Sunday, August 4, 2013

Produce Haul

I just have a quick post tonight on produce. Like a lot of people, my wife and I are trying our best to eat more fruits and vegetables. But we find we are not being consistent because of two things. One, our eating goes in waves. We'll have smoothies for breakfast and eat a salad with dinner every night for a week or two, then every night turns into every third night.  Then we get a bit sick of it all and go back cereals or bagels for breakfast, and to starches as side dishes for dinner. The other problem we have is variety.  Because we shop the circulars of the big grocery stores in the area, and try to buy only what is on sale, we often end up buying & burning out on the same seasonal fruits & vegetables, too.  I know this is the height of first world whining, but if I eat any more peaches this summer I'm going to start sweating yellow nectar.

And that's when Yelp came to our aid.  I remember getting fantastic deals on produce in San Diego at North Park Produce (the place is a trip: they have like five kinds of feta), and I hadn't yet found a store like that out here in the valley.  The farmer's markets are great but they're ridiculously pricey.  Sorry, Farmer Joe, I don't care how local and awesome you are, I am not buying six dollar lettuce.  The supermarkets have decent deals but only on a couple items each week, and the quality is only so-so.  So I decided to just start searching around for good online reviews for produce and I found some glowing feedback on a place out in the east valley, Superstition Ranch Market.

I have a weekly meeting on Saturdays towards that part of town, so I decided to scoot on over and see it for myself.  An old building about the size of a corner store had at least sixty cars outside, and the scene inside rivaled Costco on a Saturday: moms and old men gently trying to waddle their carts through a store clearly too small for the demand.  There were actual little lines for the stuff that was on sale.  But I immediately saw why it was so busy: everything was crazy dirt cheap and looked delicious.  While they sold some bread & healthy snacks, just about the entire place was stocked with fruits and veggies.  Here is our haul:

4 Red Bell Peppers: $1.00
5 Garlic cloves: $0.89
1 Large Avocado: $1.50
2.28 lbs of Red Cherries: $2.26 ($0.99/lb)
1.21 lbs of Ranier Cherries: $1.20 ($0.99/lb)
3.46 lbs of Grapes: $1.18 ($0.34/lb)
.75 lbs of Red Plumbs: $0.11 ($0.15/lb)
12 oz Blackberries: $1.50 
$9.62 total

I would have bought more and there were plenty of deals calling my name, but I had limited space underneath the seat of the scooter and I didn't bring my backpack.  Still, I was really happy with the value and the variety we could get here.  Normally, I might see one or two sales like this in a given week.  And when I got home to try some of the cherries, oh my goodness.  So flipping sweet.

Some Complaining
As I had my normal Saturday meeting somewhat in this part of town, I only had to ride an extra 6.5 miles out of my way to shop here (13 miles extra miles round-trip).  Unfortunately, it's in the opposite direction of my house, so there isn't much of a way to optimize the trip.  And as my meeting ends at 11:15, I'm scootering in some pretty nasty heat this time of year, flirting with the evil convection oven effect that occurs when it gets over 100.  Also, if I'm trying to go just once a week, it's tricky to make it work on the scooter as we can only carry so much veggie goodness on a 125cc scoot.

That leaves a few options:

  1. I can suck it up, load the backpack & basket, & just ride the scooter once a week on Saturdays.
  2. I can give up on this store as it's pretty far away: 14 miles on local roads each way, so 28 miles round-trip from my house.  
  3. I can make a separate trip out there from my house at a better time (as they close at 7:00 pm, 7:30 in the morning looks like the best bet).  
  4. I can get in the car, turn on the AC, and ride out there whenever I feel like it to pick up a big haul.

I want to take option four off the table, especially since reading Jacob's excellent post on how gas prices aren't high enough.  If I'm considering the car, clearly I'm not being properly incentivized by prices.  And while taking the car would mean I could make a single large purchase and take fewer trips, the near gallon of gas spent each time would require a lot of produce to justify, and that large quantity starts to risk food waste. So that leaves options one, two, and three. (While biking is hypothetically an option, twenty-eight miles for groceries is a bit far for my flabby legs this time of year.)

On the other hand, while I don't want to drive the car, I'm a bit concerned that I might be taking multiple trips on the scooter whenever we run out of a specific fruit or veggie that we like.  Even though the scoot gets 70 mpg, it still ends up being wasteful riding after a certain point.  Two round trips in the scooter burn about as much gas as the car, and burn twice as much time.

