Does Paying for Organic Food Delivery Make Cents?

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Aaron Crowe sent me the article below on buying organic food and having it delivered. It completely resonated with me because for the past couple of months I've been using a service called HelloFresh and while the prices are a bit higher than what I could pay at my store, they deliver tasty meals with unique recipes that are ready to prepare. In my opinion the increased cost is offset by the lack of waste from leftover ingredients I'm no longer throwing away. Plus, getting back to cooking unique meals with my wife is a lot of fun.

But it you are not doing something like that, does eating organic but paying for delivery make good financial sense? Here is what Aaron had to say about that.

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.

This article by Aaron Crowe first appeared on and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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