Ask a Chef: Katy Coonfield

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Katy Coonfield started working as a cook at the all-organic vegan restaurant The Red Avocado when she was still a University of Iowa student. After graduating, Coonfield became a partner in the Iowa City, Iowa, restaurant. We asked her about the best buys in organic food. Her tips:

• Check out the bulk section of your grocery store or co-op, where you’ll get a better deal on organic grains, nuts, and dried beans, as well as on coffee beans and granola.

• Prices for organic produce are a direct reflection of the season, so it’s a good idea to visit websites such as or farmers to find out when fruits and veggies are in season and to help you locate farmers’ markets in your area. Shopping at farmers’ markets cuts out the middle man, saving you money.

• Community Supported Agriculture ( is another way to buy directly from the farmer. While not all CSAs are certified organic, a lot of farmers are adhering to the standards, so do your research. Generally, you sign up for an entire season and pay up front, and then each week receive a box of whatever is available at the time.

• Even if you’re not the co-owner of a restaurant, like me, you can still take advantage of wholesale prices. Find out the distributor for the organic produce at your local store, call customer service, and inquire about setting up a buying club account. The minimum order requirement may be around $150 or $200, and there might be a fuel surcharge for delivery, so be sure to get all the details.