Sunday, February 9, 2014

Bountiful Baskets Start to Finish, Part 2 - Basket Day!

Basket mornings are a little like contribution mornings. I hit the main BB Facebook page after breakfast, and keep refreshing as people in other states add pictures of their baskets. Items definitely vary from state to state, but you can get a pretty good idea this way, and plan some possible trades. I love zucchini, but Daddy is not a huge fan, so I post an offer to trade (if we get some) on our local page.
I highly recommend volunteering (which you are supposed to do every couple months, anyway). For most sites, you just show up an hour early, find your site coordinator, and they will put you to work! Basically, the truck pulls in, and a couple volunteers jump in to help hand things down. Other volunteers grab the boxes and bags and stack them where the site coordinator points. The whole shebang is unloaded and neatly organized in minutes.
Next (here at least), the coordinator will tell you to find a partner, and assign you a fruit or vegetable. You'll move down the line of baskets with one of you holding the box of, say, bell peppers, and the other putting the prescribed number into each basket. It moves very quickly, almost like a dance, and soon you have 95 full baskets ready to go. Volunteers will then get to pick one extra item from the odds and ends that didn't divide out evenly, and anything else is divided again among the baskets. Add-ons are stacked neatly at another table nearby. I have seen volunteers with babies on their backs, and have volunteered myself while hugely pregnant, so you don't have to be able to heft a 25 lb box of tomatoes to help!
If you are not volunteering, just show up a few minutes before your appointed time, with your receipt printed out (or pulled up on your phone). No confirmation number = no baskets! We actually have two sites at the same business, because 95 baskets were never enough. Participants are always cautioned to make sure they gave the right line - nothing like getting to the front and finding your
name is not on the list!
One line - mine - is going to the covered area, the other is going into a nearby warehouse. I was running late, so my line was almost through, and most of the baskets are gone.

The wait usually isn't long, though, and you inevitably see old friends and make new ones. One of my older girls came with me once, and remarked, "Everyone is pregnant!" I told her that's because moms are cheap. When weather is nice, and kids are running around playing, it's almost like a party atmosphere - one of my favorite parts of the whole thing, really!

C. commandeered the new cart.
When it's your turn, you'll show your number, and get your basket(s). Every site does things a little differently - here, the person checking numbers will call out how many you have
My hero! Super organized, super friendly, super patient - Super Woman!

 (followed by, "Really? Three again, Ami? And, where's the baby?") and a volunteer (or volunteers) will plop them all on a table.

Here's where it helps to have another person with you - of course, when the baskets were put together, heavy things were placed on the bottom. Now you have to transfer them to your own container(s), and you don't want to just dump them. I like to bring C to carry the lighter stuff in a bag, then I can dump the heavier things into my container.

C. is putting Romaine, strawberries and blackberries in his bag.
Next you'll pick up any add-ons you contributed for. You'll have to show your number again. The main basket items are usually inspected as they are distributed, but you'll want to check the add-ons yourself (they come prepackaged, so no one at your site will have looked inside). In almost a year of doing this, I only once found mold on some strawberries, and it was just a couple. I accepted the case anyway, tossed the moldy ones, and made jam first thing the next morning. If something is not in acceptable condition, you can refuse it and get a credit on your account. It happens, especially in summer! An entire truckload of fruits and vegetables travelling all day is bound to have an occasional bad spot.

No problems here!

C. taste tested just to make sure.
Now you have to fit it all in your car. No, you are not allowed to leave children behind so that you can fill their car seats with apples. Make any trades (of food, not children) if warranted. Reward your helper with a stop at Sonic on the way home.
When I get home, I like to spread everything out in nice little piles.

The kids like to help with this part, and we have a mini botany lesson as they ask what each thing is, and what part of a plant it comes from.

They both kept kissing things!

By the time we finished, one pack of strawberries was noticeably emptier than the others. Can you really complain when your kids are sneaking fresh fruit?

This week, I decided to weigh everything, and compare prices with the local grocery chain. In three baskets, we had:
7.62 lbs. bananas
3.82 lbs. zucchini
3.9 lbs. cucumber
4.37 lbs. oranges
3 lbs. strawberries
18 oz. blackberries (HUGE ones!)
2.98 lbs. asparagus
3 heads Romaine
3 bundles leeks
8 lbs. Granny Smith apples
3.52 lbs. broccoli
5 grapefruit

This cost $45, as opposed to $75.03 at grocery store prices - a savings of 40%. The quality is much better, too - the heads of Romaine are bigger than the store's, the strawberries fresher, asparagus much better-looking, etc.

The hostess pack was harder to compare, because the local store didn't have jicama, sugar snap peas, or cherry tomatoes (seriously?!). What they did have would have cost $21, so that was probably a decent savings as well.

I got the bread pack because I love the English muffin bread.

I decided to serve the garlic rosemary baguette with supper tonight (mock chicken marbala), and omigosh! I am not a huge fan of rosemary, but this bread is fantastic! Most of the baguette disappeared by the end of supper, and the rest became a bedtime snack. One loaf of English muffin was saved out for breakfasts, and the rest went into the freezer.

Once my mother had placed her order and I had that bagged up, I started planning. Nothing looked like it was on the verge of overripe, but I had some apples from the store getting soft, and some huge mushrooms that need to be used soon. So, salad with baked chicken and blue cheese stuffed mushrooms for supper tomorrow. Apple muffins for breakfasts this week. I made similar plans for the next two weeks, balancing freezer meals with fresh sides, and a few baked goods for breakfasts. Decided which items I want to make tomorrow, and set appropriate ingredients with printed recipes on the kitchen counter. Everything else was wedged into the refrigerator or placed in bowls on my very full buffet. (NOTE: many BB participants rinse everything in a vinegar-water solution and dry before storing. I didn't do that this go-round, but it does seem to help things keep longer.)

Tomorrow: let's get cooking!


1 comment:

  1. Very nice :) I enjoyed reading this...
    Bountiful Baskets are GREAT!!!!!