For a couple months now, I’ve signed up for a local CSA. I mean, I call it a “CSA” but it is really a delivery service that sources organic produce from multiple farms, mostly local, and highly seasonal for a flat weekly rate. CSA-lite, so to speak.
For $32 a week, I get a crate full of organic vegetables delivered right to my front porch. I’ve gotten everything from carrots and cabbage to garlic scapes and hakurei turnips. Since most of the produce is sourced locally, everything is super fresh. They let me indicate preferences if I decide I’m not in the mood for, say, kale. And if I need to skip a week or add one or two items, I can ask them to pack me extra item they stock extras like grains, beans, and dairy.
It’s a great service but I’ve wondered, from a purely financial perspective, am I paying more or less than I would at the grocery store for the same items?
To satisfy my curiosity, I did a cost comparison between the CSA items in my most recent box versus the cost at my local Whole Foods (using Instacart prices, which uses the exact pricing in Whole Foods stores). I chose Whole Foods for my comparison grocery store– over, say, the discount supermarket a ten-minute walk from my house– because: (1) it’s the most likely to have comparable, organic produce and (2) it’s more convenient than prowling the farmer’s market stands.
There were a couple items that Whole Foods did not have, namely: Hungarian hot peppers and bull’s horn peppers. For those, I chose what may or may not be suitable substitutes.
|CSA Item||CSA Quantity||WF Item||WF Quantity||WF Cost|
|Organic Beets||1 bunch||Organic Beets||1 bunch||$2.99|
|Organic Fennel Bulb||1 bulb||Organic Fennel Bulb||1 bulb||$2.90|
|Organic Eggplant||1 eggplant||Organic Eggplant||1 eggplant||$3.82|
|Organic Green Beans||0.75 lb||Organic Green Beans||0.75 lb||$2.47|
|Organic Tomatoes||0.5 lb||Heirloom Tomatoes||0.5 lb||$4.04|
|Organic Carrots||1 lb||Organic Carrots||1 lb||$1.54|
|Organic Dandelion Greens||1 bunch||Organic Dandelion Greens||1 bunch||$2.50|
|Organic Garlic||1 bulb||Organic Garlic||1 bulb||$1.48|
|Organic Thyme||3/4 oz||Organic Thyme||3/4 oz||$2.69|
|Organic Red Leaf Lettuce||1 head||Organic Red Leaf Lettuce||1 head||$2.49|
|Organic Hungarian Hot Pepper||0.5 lb||Poblano pepper||2 peppers||$2.42|
|Organic Bulls Horn Pepper||1 pepper||Cubanelle pepper||1 pepper||$1.19|
|CSA Total||$32.00||Whole Foods Total||$30.53|
We see that the CSA and Whole Foods prices are more or less even, with the CSA costing a little more for a fully organic haul.
Why I’m Sticking With My CSA (Even Though It’s More Expensive)
Even though my CSA is slightly more expensive than Whole Foods organic (let alone discount supermarket non-organic produce), there are a few reason I want to stick with the service.
For one, my CSA forces me to incorporate lots of vegetables into my rotation, whereas otherwise I have a tendency to eat meat and carbo-load. It also pushes me to eat seasonally and try out new recipes with vegetables that I might otherwise choose myself. Lastly, and this is the big one for me, they deliver groceries right to my door. Do you understand how lazy I am!? So very, very.
And so, pseudo-CSA, you are here to stay.
Have you ever signed up for a CSA? What was your experience?