Adventures in CSA (week 5): How do you price what you can’t find?

I knew this week would be a bit of a challenge to price, since there were a couple of items that were different than what I suspected our store would carry. I already knew that our grocery store, while very well stocked, doesn’t carry Italian eggplant. I also suspected that purple kale would be a no-show, since I’ve never seen it there. And pea greens…? I’d never even seen them before, so I didn’t suspect we’d find them there. Strangely, upon dh’s return from the grocery store this morning, he said that not only were those three missing from our grocery store’s produce section, scallions were apparently hidden from sight, too!

Thus, this week’s list is a little tougher to put together. Caveats that I have to note, then, for complete transparency:

  • The price of the purple kale and the Italian eggplant are those for the *regular* items (meaning regular green kale and the standard eggplant). This likely depresses the prices I’m using, since the more specialty items would surely cost more at my grocery store.
  • The price for scallions is taken from the price noted in week 2. Based on what I saw last week, and this week as well, it’s possible that this price should have gone up a little bit in recent weeks. (Note also that scallions are priced by the bunch, not by weight.)
  • There was no equivalent for the pea greens, so I checked online and found a price for them at Green Garden Organics. I got a 4oz bag, so I used the price they listed for a single unit of a 4oz bag. I’m guessing that the price on this would have been higher at our local store, but I had to use something as a starting point.

And so, now we have the list of prices…

Week 5 CSA


Grocery Store Unit Price
(per lb)
Grocery Store Total Item Cost
Tomatoes 0.76 $2.79 $2.11
Purple Kale* 0.43 $1.29 $0.55
Scallions* 1.00 $0.99 $0.99
Pea Greens* 1.00 $4.75 $4.75
Carrots 1.45 $0.99 $1.43
Green Peppers 1.15 $1.79 $2.06
Macintosh Apples 1.51 $1.19 $1.79
White Onion 0.72 $1.49 $1.07
Corn** 3.00 $0.60 $1.80
Italian Eggplant* 0.63 $1.17 $0.73
Asian Pears 2.00 $2.00 $4.00
Grocery Store Total Cost $21.29
Week 5 Savings (Deficit) $1.29
Program-to-Date Savings (Deficit) $15.77
* Items were not available; closest equivalent was used.
** Closest equivalent is husked corn cobs sold in 5pks; unit price was derived from this comparable item

Wow. Where’d my savings go?

Well, first off, I’m not convinced that the prices I listed above would be as low as they are. Referring back to my caveats above, it’s highly unlikely that the purple kale, Italian eggplant and pea greens would have been at the prices listed above. more likely, they would cost more. Second, the non-specialty items would really be considered fairly pedestrian, so the prices aren’t going to be nearly as much. And this brings me to one of the potential takeaways from this exercise: perhaps one of the big lessons is that, through a CSA, you have access to produce that otherwise is really only available to those who know to look for it. It’s kind of like how we discovered green chickpeas at the Mediterranean grocery store near our house the other week. GREEN CHICKPEAS? FOR REALS? I’ve got my eye on a bean salad with these little guys (along with the white kidney beans we found at the same store). Now, had someone asked me 5 minutes before I saw them what color chickpeas came in, my answer would’ve been a resounding: DUH, they’re tan! Well, apparently, that’s not always the case.

So, the price “difference” isn’t necessarily just based on whether you buy it regional or local…it may also be a function of what you get that you didn’t even know existed. The CSA taught me that I like beets. I never knew that. I can’t even imagine what else this can teach me. And, given that I’m a stone’s throw from my 40’s, I think it’s a damn fine thing that I can learn anything at this point.

One thought on “Adventures in CSA (week 5): How do you price what you can’t find?

  1. Pea tendrils are commonly found at Asian grocery stores. I need to go to H-Mart soon anyway, so remind me and I’ll see how much they’re going for there.

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