As an avid cooker and veggie lover and living in the city without a car, I have spent way too much time weighing the pros and cons of signing up for a program to have my weekly produce delivered to me. Every few months, I do a google search and come up with a new kid on the block selling these services. It’s time for me to share this information with you all, but it’s also time for me to bite the bullet and sign up with one of these companies.
No matter your priority, there should be something out there for you. You can focus on organic, on local, on in-season varieties, and you can even add bread, eggs, dairy and meat to your order. You can choose the size of your produce box, and have it be filled with only vegetables, only fruit, or a combination of both. Some companies will deliver right to your door, some to a local hub in your community. Sometimes you’ll be charged to make substitutions to the weekly stock, sometimes not. The boxes are all priced similarly, with minor differences in services.
I recommend you take notice for a couple of weeks of what types of produce you absolutely eat every week (avocado? lemons? kale? apples?), and what items you buy and subsequently struggle to use before they go bad. Summer is a particularly great time of year to sign up and give produce delivery a whirl, because the items will inevitably be a lot more exciting than the potatoes, carrots and turnips that will fill your produce box in the winter time!
Good news for the suburbs: most of these companies deliver to your door in Scarborough, Richmond Hill, Toronto, Etobicoke and Mississauga! Better yet, check out Ontario’s Community Supported Agriculture website for farm to kitchen boxes all over Ontario. The following company names are linked to websites where you can get specific information on pricing, product selection and delivery.
Probably one of the most popular services in the city thanks to to an effective marketing campaign, Mama Earth offers four sizes of boxes ranging between $27 – $55, with a $2 charge for customizing your entire basket. Delivery is free on orders of $30 and there is no commitment, so you can place an order on a week-to-week basis. For no charge, you can select 5 items you’d like to never receive. Mama Earth has partnered with many local companies to deliver cheeses, breads, jams, coffee and more with your order, priced as they would be on the store shelves (but with free delivery!). Live in a condo/apartment? Buzz in the delivery people remotely and they’ll leave the produce box right at your door. In season, Mama Earth aims to have 80-90% of your basket locally sourced.
A typical box comes with about 7 – 12 types of produce and sizes vary between $28 and $31, delivery included. Fresh City requires no time commitment and Fresh City claims to be 26% cheaper than buying the same items at your local big box grocer. Live in a building? If you get at least 3 people to sign up in your building, you’ll save $3 per order! 80% of your box is aimed to be local, with greens and sprouts grown in a greenhouse at Downsview Park. Check out their website to see what was in the box last week to get a feel for the mix. Fruit only boxes feature some pretty cool tropical fruits, like starfruit and passion fruit! Everything at Fresh City is organically grown, but not necessarily certified organic since the cost of certification is cost-prohibitive for many small local farmers.
Box sizes range between $30 and $47, and can be done weekly or as a standing order. OrganiceFoodDelivery will also delivery milk, cheese and eggs with your order if you’d like. What this company does differently is each week, a list of 20-25 available items are posted on their website, and you choose 8 – 10 of the items off the list to be included in your box. Knowing which items you’ll be getting ahead of time makes meal prep much easier for the week ahead.
Wanigan is all organic, and while they have boxed delivery (ranging from $25 – $54), think Whole Foods/Essence of Life on the Internet. Order organic flours, spices, produce and condiments to be included in your delivery. Wanigan allows for 2 substitutions at no charge for their produce boxes. Wanigan doesn’t require a deposit like many of its competitors and there are no delivery charges on any “Weekly Wanigan” boxes. If you live in a building, they’ll leave the box with your concierge so make sure you have one, and that they will accept food delivery on your behalf. Looking at last week’s box, I really like the mix of produce Wanigan’s includes.
With two sized boxes ($37 and $42), FDO seems to be the oldest kid on the block. They even have a guarantee that if you can find another Toronto retailer who offers more certified organic Ontario grown produce than them, they’ll send you a free Fresh Box. If local is your biggest concern, FDO may be for you. If you live in Etobicoke, they have a pick-up location that will save you $3 per box, too. FDO also allows for customers to create a custom box from scratch.
There are a host of other local farms all over Ontario that are looking for your financial support to help the farm. The website is great for providing an up-to-date list of farms looking for investment around the province and for a set fee, you’ll get a share in the crops (and sometimes meat and dairy) for the year. Some of these rural farms will even deliver to city centres. Each CSA is different, so once you find one in the directory, contact them directly to find out about payment and delivery options. If you’re extra excited about farming, go visit the CSA that you’re invested in and attend meetings to hear about future plans – this is a great way to get involved in a community and better understand where your food is coming from. Some of these farms even have volunteer opportunities if you want to develop your green thumb!
And of course, if a set basket each week just isn’t for you, be sure to check out Ontario’s Farmers’ Market Directory to find a market near you to buy local produce!