Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Produce Throwdown, Part 1: CSA vs PCC

I'm a lazy blogger. Okay, I said it. (although I do liveblog lunch every so often.)
I don't meticulously write down recipes, take pretty photos, or update my readers (HA!) daily on the fabulousness of my culinary lifestyle. Well, not on this blog anyway- twitter is another matter.

I do get pretty obsessive about certain things, one of which is frugality, especially when it comes to food. I'm the girl that takes 3 hours to go grocery shopping because I am deciding which of the 35 boxes of cereal will give me the most (financial, spiritual, culinary, volumetric) value.

Anyway, I recently signed up for a CSA in an effort to bring more fruits and veggies into my life, and immediately became obsessed as to whether paying 35 dollars a box was really the most frugal option. Visiting the farmers market every Saturday has become a ritual, and I'm a regular shopper at my lovely local PCC natural market - is going CSA really the best option?

Anyway, normally I would keep this kind of personal obsession...well, personal, but as several people online expressed interest, I've posted the bout for all to see.

New Roots Organics

New Roots is not strictly a CSA, but rather an organic delivery service that sources from several local farms in Washington such as Frog Song Farm and Dry Slough Orchard. I wanted to try them out for thier variety, the fact that you don't have to buy a whole season in advance and the fact that they deliver to your door. They drop off a big rubbermaid tub of food at your doorstep on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, depending on what you sign up for. The price of a regular box is 35 dollars, which is on par which what most CSA boxes cost around here for those who are more virtuous than I and only get single-farm CSA subscriptions.
New Roots, like many CSA-type operations, sources california produce during the winter, which is why I have zucchini and oranges in my box.

PCC Natural Markets
PCC is a Washington chain of natural foods stores, known for generally being awesome. They have a very wide selection of Organic and local produce, a bulk section, a big prepared foods deli, and lots of natural food type groceries of stuff that doesn't contain trans fats. I should also add that they have a great customer service presence on twitter (Hi, @Pcc!) that will give you price quotes and answer your grocery questions. They run on the pricey side, but that is standard for a natural foods store (although I have not personally done a price comparison with whole foods.) I've chosen them as my CSA's contender as it looks like they use the same wholesaler/sourcing for many items.



COST - PCC: 41.09
(I have used prices of Organic produce only as all New Roots produce is organic)

COST - CSA: 35 Dollars

Okay, CSA wins this one. (although, admittedly, not by much.) Add to this the cost of gas driving to the store, plus the cost of all the extra stuff you probably would buy (bar of theo chocolate, that vegan gingersnap, etc).
However, If I was going to the grocery store I probably would not pick all this stuff up, especially the items out of my comfort zone, like kale. Also, its not like I'm going to stop going to the market for other stuff.

Tune in Saturday for Part Two of produce throwdown - CSA vs Farmers Market! (I'm VERY interested in this one, as the fate of my continued CSA membership rests on it.)


The Veggie Queen said...

As someone who has eschewed the CSA so that I can support many farmers at the farmer's market, I think that the box is as much about convenience as it is about value. With that said, why is kale out of your comfort zone? Easy to cook and yummy.

But that's also the upside of the box, you get things that you might not ordinarily purchase. You'll see how it goes.
It's usually not all about the money.

I discourage regular farmer's market shoppers from getting a CSA box. The market is also social and community time and we all need that.

Chakulablog said...

I love your comparison on this! We live in Everett, and buying a week's worth of organic produce either means driving to our closest PCC (Edmonds, 20 miles away) which we did for a while, or joining a CSA and picking up in Snohomish (10 miles away) which we switched to a few weeks ago. I've always wondered if the price was comparable, and this confirmed it. We have our CSA through Full Circle Farms, which ironically enough sends their produce to Whole Foods, PCC, and the SnoIsle co-op. Our box is $30 a week, and we have access to additions (besides more produce) of coffee, tea, honey, eggs and chocolate. We love it.

I also agree with you on branching out of your usual habits - kale, leeks, a wider variety of greens, etc. have all become welcome newbies in our kitchen.

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