Updated: Apr 11, 2021
During the off-season, I try to purchase organic food from the local supermarkets. However, it can be a bit challenging because the prices are very high and the produce is not as fresh or of good quality compared to the items we get from the Monmouth County CSA, which gets its food from a Sussex County farm.
(Photo by Marianne Wagner)
Still, I am grateful to purchase organic produce from a supermarket in the dead of winter or early spring although I am not always sure where the food originates from.
One thing I have noticed, and I’m pretty sure you have too, is that grocery prices have been going up a lot the last few months! Due to the pandemic and weather-related reasons, prices have gone up worldwide due to lost crops and livestock, rising transportation costs and worker shortages.
Phil Lempert of SupermarketGuru.com told NBC that food prices could continue to skyrocket for another year, while The Balance quoted the USDA as saying price increases will normalize somewhat after supply shortages are worked out.
Let’s hope the normalization works out sooner than later.
One aspect of the pandemic that has been positive is that 71 percent of Americans plan to continue home cooking when this crisis is over, according to Food Dive. People who stayed home had more time to learn how to cook or sharpen their skills and were more motivated to save money, eat healthier, be creative and overall improve how they felt.
While some are not really enjoying cooking in their own kitchens, others are finding they like it. According to a September report by sales and marketing agency Acosta, 35 percent of people have developed a newfound passion for cooking, which is 10 percent more than those bored of having to cook frequently.
This got me wondering about the cost difference of purchasing organic food directly from a farm versus a supermarket since more people are cooking for themselves.
Through the CSA, you spend about $31 per week if you are signed up for a full premium share. If you are receiving a half share, that translates to a little over $15 for each alternating week you pick up your food.
There are also budget-friendly options, including basic and pre-bagged medium shares.
Your purchase of organic food promotes health in two basic ways. First, placing good stuff in your body enhances your health and energy level. Second, supporting farmers who shun toxic pesticides promotes the ethical growth of produce that does not harm people, animals or the environment.
We are fortunate that supermarkets now carry organic produce, but items can be expensive and not as fresh as getting them the same day from the farm. Some stores carry organic foods, but ones that are not USDA certified, so check the labels carefully.
Next, let’s compare the prices from the CSA to a local supermarket.
Here is a current sampling of organic produce that one can purchase from a local supermarket online. I have a big family and buy a lot of food, so below is a personal example of how many veggies I might buy in a shopping trip. I make a lot of stir fry dishes and salads. Please adjust to your household’s size!
Red cabbage head $3.61
1 Heirloom tomato $2.45
Swiss chard $2.49
5 oz. package of baby arugula $3.49
1 eggplant $2.34
1 Green pepper $1.06
Bag of red onions $4.49
1 Zucchini $1.20
1 Squash $1.23
Radish bunch $2.49
1 Broccoli $3.68
1 Red pepper $2.83
1 Red leaf lettuce $1.99
24 oz. bag of fingerling potatoes $4.99
1 bunch of rainbow carrots $2.99
3 heads of garlic $1.99
12 oz. package of seedless baby cucumbers $4.99
Total = $58.07
The next thing I did was look at a week from last July where one CSA share included 1 bunch of carrots, 3 peppers, 4 red onions, 3 squash, 3 cucumbers, 1 head of lettuce, 24 oz. of fingerling potatoes, 1 bunch of swiss chard, 3 tomatoes, 2 eggplants and red cabbage head. I’m pretty sure there was an herb or two in this share, but I do not recall which ones so I just left those out.
Anyway, to purchase these same veggies at the supermarket, the price would have totaled $44.45, but being a full premium-share member, I received the freshest food possible for my weekly cost of $31, which saved me $13.45.
The nice thing about the CSA too is that frequently there are bonus or extra items available, such as tomatillos or hot peppers. Members can pick up these extras if they so choose. Since we love stir fry, I enjoy getting the bonus hot peppers frequently.
So, after crunching the numbers I determined that buying wholesale from the CSA is less expensive (and way fresher) than going with a supermarket during the growing season. A supermarket is wonderful when our local growing season ends however.
I think the best part of being with a CSA is being with like-minded people who share similar values about health, responsible farming and knowing how and where the food we eat is grown.
Sharing recipes is also nice. On pickup days, I often overhear or engage with others on how best to cook a veggie that hasn’t really been tried before.
I am looking forward to my third year with this wonderful group and meeting our members and new ones too. If you would like to learn more, please visit Monmouth County’s CSA or email firstname.lastname@example.org.