Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Veggie co-op cost analysis

I've been a member of a local veggie co-op for several years now. This week, here's what I got in my 1/2 share:

The veggies heavily outweighed the fruit this week. Here's just the fruit.

And here's the overall list:
1 bag of loose spinach
1 head of green leaf lettuce
2 red bell peppers
2 green bell peppers
6 roma tomatoes
1 broccoli crown
2 jalapeƱos
3 small sweet potatoes (a little over a pound)
3 yellow onions (almost 2 pounds)
3 white onions (a little over 2 pounds)
14 red potatoes (about 3 pounds)
1 red cabbage
1 head of cauliflower
1 zucchini
3 carrots (about a pound)
2 cucumbers
a small bunch of grapes (about 3/4 of a pound)
4 peaches
2 nectarines
2 oranges
1 lb of blueberries
1 quart of strawberries

I've been assuming that we are saving money by participating, but I've never actually sat down and taken a good look at the difference in cost. This week, I decided to analyze the difference in cost between what I get from the co-op and what I'd pay at Aldi, the most economical place around here to get fresh produce. So Sunday morning when I stopped to pick up milk and watermelon, I took the time to write down all the prices for comparable items.

I'll note that Aldi did not have either green leaf lettuce or fresh spinach. I estimated .99 for each of those if I could have gotten it there (both would be more than that elsewhere, but I'm estimating low). And there was no red cabbage, so I just used the price of green instead. Here's what I found:

My co-op share is $15, and a comparable shop at Aldi would cost around $26. If I were to buy the same at Kroger or Tom Thumb, it would be even more of a difference, since Aldi's prices tend to be much lower than theirs (I'm so glad that an Aldi opened less than a mile from my house!).

Just in terms of the price difference, this looks like a pretty good deal - I'm glad I figured it out, because it convinces me that participating in this co-op really is a good deal. Plus, participating in the co-op means that we always have a variety of fresh fruit and veggies in the house, so I have confidence that I'm feeding my family well.

That doesn't mean that there aren't negatives. For me, that includes a long drive across town for pick-up, but I get to see my sister(s) at the same time, so I consider it a trip I'd make anyway. And you don't get to pick and choose your items, so sometimes you get stuff that's a little past its prime, like this nectarine and cucumber from yesterday's share:

But even if I were to remove the price of those 2 items from my Aldi list, I'm still saving over $10 on fresh produce. For me, that's worth it. Plus, I still use those items! I cut the mushy end off the cucumber, peeled and sliced it, and sprinkled it with salt and freshly ground pepper.

It was a wonderfully refreshing snack in the midst of prepping the produce for the rest of the week!

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