Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Brookfield Farm 2012 : The Market Basket Challenge

Another year with our Brookfield Farm CSA, and though this blog mostly took a hiatus for a while, I'm inspired by the new season to start posting, and what better way to encourage that than a weekly project?

This year's challenge: Market Basket.

Market Basket is our town's cheapest supermarket.   It is always packed.   There is a skill to pushing one's cart through the aisles around pallets of cereal being unloaded (they restock the aisles during store hours), people with their eyes glazed over finding the cheapest jar of peanut butter and figuring out whether their coupon for another brand makes that a better deal, kids wailing that they can't have the bananas from their styrofoam tray RIGHT NOW, and so on.   The parking lot has people circling around looking for a parking space.   Inside you can often find people loading up their cart with 25 lbs of tripe and chicken feet, and people who obviously work for restaurants buying a cart piled high with 25 lb sacks of rice, because their rice is cheaper than the restaurant supply catalog rice, if I surmise correctly.   They sprinkle the floors with sawdust so when stuff inevitably spills it does not make a wet slippery mess.
I love this place! In some ways it is the complete opposite of where one might *think* a picky foodie consumer might shop for their remaining groceries, but to me it makes far more sense than some supposed foodie mecca of expensive, fancy, hippie-packaged goods where you can spend your entire paycheck in one visit.   (And when I do get those hippie-packaged goods at Market Basket, I usually win on price by a fair margin, too!)   And while it is a "big box" supermarket, the grocery business outside of a few national chains is mostly at a more regional level - and of all the regional chains in our area, apparently Market Basket is the smallest.

Anyway, it always seems to me like my groceries at Market Basket cost half as much as they would at another store, or maybe 75% at most.  Rarely is something I buy the same price at Market Basket as at other chains. The produce is generally fresh and high quality, and with the diverse population of Somerville we've got quite an assortment - fresh turmeric root, Thai chilies, fiddleheads...   But I don't buy that much of my produce there, only things that are organic (where the variety is not that huge, but they've got me covered for bananas, apples when it's not fall/winter in New England, and broccoli), citrus, on the lower-in-pesticides list, or foraged like the fiddleheads.

But I'm curious how the CSA stacks up against Market Basket.  I will a little bit of benefit of the "yuppie" food to the CSA - if Market Basket has an item in both organic-and non-organic I will price it as the organic version.

1 bag washed spinach (Olivia's organics baby spinach, $2.50/box about the same size, on sale)
1 head romaine lettuce (organic, $2.99 for several hearts, but about the same weight)
1 head red leaf lettuce (organic, $2.49)
1 small bunch arugula (organic, $2.50/box, only available in larger box, so call this $1.25 worth)
1 bag mixed braising greens (spring mix, Olivia's organics, $2.50/box about the same size, on sale)
1 large bunch komatsuna (I've never seen komatsuna at Market Basket.  Call it $2.50/bunch, too, like the other organic greens including kale and collards.)
1 bunch radishes (non organic, $0.69, on sale)

So, that totals $17.42.

Our share this year is $540 for 24 delivery weeks, so the weekly cost is $22.50.  So far, Market Basket is ahead -- but so was the farmer's market, back in 2010.