payment for their supplies, seeds, and labor costs. 

Joining a CSA can be exciting, yet challenging. An abundance of weekly, fresh produce might be something new to a household, according to Using a Community Supported Agriculture Share to Plan Family Meals, a recent Ohioline fact sheet.

Ohioline is Ohio State University Extension’s free online information resource and can be found at OSU Extension is the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Although some might struggle to find ways to use their entire CSA share each week, meal planning can be an effective tool to better family health, according to Patrice Powers-Barker, an OSU Extension educator. 

“Some CSA farmers preview the weekly produce shares in a newsletter or on social media, which allows members to think ahead on meal preparation,” she wrote. “Members can anticipate the produce and then create a grocery store list of items to complement the CSA share.”

Here are some other tips Powers-Barker suggests for using the produce in your CSA share:

  • Prepare simple “go-to” meals that can be made quickly, without much planning. Meals such as these can be changed up depending on the produce you receive in your CSA share. Meals such as frittatas and stir-fry are convenient because they can be made using a wide variety of vegetables depending on which produce you receive in your CSA share.
  • Review the types of vegetables in your CSA share, then plan several recipes per vegetable. For example, tomatoes can be used in spaghetti sauce for dinner, salsa for snacking with nachos, BLTs for lunch, and bruschetta for an appetizer.
  • Sometimes seemingly unusual vegetables can appear in your weekly shares. You can substitute those vegetables for your familiar produce in your favorite recipes. For some people, vegetables such as kohlrabi, chard, and fennel might seem intimidating at first, but the more you research, the more you will find that many vegetables can replace or complement other more commonly used vegetables. For example, try adding shaved kohlrabi to slaw recipes, or substitute lettuce with a mix of kale and chard. 
  • Review the selection of produce in your share to determine which vegetables need to be used sooner than later. For example, if you get lettuce, spinach, or other delicate greens, they should be used within the first couple days of harvest. But radishes and other root vegetables such as beets, carrots, parsnips, and turnips can be stored in the refrigerator crisper one to two weeks if the green tops have been removed. 

Hopefully these ideas will help you stick with your CSA. Multiple studies have shown that being part of a CSA can have a positive impact on health. In fact, one study showed that CSA members increased their servings of fruits and vegetables by 2.2 times per week. Another found that joining a CSA contributed to 4.9 more home-cooked meals per month. 

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or

Editor:This column was reviewed by Patrice Powers-Barker, educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension.

Tracy Turner
For more information, contact: 

Patrice Powers-Barker
Extension Educator
Family and Consumer Sciences