Take the Shopping Diary Challenge & Win a Whole Foods Gift Card!

Take the Shopping Diary Challenge & Win a Whole Foods Gift Card!
mccarren park farmers market
$42, right there.

Apparently I shop a lot. Like, a lot-a lot. Possibly an excessive amount.

I don’t mean for clothing or shoes or accessories. I mean for food. I learned this via an exercise I performed last week, an exercise I’m going to challenge you to do yourself at the end of this post (and you might win a prize!).

I kept a diary of all my trips to the supermarket, bodega, and the McCarren Park farmers’ market.

The diary was requested by Farmigo, a company that connects farmers with neighborhoods, sorta like an online CSA, but one that lets you order exactly what you want. Starting in the fall, Harry’s school is partnering with them—everyone in our community will have access to high-quality local produce, meats, dairy, even baked goods, which Farmigo will deliver to the school weekly. Given that we’re a Title I school, this is a pretty big deal. As a member of the PTA’s Wellness Committee I volunteered to be a guinea pig for Farmigo, to show them what it’s like to shop for food in Williamsburg.

In a word, it’s expensive. All together I spent nearly $400 on food last week! That was out of the ordinary—NYC schools were closed on Thursday, so Harry and I went with some friends to the Legoland Discovery Center in Westchester, which has a brand spankin’ new Whole Foods in the same complex. The siren call of wide, pristine aisles, gorgeous organic produce, and no crowds lured me in, and I dropped $163 in minutes. (And yes, I did have a list. Whole Foods offers so many things I just don’t see in my local stores, I accumulated a larger-than-usual cart of impulse buys. They’re building a Whole Foods in Williamsburg right this minute, which does not bode well for my wallet.)

Even without that excursion, I spent $250 in one week. I hit a grocery store, produce stand, bodega, or farmers’ market six out of seven days. Even though I keep a magnetized shopping list on my fridge, we go through milk and produce so quickly that I’m off-list more often than not. This family eats a lot of fresh fruit, and for that I don’t enter a store with specifics in mind. Instead, I’ve developed an internalized algorithm based on quality/cost/seasonality/locality. I use my list for a “big shop” every two weeks—last week happened to be one. The rest of the time it’s twenty bucks for berries here, ten for bread and milk there, and most weekends around $50 at the farmers’ market. Closer to $100 in the late summer, when I can get a week’s worth of fruit and vegetables in one go.

All that’s without buying 100% organic. When shopping for produce, I rely on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen lists. Generally speaking, I only buy what’s in season—no South American nectarines when there’s snow on the ground. For meat, I buy beef at the farmers’ market (generally very little since it’s so costly) and chicken at the supermarket—but only brands like Bell & Evans, whose practices I trust. I look for sales whenever possible. Milk and yogurt are all-organic; butter and cheese not necessarily. We don’t use tremendous amounts of either, so I save those pennies. Eggs are always Certified Humane, organic only when the price is right.

When I look at my shopping methods written out, I’m tempted to have myself committed. I make things so complicated! But maybe I don’t—maybe this is just the way we shop in this era of processed, industrialized, Big-Ag food products, if we want to avoid them.

So here’s a challenge for you: Do what I did. For one week, scribble down all your food expenditures—where you shopped, what you bought, what you spent, why you bought that $7 quart of strawberries. It doesn’t need to be super-detailed since you’re only doing it to learn about yourself, but the more you include the more you’ll discover. Next Thursday, I’ll put up a follow-up post. Leave a comment there about what you’ve learned. One lucky commenter will receive a $25 Whole Foods gift card, but everyone will win a little bit of knowledge.

(This is not a sponsored post, btw. I’m spending my own money, because I think it’ll be fun and also I’m a Nosy Parker.)

Who’s in? Sign up below—or if you already know plenty about how you shop & how much you spend, I’d love to hear about it.