For the past two years, I’ve had the most excellent hook-up: I was part of community-supported agriculture (CSA). My CSA was especially rad because the farmer charged ~$400/year, and delivered fresh fruit and veggies to my door every Tuesday. There were some things I loved, and some things I didn’t love so much, but regardless, having the seasonal fresh food at my dinner table helped me eat better and live more neutrally.
A friend of mine recently signed up for Door to Door Organics, which although isn’t entirely local, it is entirely organic. She gets weekly deliveries to her doorstep for around $40/week. She posted this photo on Twitter of this week’s delivery, posing the question:
What would all this cost from my local grocery store? Certainly I could spend much less than $38, I thought. And, if I want it all organic, I’ll probably have the best luck at Whole Foods… (or as some people so aptly name it: Whole Paycheck- but for me, being gluten free, it doesn’t make a difference where I shop!). Then I thought about this: I live in a different metropolitan area than Sonja. Would the price of this real food be that much different city-to-city?
So I challenged her.
@megankillian d2d organics is not local. It’s only local when it can be. I think it’s a tad cheaper than WF.
@gosonja which sounds like a challenge/contest to me. Send me the list of veggies and I’ll see if StLouis is cheaper, too 😉
@megankillian will do, I think I’m going to do the same, send ya an email in a sec, k?
And so it began: The Real World Real Food Challenge. Sonja sent me the list, and five minutes later I set off to match her grocery list and check out without going over my budget of $38.
Here’s the rules:
- Everything must come from the same store, during the same shopping trip
- Everything must be organic. If you can get it local organic, that’s even better
- Buy only what is on the list, in the same quantities
- Keep the receipt
With my list in hand, I headed to Whole Foods Galleria, which is one of two Whole Foods in the St Louis area (and the only one in the city limits, I think). I chose Whole Foods because I really like Whole Foods, and I guessed that they would be the most likely store to have everything on the list in the organic variety. As a plus, I just love the atmosphere of the store, the smell of the deli and the bakery. Plus, the variety always compels me to explore my taste buds and try something a little exotic. But tonight, I had a plan.
I felt like I was on a secret mission. The Hunt for Red October, only it was the Hunt for Red Roma Tomatoes. I didn’t have to wander too far, because everything I needed was in the front produce section. Duh. The zucchini squash, the fennel, even the collard greens (of which I’m not a fan… yet) found their way into my cart. But I was careful to grab the right amount (4 zucchini squash, one fennel with at least 4 stems, etc). I hit a speedbump, though, when it came to golden sweet potatoes. What are golden sweet potatoes, anyway? I am glad I had my Android, because I Google-Imaged that. And all I saw was a regular, ol’ sweet potato. So I grabbed three of the smallest sweet potatoes they had (organic) and moved along the list. In hindsight, it looks like I was a little off with that one, because my sweet potatoes don’t look the same… but anyway, I digress.
Moving along- breezily counting squash and kiwi and knocking on pomegranates, and then I hit the apples: pinova. What is that? Google phone to the rescue: It’s a cross between golden delicious, Cox’s orange pippin, and Duchess of Oldenburg. Never heard of it. And I couldn’t find them next to the braeburns or red delicious. So I asked the produce guy working and he told me they don’t have pinovas at this time. They had them a few weeks ago, and might get them again… but today, no goose. Dang. I asked him what would be the closest thing to a pinova, and he said the braeburn tastes similar. So I made an exception and grabbed two of these.
There also weren’t any organic bean sprouts. I had bought them at Trader Joe’s, but Whole Foods just had “naturally grown” quasi-local (from Chicago) sprouts. So I grabbed a bag of what they had, and shrugged.
Then I finally got to last thing on my list: limes. I found five organic lemons easily, but limes? Well, there were limes from Mexico, but they weren’t organic. There were key limes, but those weren’t organic either. Turns out, no organic limes at the Galleria Whole Foods on this trip. Uh-oh. This was a problem. I grabbed the regular old pesticide full limes and threw them into a bag.
I made it to the checkout, thinking that I had no idea how I faired. Produce is hard to shop for if you’re on a budget, because you really can’t tell how much things cost unless you weigh everything out and allocate a certain percentage of your budget to purchasing it. And some things I expected to be cheap while others more expensive, but it always surprised me. Take the zucchini, for example. I would have guessed it to be a less expensive item, since it was marginally still in season and they grow like weeds. But it was the most expensive item on my receipt, coming in at $5.60 for 4. And the pomegranates, I assumed, would be redonkulously expensive, but they came in at $2.50 a pop.
The check-out total?
Ouch. I didn’t even come close to Sonja‘s $38, and I had to leave the house to get it. Not to mention I didn’t even get everything organic, and the receipt is a billion times long! I certainly accrued penalty points for not getting the limes and sprouts organic ($5 extra each), but it didn’t really matter in the end. She had this one in the bag… but not literally, since she got hers in the box and I got mine in the bag. I wonder if the difference was because we lived in different regions of the US…
That’s the other unfortunate thing about my produce-obtaining experience compared to hers. I had bags, lots and lots of bags. The collard greens and the fennel had just been sprayed, so I put that in their own bags (because one was by weight and the other was not); the lemons were rolling all over the place, so they went in a bag. Eventually, everything that came in pairs or more went into a bag. So, yeah. Everything went into a bag (except the pomegranates and the avocados. I don’t care if their skins get all yuckied up). I had so many bags, I decided to dedicate a photo to my teammate, Jamie…
It was quite the gorgeous shopping experience, though, I have to admit. I got all these beautiful, colorful, healthy, whole foods, just ready for me to eat them.
Sonja went out to price the stuff at her local Whole Foods in Denver, and her grand total came to $41.53. There is a discrepency between cities, so it appears. Although not everything from her list at Whole Foods was organic, she was well below my check-out total. I wonder why? I would have assumed things would be more expensive in the mile-hight city.
So… now that you’ve seen all the fun I’ve had, do you wanna be a part of the Real World Real Food Challenge, too? Because you can! It’s super fun and exciting. Just make sure you have $50 to spend on produce, and make sure that you’ll put it to good use (um, by eating it, silly! Not feeding it to your neighbor’s goats).
Here’s what you gotta do:
- Take the shopping list and head to your favorite grocery store where you can buy lots of organic and/or locally-grown vegetables and fruits.
- Buy only organic, and only what’s on the list.
- Keep your receipt.
- Share it with us! (If you scan or take a photo of our receipt, just black out all the private info, k?)
Sonja and I will even have a points system to determine who and where has the best real food available. Wanna try it but don’t wanna shell out for organic? That’s cool, too! We’re interested in how much it costs for regular-ol’ produce, too. Just remember, some things are healthier for you when they are organic than others (like apples, pears, tomatoes, and anything that you eat what is on the outside where the pesticides can soak in).
Once you’ve done the shopping, share your story on your own blog, and make sure to tell one of us (or both!) the name of the store you shopped at and what city/metro area you live in. Share the link to your blog post with us, too (in the comments of our posts). We’ll use the honor system, but share your grand total and any modifications (if you made any).
Of course, if your grocery store that you choose doesn’t have an organic fruit or veggie on Sonja‘s list, you’ll be fined. How does $5 plus what my St Louis price of that same food cost sound? This could get expensive really fast…
Why do this? Because it’s fun! Interesting! A learning experience!
Why else? Well, if you really want more motivation, we can give you a little incentive. How about a big ol’ blast of Justin’s Nut Butter? We’ll giveaway a big, sweet and tasty supply of our favorite nut butters to the person with the best blog post. We will be deciding the winner on December 20th, so you have a little over a week to get your groceries and post your blog.