Sunday, August 10, 2014

Price Challenge: Where Are the Cheapest Organic Groceries?

I've tried to switch to mostly organic groceries, but I'm finding my grocery budget flying out the door much faster than before.

So, I got super nerdy and made a spreadsheet! I slunk around four different grocery stores near my house, surreptitiously scratching prices onto a clipboard.

So here is what I found! For Tom Thumb, if there was a lower price for reward card holders I have listed that price because the card is free.

Blueberries, 1 pint, organic
-Whole Foods 5.99
-Natural Grocer 2.69
-Sprouts 2.98
-Tom Thumb 2.99

Boneless, skinless organic chicken breast (price per pound)
-Whole Foods 6.99
-Natural Grocer 6.29
-Sprouts did not carry this
-Tom Thumb 7.99

Synergy kombucha, 1 container
-Whole Foods 3.49
-Natural Grocer 2.25
-Sprouts 2.50 on sale, normally 3.49
-Tom Thumb 2.99

Strawberries, 1 pint, organic
-Whole Foods 4.99
-Natural Grocer 3.59
-Sprouts 2.98
-Tom Thumb 2.50

Cilantro, 1 bunch, organic
-Whole Foods 1.69
-Natural Grocer 1.49
-Sprouts did not carry this
-Tom Thumb 1.49

Kashi Cinnamon Harvest cereal*
-Whole Foods 4.39
-Natural Grocer 4.55
-Sprouts 4.49
-Tom Thumb 3.99
*This is not organic, but on the spectrum of cereals it's pretty far in that direction. Incidentally, my husband read a Men's Health article that named this the tastiest (read: least cardboard-y) healthy cereal on the market.

Annie's Italian salad dressing, 8 oz., organic
-Whole Foods 3.99
-Natural Grocer 3.15
-Sprouts 3.29 on sale, normally 3.79
-Tom Thumb did not carry this

Applegate organic sliced turkey
-Whole Foods 6.99
-Natural Grocer 4.69 on sale, normally 5.99
-Sprouts 7.49
-Tom Thumb did not carry this

Baby carrots, 1 pound bag, organic
-Whole Foods 1.69
-Natural Grocer 1.79
-Sprouts 1.50 on sale, normally 1.69
-Tom Thumb 2.99
I'm going to call this one a tie because the Sprouts winning price was a sale price.

Romaine lettuce, 1 head, organic
-Whole Foods 2.49
-Natural Grocer 1.50
-Sprouts 1.69
-Tom Thumb 1 ($3 for three heads in a package)
I'm also going to call this one a tie because I prefer to not buy packaged produce. Also, I don't want to buy three heads of Romaine lettuce at once because it's too much for my little family of two. By the time we get to all three, there is likely to be spoilage, which I hate.

Granny Smith apples, organic, price per pound
-Whole Foods 3.59
-Natural Grocer 3.49
-Sprouts did not carry this
-Tom Thumb 2.50

Bananas, organic, price per pound
-Whole Foods .89
-Natural Grocer .49
-Sprouts .69
-Tom Thumb .69

Silver Hills bread, 22 oz loaf
-Whole Foods 3.99
-Natural Grocer 3.75
-Sprouts 3.99
-Tom Thumb did not carry this

Green bell pepper, organic
-Whole Foods 1.69 each
-Natural Grocer priced theirs per pound so I can't compare
-Sprouts 1.50 each
-Tom Thumb 1.49 each

Tomato sauce, organic, 1 jar
-Whole Foods 2.50 on sale
-Natural Grocer 2.69
-Sprouts 2.99
-Tom Thumb 2.50

RESULTS
Whole Foods 2 wins
Natural Grocer 9 wins
Sprouts 2 wins
Tom Thumb 7 wins

Some thoughts on each store:

Whole Foods has an excellent store brand called 365. It has by far the nicest store experience. Maybe it's that the one in my neighborhood is just a year old, but it's beautiful and I'm a sucker for gorgeous displays. Factors like an olive bar, in-store restaurants, clothing and shoes department, in-store bar, and huge selections of cleaning and beauty products make this a really good shopper experience. I feel healthier just breathing in that store. But its prices are high.

Natural Grocer is the most granola store. They sell ONLY organic produce- no conventional even available. No cross-contamination possible. They offer ripe and overripe produce at a huge discount. They don't even offer plastic or paper bags- you have to bring your own or buy! Their people were also the nicest, calling the back of the store when we couldn't find basil (which they had and literally RAN to the check-out counter). I think I was asked five times if I needed help finding anything. I'd never been before, and I think this will be our primary place for weekly shopping in the future. However, it's smaller and doesn't carry everything; shopping here guarantees we'll have to grocery shop at two places. I'm ok with that.

Sprouts, frankly, was a huge disappointment. I will not go back. Giant signs saying "fresh", "local", "organic" and "natural" adorn the walls, but I found the organic produce section to be just a small table or two surrounded by conventional fruits and vegetables. I honestly felt that they were being dishonest in the marketing, both in the produce section and in the processed foods- far fewer organic foods on the shelf than Whole Foods or Natural Grocer. Many products were labeled as "all-natural" and other similar labels that are not regulated by the government. Only products that are scientifically tested and proven are allowed to be labeled with the word organic; many other words are used to make their products seem more healthy or chemical-free than they really are.

Tom Thumb is Tom Thumb. Big box, one-stop shopping. They sell everything, and there's no doubt that convenience is worth something. They also have the organic house brand called O that offered several of the winning prices. You can also use your grocery spending to earn discounts on gasoline via the reward card. I thought I'd have to leave Tom Thumb when I wanted to switch to organic groceries, but it turns out I can get quite a few organic items there, and often at the lowest price.

Happy shopping, eating, and saving!

Love,
Katie

Nota bene to my dear former readers from the Haiti era. If you are wondering what this post has anything to do with Haiti, the answer is nothing. But I did all this work and wanted my friends to benefit from it, too!

Visiting TeacHaiti


Scribing for the docs at TeacHaiti School of Hope
Miquette bragging over her 6th graders' scores on the national exam. All passed!
Leading the daily flag raising ceremony and singing the national anthem.

A prayer to start the day

His application to the TeacHaiti School - big dreams, big needs
Sebastien is sponsored by a Dallas friend!



One of my favorite kiddos- he was a pre-K student at the time of the earthquake

Three of my discipleship girls! Loved getting to catch up with them. They are headed off to college this month.

We went to Haiti back in March. I wrote this post at this time and somehow never hit "publish." This day was my favorite thing about the trip- getting to help out at TeacHaiti. We saw how the school has grown- new classrooms, new students, ever expanding and including more kids in its mission to educate Haiti's poorest kiddos.

We happened to be there on a day when a TeacHaiti board member from MN was in town. He was a physician, so any kids who wanted to see a doctor got a checkup. I furiously scribbled down notes in their files during the checkups. It was a delight to get to see so many kids I recognized from past visits, especially the 20-plus kids sponsored by Texans.

K

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