The cost of organic food in Seattle

April 26, 2008

Danika and I have been thinking a lot about food costs of late. We all know that food costs are on the rise – mainly due to the cost of petrol these days (just another reason to eat local).

To try and cut our food bills down, which are pretty high, we decided to do some completely un-scientific research into where is the cheapest place to buy decent quality, local (when possible) organic produce.

We made notes at a range of grocery stores here in Seattle – PCC, Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Central Market (Shoreline) to be exact. We even thought about doing the same for farmers markets – but then realized that was pointless – the price difference between stalls would have completely thrown the results.

So, trying to be organized I put all this into a spreadsheet, so we could clearly see where works out cheaper. Out of those grocery stores listed, if you can find it at Trader Joes, it is cheaper there. By far. Problem is, the produce at TJs can be pretty sucky to say to least, and they don’t carry Organic Valley milk which we like (its organic, grass fed milk, at an OK price). In the battle of the "organic" grocery stores – PCC comes out tops.

I thought I would share the spreadsheet – some local folks might find it interesting. This has saved us gas miles too – we used to drive up to Central Market, thinking it was cheaper. It ain’t. So, here it is – it only covers the stuff we by most of, but hopefully someone will find it useful.

Seattle Organics cost spreadsheet (Excel)

More food posts to be coming shortly – Been a really hectic couple of weeks. Some great dishes on the way. I promise!

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  • Rhiannon April 27, 2008 at 7:08 am

    Nice Matt – you’ve done all the work for me. We like PCC because they seem interested in what they’re selling vs. whole foods where they seem to want to sell to people who like the label more then what it really means. Now we have validation for shopping at PCC!

  • Brittany April 27, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Wow- thanks for doing the homework! I work next door to the queen anne TJ’s and my husband works next door to the central market. We’ve managed to avoid using gas for groceries, but it may be worth it to have him hit up the pcc that is on his way home!

  • White On Rice Couple April 28, 2008 at 12:42 am

    Love the spreadsheet! Can’t believe you actually took the time to do that.
    I agree with the TJ produce, not the best. Luckily, we have farmers markets year round down here (great prices!) and a Henrys Marketplace for our dairy. Between these places, we stay within our budget.

  • matt wright April 28, 2008 at 5:55 am

    Yeah, PCC is my favorite too. I never shopped there much though because for some reason I thought it was more expensive than everywhere else. Wrong!! What I also LOVE is that they give a free piece of fruit to any kid who is shopping with you. The produce guys will wash it, and cut it up, and he can munch on it as you shop. That is awesome.

    TJ’s produce is pretty bad. Some stuff I do buy there – basil is OK for a bit, and other small things. We have a year round farmers market here too, which is awesome.

  • L April 30, 2008 at 2:48 am

    Sweet! This is awesome! I too have been sucked into the Central Market must be cheaper idea… although definitely by the time you pay for the gas it isn’t. On the plus side though, if you need to go to both PCC and Uwajamiya, a single stop at Central Market might still be better than running all over the city.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • mattwright April 30, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Hi L

    The results actually really surprised me. I honestly thought that Central would be quite a bit cheaper.. The staff there reckon so too. I remember at the end of one big shopping trip there, I was a little amazed at how much it was, and that is really what prompted us to start checking things out.

    There isn’t much of a difference between them all – I guess most of the stores price compare anyhow.. We have worked out a new routine for the weekend though – park in Fremont, cycle to the Ballard farmers market, stop at PCC on the way back, then finish up at Trader Joes. Seems to work out pretty good, when it isn’t pissing it down of course!!