This has been a great week for free stuff. On Wednesday, I answered a listing on Freecycle for a Magic Bullet blender/mixer. This is one of those "As Seen on TV" gizmos with a zillion different attachments, which of course, I'd never have bought for "only $49.99." But when I found one for free within a mile of my house, I figured there was nothing to lose by indulging my curiosity.
We've only used it a couple of times, but I must admit, it does seem to have some definite advantages over a full-sized blender. For one, there's less cleanup. It comes with a bunch of interchangeable parts—two different blades, several different cups, and some lids—and whatever you're mixing up can be stored right in the same container, so all you need to clean is the blade. Also, because there are several different cups, you can use one that's the right size for the amount you're processing. This makes the job quicker because you don't need to stop and scrape down the sides to keep it all going. We haven't really put the thing through its paces yet (the book it comes with suggests ways to use it for everything from cocktails to chicken salad, and we haven't even tried the juicer attachment), but so far we're pretty pleased with it. We're not planning to get rid of our old blender and mini food processor just yet, but we'll probably store them away and let this little gadget take their place.
Then, today, we had the opportunity to score some free veggies. Brian's boss was going out of town for the weekend and offered him her CSA share for the week, since she wouldn't be around to pick it up. So we are now the proud owners of a head of cabbage, several heads of broccoli, a bunch of small red onions, and more greens than you can shake a stick at. A bunch of arugula, a bunch of dandelion greens, and something like six heads of lettuce. This confirms what I've always kind of suspected about joining a CSA: yes, you can get a lot of delicious, fresh food this way, but the problem is, there's too much of it. Or rather, too much of one thing all at once. Even if we eat salad for every single meal—which I'm not all that keen to do—we still may not manage to get through this lot before it goes bad. (We can freeze some of the broccoli if we have to, but I don't know of any way to preserve lettuce.)
So here's what I've learned out of this week's adventures: you can't make assumptions about what's frugal and what isn't. At first glance, a CSA share appears to be an ecofrugal win-win: supporting local farmers and getting fresh produce at well below the retail price. But if half of that beautiful local produce is going to end up in the compost bin, then both food and money are going to waste—exactly the opposite of frugality. And contrariwise, it seems obvious that anything sold through infomericals is bound to be a waste of money—a useless gadget that serves no purpose except to part you from your hard-earned cash. Yet our little Magic Bullet looks like it may actually be able to do the job of two other kitchen tools, and do it both faster and more neatly. So when it comes to making ecofrugal choices, you have to rely on solid facts. If you get a chance to try something out for free, as we did this week, that's the best way to figure out whether it works for you. If not, the next best thing is to look at the experiences of other people whose situation is similar to yours. I hope this account of mine will be useful to some of you.