Friday, August 7, 2009

Think organic & eco-friendly are always more expensive? You're wrong!

By Marcie Barnes

Yesterday I was leisurely perusing the aisles of my local Whole Foods store, and I kept thinking "you know, that price doesn't seem so bad." I have a really terrible memory for numbers, so I decided to snap some shots of a few common items for later comparison at a "regular" grocery store.

Then, I drove on over to Food Lion (I actually chose them on purpose because they are known for low prices, thus making it a real tough challenge for Whole Foods, or so I thought...)

(Notes: All of these can be considered in the 'prepackaged' or 'convenience' category, I'll try to spend more time in the produce, seafood/meat & bulk areas next time. I compared the same size/weight products each time or made a note if I could not find an exact match.)

I think you'll be as surprised as I was at my findings:

1. Frozen Green Beans
Same price! $1.79 for organic, $1.79 for Food Lion brand (not organic)!

2. Cereal
Organic is cheaper! $2.99 for organic, $3.97 for Cheerios (not organic)! (I couldn't find any Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, but I figured Banana Nut was close enough.)

3. Mac-n-cheese
Same price! 5/$5.00 for organic, 5/$5.00 for Kraft brand (not organic)! Although this is a sale price at Whole Foods, you can stock up on this item when it is on sale. In addition, they have a good variety of different kinds of mac-n-cheese, so chances are at least one kind will be on sale at any given time.

4. Tortilla shells
Organic is cheaper! $1.69 for organic, $1.99 for San Antonio brand (not organic)! And the organic ones were in the freezer section, you know, since they don't have preservatives.

5. Vegetable juice
Organic is cheaper! And cheaper than Food Lion's sale price, at that. $2.69 for Vital Veggie Organic, $2.99 (on sale) for V8.

-----------Note: The below items are not organic, but worth a mention------------

6. Cheese
Hormone, antibiotic-free & humane is cheaper! $2.69 for 365˚ brand and $3.49 for Food Lion brand. From Whole Foods' web site: "Although 365 Everyday Value Milk is not organic, it is produced by dairy farms committed to the production of milk that does not contain the synthetic growth hormone rBGH. If a cow does require antibiotics it is taken from the herd and quarantined until the antibiotics have passed through her system."

7. Dog food
"Human grade" pet food is cheaper! $11.99 for 365˚ brand and $14.99 for Purina Beneful (on sale). From Whole Foods' web site: "Human grade pet foods are processed according to the same manufacturing standards as human foods and they contain ingredients that are free from contamination, disease or adulteration. This means that the meat sources used in our products, including any by-products, are NOT from animals that have been rejected for human consumption. The ingredients are inspected with the same care as if they were to be sold as human food."
Really? Meat that is rejected for human consumption is OK for our pets? I'm buying the 365˚ brand pet food from now on!

8. Toothbrushes
Same price! $2.99 for a Preserve brand kids' toothbrush, same price for Sponge Bob (there was something on sale for $1.49 but it was out and I couldn't tell what it was). The Preserve brand is a supporter of the National Wildlife Federation, makes all their products from recycled materials and you can recycle them (and the packaging!) again by returning them to Preserve with a postage-paid envelope available on their web site. Cool!

9. Paper towels
100% recycled is cheaper! $9.99 for the 365˚ brand and $14.45 for Bounty, although on this day it was on sale for $9.99. This was definitlely the biggest surprise I found. (Note: there were no 12-packs in this store so I chose the 8 "mega" rolls that the package says is equal to 12 "regular" rolls) We all need to switch to recycled paper products, too many forests are being destroyed to make products like Bounty, Viva, Kleenex, Puffs, Cottonelle & Charmin. This Shopper's Guide from the National Resources Defense Council asks you to avoid those brands and explains why.

10. Buffet
Whole Foods is cheaper! $6.39 for my small box of food compared to the $9.29 buffet price at Sweet Tomatoes. Now, this isn't exactly an apples-to-apples comparison since Sweet Tomatoes is all-you-can-eat and Whole Foods bar is by-the-pound ($7.99/lb.), but don't we always take more than we can eat at those all-you-can-eat places? With Americans throwing away half of the food produced for our consumption, I say choose the small container at Whole Foods, fill it up with good quality food (including humanely raised/organic meats, if you like) and save money at the same time!


Karen said...

Thanks, Marcie -- great stuff.

Oscar - freestylemind said...

Wow, this was a great comparison! I don't live in the states, although I've been there for 2 months and I had to buy food at the grocery store. What scared me the most when I was there was the quality of meat, I heard that 99% percent of it is GMO. Correct me if I am wrong here...

Shazana said...

Wow! I am certainly shocked! That does make me feel better about shopping at WFM!

(S)wine said...

We've recently switched to shopping at WF almost exclusively; we found out on our own that our grocery bill came out in almost all cases cheaper at WF for organic, ethically raised food. Thanks for this post; I've tweeted it.

Marcie Barnes said...

Oscar - I would say if it's beef, pork, or chicken, you can probably assume 100% of meat is from animals genetically modified or selected, and the corn they are fed is, too, and heavily sprayed with pesticides. Yummy. :P You don't get that at WHole Foods, either, and they fresh-cut from whole carcasses in the store so you know where your meat comes from.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU!!! I've been saying this for years, but nobody believes me.

Anonymous said...

While i get that shopping at whole foods is maybe a healthier choice or more eco-friendly or whatnot, most of the comparisons you were making were from whole foods generic brands to brand names sold at food lion. wouldn't it have been more accurate if you compared the generic brand at both stores? otherwise you would be able to say food lion is cheaper than food lion because of the generic brands available at the store compared to the brand names.

Nazim Khimani said...

This is freaking mindblowing. I really have to thank you for this post. Now i don't have to hold back to eat right.

~ April ~ EnchantedDandelions said...

Wow!! Great article!

*shakes fist at the fact we don't have a WF around here*