A Vegan Summer CSA Menu Plan

This is our sixth summer as share members at a local csa farm. Our farmer was one of the first in Maine to do this type of farming and has been at it for over 20 years.

Brienne loves the farm tire swing

CSAs are all the rage now-a-days (with good reason). Here's a few articles I've come across in just the past month:

Do you have a csa post to recommend? Please leave a link in comments.

Different farms operate pick ups with their own unique twists but one thing vegatable csa farms have in common is produce offered according to season. For example in Maine we don't get tomatoes, peppers or melons in early July but do get peas, lettuce, chard and lots of other goodies.

During the summer months our farm prepares boxes each week with a variety of just-harvested produce. Members don't get to pick and choose what they take home. 

this is exactly the color of the chard,
no photo editing, it's called "Bright Lights" for a reason!

Learning to cook according to the local, seasonal harvest is challenging. I'll say right now we don't only eat locally produced food. We would have a very limited diet if we did. This makes me feel less-than-granola/crunchy (we don't eat only organic either by the way) at times and definitely out of touch with the hip locovore movement. But we are committed to a mostly plant based diet and if we were to eat only local we'd be eating either a lot of meat or a lot of cabbage and as it is we eat cabbage, of one sort or another, several times a week!

Most of our vegetables this time of the year come from the farm and some from the farmers market but we still buy out of state fruits and veggies from a favorite produce stand. Having got that non-locovore confession out of the way I feel I can proceed with telling you how I menu plan for summer's seasonal veggies.

Menu Planning Basics

My basic meal planning strategy, regardless the time year is to plan our supper meals around main vegetables, beans or starches and fill in the spaces with other vegetables, beans and starches.

I am not a gourmet chef but I have been cooking whole food, vegan meals for several years now and can, with a certain amount of ease, whip up tasty meals from our bulk beans, grains, a few condiments and whatever veggies happen to be in the fridge.

Normal Menu Planning:

  1. Read recipes, choose what to make and write out a menu. Check your fridge, freezer and pantry to use up things on hand.
  2. Make a grocery list from your menu.
  3. Buy groceries.
  4. Cook the meals.

CSA Menu Planning:

  1. Pick up veggies from farm. While you're there feed the chickens, pet the goats, chat with other members. Ohh & ahh at the gorgeous vegetables and be so thankful for your farmer who grew it for you.
  2. Come home and figure out what the heck you're going to do with all this wierd stuff. Beet greens? Garlic scapes? Daikon? Parsnips?

For most months of the year I use a modified version of the straight forward menu-list-groceries-cook planning strategy. I buy lots in bulk from buying clubs so I can often skip step 3 and "shop" from our bulk supplies, however I do buy copious amounts of fresh produce each week. But for these next four months I shift into csa menu planning mode which in years past has left me feeling a little frazzled.

A Weekly Menu Plan

This year I finally decided to make the unknown (exactly what veggies will I be getting this week?) a little bit easier by determining a set menu plan each week that I just "plug" the vegetables into.

Monday:  Pasta. This is my recovery day from our busy weekends. I used to do a lot of meal and house work this day but we recently made Monday a crash day. Pasta is the main thing for the supper meal with the addition of maybe beans and whatever veggies are on hand or from the freezer. One example is empty fridge pasta. Other ideas are pasta salad, pasta primavera, pasta with greens or thai peanut sauce noodles with shredded cabbage and carrots.

Tuesday:  Potatoes. This is similar to pasta night but with potatoes as the base. I have mixed most any veggie (except lettuce) with potatoes. On colder nights we might have mashed taters with cabbage or other such greens (kale, collards). Hot days we eat cold potato and vegetable salads with lemon tahini dressings and sliced olives. Another option is baked potatoes with bean, tomato & veggie toppings.

