A few weeks ago we wrote about our rotting, stinking figs that we found in our produce co-op basket that were immediately transferred to the trash after the picture. As they were the highest value items in our basket for that week we realized we lost most of the savings we thought we had gained for the week. Then we challenged ourselves to find out how much produce we could buy for $15 at different places including the grocery store (this post), farmers market, and so on!
Now first I need to be clear – we really do love our produce co-op. We use Bountiful Baskets and really do believe we’ve received a great value from them – they are in approximately 16 states now and many of you have told us how much you love them as well. But we also know that as many of you have stated that the co-op quality and quantity sometimes varies by season. The last two months have proven (at least in our baskets at least) to be consistent with those observations.
So let’s do a quick rundown of what we purchased for $15 (the same cost as the normal produce co-op offering). We do need to be fully honest – our total came up to be $15.09 – a 9 cent overage – before taxes. 🙂 And yes, we still have to pay taxes with our produce co-op so there’s no need to include that for this discussion. Here’s what $15 got us at our local grocery store:
- 1 head of Boston lettuce – $0.74
- 1 lb strawberries – $1.64
- 1 bunch bananas – $1.31
- On-the-vine tomatoes – $0.56
- 3 peaches – $1.28
- 2 avocados – $1.56
- 1 cucumber – $0.48
- 1 bunch green onions – $0.58
- 1 bag grapes – $1.61
- 2 mangoes – $1.76
- 4 bartlett pears – $0.86
- 4 kiwis
- 5 Jonagold apples
Our first reactions to this week’s produce is how great it is that all of this produce will be eaten. What do I mean? You will note this didn’t have any figs (when we picked up our basket with the rotting figs we noted a friend of ours was offering her figs to her friends on Facebook) nor did we buy any fennel. Yes – what we bought is 100% what we will eat. And, notice we’re not throwing away any of our produce either. Because we were at the store we hand-selected the produce that looked best at the time we were there. We have received items in our produce basket that were of questionable quality (e.g., bad spots, discolored, overripe produce, etc), or at least that we would have passed over in favor of a higher quality fruit or vegetable in the store’s selection.
We wanted to list a few of the comparisons we have noted shopping at the store versus going to the co-op:
Pros of shopping at the store:
- Because you select the produce you get exactly what you want!
- You can choose the fruits and vegetables of a higher quality
- Pick up the produce at your leisure – no need to get up early on a Saturday morning to get to your co-op pickup location
- Depending on the season you can get more for your money in the store – at least this is what we found this week
Pros of shopping at the co-op:
- Surprises in your basket can be nice – we may have never fallen in love with kale had we not received it in our produce basket
- You may get more exotic items you wouldn’t consider purchasing yourself
Save time by picking up your basket– Although you might think it would be faster to pick up your produce at the co-op, at least around here I have stood for upwards to 20-30 minutes waiting in line.
Now remember, this is especially the considerations I would give for summer and fall usage of our co-op. When winter and spring come, we have found that we generally get more quantity than in the store. Maybe we will have to write a similar post in January to see if our assumption is correct.
Will we continue using our co-op? Yes – especially in winter, spring and early summer.
Does using a co-op always mean you are getting a great deal? I don’t think that is an absolute. As we showed even this week, our quality and quantity was superior compared to some of our last co-op baskets we picked up.
We would love to find out from you – do you agree with our assessment? Do you use a local produce co-op and have a different story to tell? We would love to hear what you have to say. Plus let us know where you are at so we can all know which co-ops are available in the different areas!