Adventures in CSA (week 1): I wasn’t expecting that…

So, the verdict on the price is in, specific to week 1.


Week 1 CSA
Weight (lb) Grocery Store Unit Price   (per lb) Grocery Store Total Item Cost
Yellow Squash 1.23 $1.99 $2.44
Corn 3.00 $0.60 $1.79
Carrots 2.55 $0.80 $2.04
Green Peppers 1.69 $1.49 $2.51
Macintosh Apples 2.42 $1.59 $3.85
Cucumber 0.61 $1.49 $0.91
Red Onion 0.91 $1.29 $1.17
Sweet Potatoes 1.39 $0.99 $1.38
White Potatoes 2.11 $1.29 $2.72
Tomatoes 1.85 $2.99 $5.54
Grocery Store Total Cost $24.35
  Savings (Deficit) $4.35

I really wasn’t expecting that. In fact, DH looked over my shoulder as I typed the numbers into my Excel spreadsheet, saying, “I think the grocery store will be cheaper.” After all, $1.49 here and $0.99 there, on a per-pound basis…it just seems like you’d save money, right? Economies of scale, anybody? So, color us both surprised that as I was a mere 4 entries from finishing the list and suddenly the gap between the cost of the CSA box ($20) and the cost of the comparable veggies from the grocery store shrank dramatically.

In this case, for this particular box, we saved $4.35 versus what we would have paid for comparable fruits and veggies at our store. That may not seem like a lot, but over the course of a year, assuming that you try to buy this general assortment of fruit and veggies per week – even for half of the year – that’s a potential savings of about $113. Go for a full year, and you’re over $200 in savings. Put another way, the CSA box this week represented a savings of about 18% versus the grocery store prices for the same items. Anybody else like the idea of saving 18% on their grocery bill?

How did we pick comparables? Easy enough – we went with what we’d typically buy or whatever was closest to the specific article. That means the price for the tomatoes is the price for the regular slicing tomatoes (not the more expensive organic kind), even though we would usually get the tomatoes on the vine (which are less expensive than the slicing kind).

A few more pricing caveats: the prices I see here in New England may vary from what you see. We do the bulk of our grocery shopping at a large regional chain, not at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. So, the prices I quote above are for this week, at our chain store. What you see and what you might pay at your own store could be more or less, depending upon all kinds of factors (quantity of local farms/distributors, regional margins or factors that influence prices, large vs small chain, “organic” vs “chain” store, etc.).

I’ll continue to track this through the 8-week run of this CSA, and you’ll see weekly savings (or deficits) and program-to-date numbers, since one week may be under and another week may be over. I can certainly say that my curiosity is more than piqued, thanks to this first week’s result.

Sorry if this is all a bit too geeky with the Excel and all, but as someone who’s always looking to trim our grocery bill and improve the overall health and quality of our eating habits, this is really fascinating stuff to me. Hopefully, it’s at least mildly interesting to others…

2 thoughts on “Adventures in CSA (week 1): I wasn’t expecting that…

  1. I’m another Excel lover here, too, so we can be geeky together! I make spreadsheets for everything. Glad to see you had some savings this week. And you are right, it may not seem like a lot now, but in the long run, $4 can add up.

  2. Miss Jude, you know I love stats talk 😉 In our area (due to lack of competition between chain grocery stores), I saved a whopping 40% versus the grocery store prices by buying from our local Farmer’s Market. I’m going to be a sad girl once November rolls around and the market is closed until April.

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