Wednesday: Soup, Casserole, Patties or Wraps. Tuesday and Wednesday I have some time to pull together something nicer for Wednesday supper. We eat a lot of easy, one pot meals but this is the night I make an effort to prepare a nice one pot meal. If I'm running short on time I can pull together a hearty veggie soup with my eyes closed, otherwise I might take extra time and make veggie patties which are like burger patties only filled with healthy grains, seeds, vegetables and/or beans. Another favorite is brown rice or whole grain corn tortillas with toppings.

Thursday:  Beans. We eat a lot of beans at our house. Our kids have been eating them for years and don't think anything of eating a bowl of beans, with some veggies of course, for supper. Thursday is our farm day. I cook a large pot of beans earlier in the day and then add fresh veggies from the farm pick up. Alternately, if it's cooler day we might have baked beans with sauteed garlic greens.

Friday: Stir fry & Rice. Each season provides interesting veggies for stir fry and during the summer season this is definitely true. This could be asian inspired or it might take on a mexican cumin/salsa flavor depending on the veggies. Making stir fries with fresh picked greens is especially delightful.

Saturday & Sunday: I don't plan too much in advance. After hiking we almost always eat out or maybe have easy pizza at home. The other night I'll ask the family for ideas or try to use up something in the fridge.

A Sample Menu

Last week's farm pick up we received chinese cabbage, carrots (thinnings), garlic scapes, lettuce, parsley, shell peas, snap peas, scallions, swiss chard and pyo herbs. This is a sample menu, roughly based on what my family ate this past week, showing how you could use these seasonal veggies. Our pick up day is Thursday so my menu plan starts that day.

  • Thursday - Garbanzo Bean Pesto Salad. Veggies used: shell peas, garlic scapes, parsley, scallions and pyo basil.
  • Friday - Chinese Cabbage Stir Fry. Veggies used: chinese cabbage, garlic scapes, snap peas and scallions
  • Saturday - Wraps with fresh veggies, marinated tofu, beans and salsa. Veggies used: lettuce, scallions
  • Sunday - Supper out
  • Monday - Sesame Noodles w/ Garbanzo Bean. Veggies used: chinese cabbage, peas, garlic scapes, scallions
  • Tuesday - Swiss Chard Potato Salad. Veggies used: carrots, parsley, Swiss chard
  • Wednesday - Vegetable & Tofu Lasagna, loosely based on this recipe. Veggies used: none from the farm but kale from our garden.

To each of these meals I often added other out of season vegetables, ie: tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, avocado etc.. The lettuce was eaten for lunches in our salads as were any veggies that didn't get cooked for supper. Peas were also eaten as snacks. 

For more one pot meal planning ideas, see One Pot Wonders.

How do you menu plan around seasonal veggies?

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  • Cori

    Cori on July 8, 2010, 3:40 a.m.

    I should be sleeping or packing, but I had to take a break, you know?
    Usually I read your posts and groan to myself about how different our families eat and plan and how I wish they could be more similar. After reading this one, though, I think I could handle it!

    I like that you have a basic premise each night with plenty of room for improv. Pasta, potato, fancy night, beans, rice, eat out, whatever night. I can totally handle that :-) We hardly ever eat out (unless of course we're moving accross country or some other insane endeavor!) so I'll likely change Saturday to something else - sourdough?? Mmmm. Maybe not, baking in 90 degrees isn't so inviting! I'll have to return to this post after we get settled...


  • daffodil lane

    daffodil lane on July 8, 2010, 4:23 a.m.

    Does your box include recipes? Mine always have along with the list of where each was from (as it was from several different local farms). There aren't many recipes each week, but they sure figure out how to include each item into it! A couple weeks ago we had the best asparagus-green garlic-fennel-mint pasta. I also have a great book, from a farm here in Bellingham. It is broken up by seasons, so first harvest, mid-season harvest, etc. Each section has a pizza recipe for that season, soup, and so on. Great color photos too. "At Joe's Garden" http://www.amazon.com/At-Joes-Garden-Harvest-Northwest/dp/0966951425/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1278562905&sr=8-1 I'll keep my eye open for you at our used book shops.