What do you think, readers?  Should we just stick to the big grocers that are within a mile or three, or is the juice worth the squeeze?

35 comments:

  1. Well, the good news is that weather won't be that hot for too long :P so maybe you can suck it up and just do it on Sunday and leave the round trip for the moments when you really run out of stuff and you have to buy something new. The prices are low, but if you end up paying more on gas (and wasting more time), it's not worth it!

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    1. That's true...the heat will subside in a few months and make this an easier decision.

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  2. What if you just head over there when you're on that side of town anyway, like you were last time. Best of both worlds, maybe? I vote for option 1: those prices are AWESOME!

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    1. Yeah, I was blown away by the prices. We don't have an Aldi's here and this is the closest I've seen to those kind of deals. Going when I did on Saturday is probably the best compromise, though the hottest time...

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  3. Do what makes you happy! I love fresh produce so I would probably shop where I could get the best stuff.

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    1. Huh, with all the options I didn't think about what would make me happiest...hmmmm.

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  4. I have to admit I wouldn't go out of my way to buy produce, but that's mainly because sometimes my time is more valuable then saving a few extra pennies. Like Laurie said, I would do what makes you happy!

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    1. That's the rub, isn't it? It's a balance of valuing your time appropriately, while still trying to do frugal things that cost time but save money. With the side hustles you've got going, I can see how the time is more valuable than saving a few pennies or dollars.

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  5. I'm a fruit addict (LOVE all the peaches and nectarines on sale... more nectarines, the peach fuzz freaks me out a little), so I would go the extra way, especially for the Rainer cherries since I haven't been able to find it below $3.99/lb. I can usually keep some fruits for a couple of weeks in the fridge, though, so maybe do a large haul in the car every two weeks or something after your meeting? Or, maybe you can try it for a month to see what the breakdown is with your time, gas, and groceries, and see if there's any difference than with what you've been usually doing. :)

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    1. Hi Anna,

      That's an idea...I suppose if I went every two weeks only, the car probably would take the same amount of gas as the scooter going every week.

      Did you ever go to North Park Produce?

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    2. I've actually never heard of it, but will check it out! I mostly go to Sprouts (before it was called Henry's), but open to trying something new. :)

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    3. I miss Henrys, too, but Sprouts seems nearly identical. Let me know if you like North Park Produce.

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  6. I personally would stick to what is closer and make the occasional trips to get the fresh produce. But I might think different if my dad didn't have huge gardens and gave me all types of vegetables. Just yesterday the girls and I went to his house and came back with 3 grocery bags full of tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and cabbage plus we picked a whole bad full of blackberrys and had blackberry cobbler last night! Yum!

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    1. Man, that's a huge haul! The thought of blackberry cobbler is making my mouth water, too. I'm jealous!

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  7. Hard to answer, since the question pretty much comes down to personal values rather than hard finances. But your suggestion to search yelp for produce was a really good one. I just did it and found a place near me with some great reviews. Definitely worth checking out.

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    1. Hi Matt,

      I'm glad you found a spot and hope it pans out. I agree that this isn't so much a financial decision as a personal one...

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  8. Wow! Those are crazy good prices! I can totally relate to this dilemma though, 'cause when you figure in time, hassle and gas money, you reach a point of diminishing returns rather quickly. And the thing is, you can't exactly stock up on fresh produce like you can with other things. I think if it were me I'd probably just end up trying to make a stop there now and then when I had to be in that part of town for some other reason.

    But in terms of finding ways to get yourself to eat more fresh veggies, have you ever considered joining a CSA farm? I did it years ago before I had a big garden, and the arrival of a big box of produce each week (that you've paid for in advance) was strong motivation for me. I had to give it up because my food allergies made it impractical - plus there aren't any CSA's that have drop offs in my area, but for most people it's a great option and it generally ends up being far, FAR cheaper than buying things one at a time.

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    1. Hi EcoCatLady,

      We've looked into CSAs but the pricetag usually discourages us: $25 a week. And for just the two of us, we often find it's a bit too much...and while there's variety I generally wouldn't have picked the exact things that show up in my box.

      We might go with your suggestion for now and just scoot over on Saturday, when I'm in the area.

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    2. Gosh... sounds like prices have gone up considerably since I explored the world of CSA's. Last time I was a member of one I paid closer to $10/week. And you're totally right about getting a bunch of stuff you probably wouldn't choose yourself, but I sorta considered that part of the challenge. It taught me to cook with what I had on hand rather than going out to buy specific ingredients.

