Sunday, March 6, 2011

Comparison Shopping: Organic Staples

Sadly enough, our house cannot live on vegetables alone. If we could, all our food would come to us in CSA boxes, and we wouldn't ever have to go to a grocery store. (Just wait till you see what we have lined up for the summer.)

Inspired by our desire to do the rest of our shopping smarter, as well as this recent counterintuitive comparison of Hi-Lo and Whole Foods prices by the Globe (and follow-up), I spent some time this weekend reading price labels at our most-visited grocery stores: Trader Joe's, Shaw's, and Market Basket.
I compared prices on eight items we frequently purchase: a half gallon of milk, a package of tofu, a dozen eggs, a box of cereal, a pound of cheddar, a pound of bananas, a can of tomatoes, and a can of chickpeas. (Exactly what and when to buy organic is a continual topic of discussion here, but I stuck with all organics -- except for the cheese -- for this experiment.)

Ladies and gentlemen, if I could offer you only one tip for the future, "avoid the organic aisle at Shaw's" would be it. Every one of the eight items was more expensive there than at TJ's, with some of the packaged items (cereal, chickpeas) more than $1 more. (The cost for the whole basket of items was $25.57 at Shaw's, versus $20.20 at TJ's ... 27 percent more.)

Market Basket does not consistently offer our preferred crunchy-hippie low-sugar multigrain cereal or organic canned goods, but for the five items it had, they were even cheaper than at Trader Joe's ($12.66 for the five items, versus $14.03 at TJ's and $16.56 at Shaw's).

(A couple notes on sourcing: We are actually getting our eggs for $3 per dozen from the aforementioned Phoenix Hill Farm, and our refrigerator is currently stocked with Harvest Co-op locally made tofu, at $1.49 a pound.)

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