    • renee

      renee on July 8, 2010, noon

      Daffodil Lane,

      Yes, we always get a couple recipes but most often they include dairy or are a side dish. I am a one pot wonder cook and it's gotta be vegan so the recipes don't always work. But I am often able to adapt them to our eating preferences. 


  • Claudia

    Claudia on July 8, 2010, 11:04 a.m.

    Yum...thanks for the awesome looking menu ideas. I totally hear you about not being able to eat entirely locally. Here in NB there is very little local food available, so we take full advantage during the short growing season. We look forward to joining a CSA after we relocate, and to the menu planning challenges I will no doubt be faced with. I have recently discovered how to provide many things for ourselves--baking bread, making jam, perfecting granola etc so I don't have to rely on the grocery store for quite as much.


  • Francesca

    Francesca on July 8, 2010, 1:41 p.m.

    You are so organized! Like you, not all of food is local (all our beans and starches aren't), while all our fruit and vegetables are seasonal, mainly because I believe that for them to be a nourishment they need to be grown according to their requirements. I like your saturday menu, I'll have to look into wrap alternatives available here, and your weekly supper out.


  • Naomi Kilbreth

    Naomi Kilbreth on July 8, 2010, 2:11 p.m.

    Glen and I have recently become interested in purchasing locally grown food, especially when we realized one family farm sold produce at very reasonable prices. We've tried the farmer's market before, but everything was very expensive (I understand why, it just didn't work for our budget). Now we're happy to be passing by the produce at the grocery stores and buying it straight from the farm! It is nice knowing the veggies you're buying actually are fresh :0)


    • renee

      renee on July 8, 2010, 2:27 p.m.

      I totally agree about the farmers market. I also think it's expensive and find the csa to be much better value for our dollar while still supporting a local farm. Because the market is on our block it's easy to run there and pick up the extras I might need midweek before our farm pick up day.


  • Shannon

    Shannon on July 9, 2010, 6:42 p.m.

    Loved this post. During the winter months I do very specific menu planning, even on a monthly basis. But during the summer I find that I am able to wing it much easier. I defrost things, soak things, etc. once or twice a week and then plan things out based on what needs to get used up first. Right now we're just doing our own garden and the farmer's market, so we aren't inundated every week with produce like last year with our csa. I actually kind of miss it though :/.


  • Kerry

    Kerry on July 15, 2010, 9:55 p.m.

    Renee, this is wonderful! Wendy at Thimblenest shared this post with me and I am so glad that she did! We are in our 5th year of CSA membership. I've gotten pretty good a using things up in a timely manner. I love this plan. I am returning to work as a teacher in the fall and I think that this kind of structure might make mealtimes a bit easier as we transition into a new schedule. Thank you!


  • FishMama

    FishMama on Oct. 18, 2010, 1:59 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing this link! I love it. And aspire to someday getting into the CSA groove. Perhaps in the summer we'll try again. One thing different here in CA is that the CSA season is 12 months!


  • Kristin

    Kristin on Aug. 12, 2011, 2:53 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing this! I know I read it back in March, during the first 30 day Vegan. But now that I have changed the way I cook, well, it makes more sense now. I am a menu planner, and it is sometimes hard to figure out how my CSA box works into that plan. We live in California, and are blessed with a wide variety of veggies year-round (though we get mighty sick of citrus during the winter! A terrible problem to have, I know :))

    I like your idea of having a guideline for each day (pasta, stir-fry, etc.). I used to do something similar, when we ate more meat (one day beef, chicken, fish). I hadn't really adapted that to this way of eating.

    I am looking forward to your Friday contributions to 30 day vegan!


    • renee

      renee on Aug. 12, 2011, 9:16 p.m.

      Kristin, I'm fleshing this menu plan out at 30 Day Vegan in one of my Friday contributions. I think you'll really like it. I give more details on how this system evolved and how it works through the seasons and with the ebb and flow of family life (ie: busy weeks when there isn't as much time for cooking creativity). Looking forward to seeing you there also!


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