Cash Smarter

April 24, 2015  by: Aaron Crowe

A Sharing Economy Fail: Organic Produce

A Sharing Economy Fail: Organic Produce

In my quest to try more parts of the sharing economy this year, I’ve revisited a favorite that I’ve enjoyed in the past: Groceries. Specifically, organic produce delivered to my door.

It didn’t work so well with a delivery in April. Though most of the organic produce delivered by Farm Fresh To You tasted great, the $27 charge for a small box of vegetables and fruit seemed exceedingly high. The same items were a little more when delivered by Safeway, which I’ll get to in detail later, but the delivery is about half of the total cost.

Pictured here is what was delivered by Farm Fresh To You:

  • 3 Navel oranges
  • 1 Hass avocado
  • 2 kiwis
  • 1 bunch red radishes
  • 1 package blueberries (about 4 oz.)
  • 1 bunch lettuce
  • 1 bunch Nantes carrots

All are organic and all tasted great, though the lettuce was a little wilted. Quantity and the delivery price, not quality, was where it failed for me.

Driving is worth the savings

I drive a few miles to my local farmer’s market every week, and I rarely buy organic produce. I don’t think organic is necessary on items with thick skins, such as oranges. And while not everything at the farmer’s market is organic, I talk to enough farmers there to know that an organic label is too much hassle for them, and that many of their crops are pesticide-free anyway.

The debate over organic produce aside, I still thought $27 was too much for what was delivered. I spend about $30 or so per week at the farmer’s market for twice as many fruits and vegetables.

Delivery service must eat up most of the cost for the organic produce that was delivered to my house. I expect to pay extra for delivery, but paying $10 more for organic produce I could have found at a nearby farmer’s market or grocery store seems steep.

$27 for $17 worth of organic produce

Here’s how much the same organic produce would have cost at Safeway, according to the grocer’s website. All of the items except for the avocado and blueberries were offered as organic at Safeway:

  • 3 Navel oranges: $2.96
  • 1 Hass avocado: $1.70
  • 2 kiwis: $1.78
  • 1 bunch radishes: $2.19
  • 1 pkg blueberries: $4.39
  • 1 bunch lettuce: $2.79
  • 1 bunch carrots: $1.39

Total: $17.20

Safeway has various delivery charge options, depending on what time you set it for. Basic delivery is $12.95, pushing the total order to $30.15, or about $3 more than what the farmers charged.

Safeway’s delivery cost could drop to only $3 or $6, depending on the delivery window, dropping the total price of my delivery to $20.20-$23.20.

Or I could walk or drive to the store, pay $17.20 for it all, and leave with the satisfaction of saving $10.

Not leaving sharing economy entirely

I’ve written at my other personal finance website, Add Vodka, about how my disappointment in making money by dog sitting in the sharing economy may lead be to drop out of that side hustle. But I don’t think this meager delivery of fruits and vegetables will convince me to get out of the sharing economy entirely.

I will, however, cancel the produce delivery service because I don’t think it’s a great value. I tried the service in 2013 and came to the same conclusion after a few months, determining that a weekly drive to the farmer’s market was worthwhile despite taking an hour or so out of my workday.

I was a big fan of Webvan in the late 1990s, getting groceries delivered for a fair price and saving me a trip to the grocery store. But maybe that’s what put Webvan out of business: Not charging enough for delivery.

Summer vacation is coming soon, giving me more chances to try out the sharing economy. Next up will be Airbnb, and hopefully a few others.

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2 thoughts on “A Sharing Economy Fail: Organic Produce

  1. Wow — that sounds like a terrible value! Farm Fresh to You is a big company though, no? Seems like you could get a better value and be part of a true sharing economy model by going with a local CSA. Are there some in your area you have checked out? But agree with you on this — if the only options in your area are priced like Farm Fresh to You, that’s not worth doing at all!

    1. Aaron Crowe says:

      There may be others. I haven’t checked. I originally signed up because they came to my door and it sounded appealing. But the farmer’s market is so close that delivery doesn’t make sense.

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