      Of course that assumes that you enjoy the challenge of cooking with unfamiliar ingredients! I do have to say that being able to choose what I want, and only buy what I "need" takes the pressure off a bit.

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  9. I'm definitely jealous of the produce and the prices. Our produce is generally good quality but NOT cheap. I paid $2.99/lb for cherries yesterday... on sale. Oh but I'm loving them. Mmmm... The problem for us is that if I get ambitious about produce consumption, I can easily overbuy and then it goes bad, negating savings. So I'm actually on a kick where I'm trying a "just in time" approach for produce to see if we cut down on waste. But that makes big time consuming trips like yours tougher... hmm..

    I'd see if you've got the fortitude to face the heat every couple of weeks on your bike after your meeting. And then in the in between time if you guys are sticking with it, maybe give the scooter a shot? Seems like a good way to compromise and keep evaluating that you are actually using what you buy. =)

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    1. Dang! I was hoping to make it through the whole comment section without someone suggesting the bike. Phoenix area roads are generally no bueno when it comes to biking, as the main drags have 45 mph limits, inducing riders to then go to the sidewalk. Excuses, excuses, I know...

      Sigh, maybe I'll try the bike ride once just to say I did it. But if I get clipped by a car coming out of a parking lot, it's on your head :)

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  10. Some of those local markets do get pricey. I would drive but its hard to do bulk buys with stuff like lettuce and fruits. I say go to the one closer to the home or only go when you you on that side of town. I say if you are going to be happier shopping there do it.

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  11. I would love to shop at the farmers market more often but my wallet cries in pain each time I do so. We mostly buy all of our produce at the grocery store where they have good deals but the quality is hit or miss. I would love to buy all organic but it just not a financial priority right now.

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    1. Yeah, we haven't gone all organic either. We'll pay a little more if the organic produce seems like a good deal, but we have a threshold. And if we're at a farmers market, it's usually just for a cheap outing. :)

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  12. I like Laurie's suggestion that you only go when you are in that part of town. That makes the decision simple. Simple is good ;)

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  13. Oh I commend you grocery shopping on a scooter - I have a Piaggio Zip with a woeful use record after a broken shoulder. But I understand all the heat and distance limitations, as well as space.

    What would I do? I'd likely take a car, which as you say, is BAD! And I totally agree... next best would be an optimal time, with a one week plan for the food I find being used (to minimise waste). Sorry, I'm not sure if I'm repeating what others have written, as I sadly didn't read all the comments. Early mornings are great for me, as I posted the other day... and cooler for the ride (and likely less busy at the store perhaps?)

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    1. Yeah, I could conceivably go shopping before my meeting, and then just chill with a bunch of produce beside me...probably would work.

      Sorry to hear about your scooter accident. A broken shoulder sounds gnarly. But the Piaggio's are beautiful scooters...our very first ride on a scooter was on a Piaggio. Great machines.

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    2. Yeah the break really slowed me down, that's for sure. I have (half heartedly) being trying to sell it - damage and all. I should put a more realistic price on it, but I'm trying to sell it with all the 'gear'.

      Hmm produce accompaniment - I reckon it would work... Especially if there's a fridge for milk/coffee!

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  14. I'm always for sucking it up and riding the scooter, but if you have to, drive the car every few weeks. Those prices are too good to pass up!

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    1. I think for now I'm going to suck it up, as you recommend...and then try to build up to maybe taking the bike out there once.

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  15. Awesome post! We are super jealous of those prices! I've researched but my town just doesn't have anything except the sucky big box supermarkets. We still do well because we only buy what's on sale each week via price matching at Walmart, but I miss good cheap produce.
    Thanks for the link and the kind words. I'm super glad we connected!

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    1. Hi Jacob,
      That's too bad about the shops but Walmart gets some good stuff, too. I'm sometimes surprised by the produce they have, and they're matching policy is awesome.

      I'm really glad we connected, too. Cheers!

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  16. To me it seems like the benefits of eating a ton of good quality, tasty fruits and veggies is worth the money health-wise. If you're already very healthy then maybe it's not worth the extra scooter trips?

    I've also found that when I let myself have more "little" and beneficial splurges in my life that I don't seem to need as many large splurges in my life. Probably not the best logic for justifying my spending $6 a week on raspberries alone!

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    1. I know what you mean about the splurges, Zoe. I also find letting myself have a little reward is just as satisfying as a big one.

      And I definitely agree about health being worth the money, especially if it's just to get some yummy produce.

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