Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bountiful Baskets vs. Community Co Op, Side by Side Comparison

Instead of a recipe today, I am doing an experiment.  I have been participating in the Community Co Op here in Utah for several months.   I love our Co Op!

However, friends of mine are heavily involved in Bountiful Baskets and say its an incredible value for the cost.  So I decided to do a side by side comparison.

This week I ordered from the Community Co Op and from Bountiful Baskets.  It made for a hectic morning because pick up times were close together and my daughter had to be at the gym at the same time.  However, I wanted to see for myself which was a better deal, which had better produce, and which seemed to be the most user-friendly.

This week I placed an order with each organization.  With Bountiful Baskets, a first time produce share was $19.50.  At the Community Co Op, I ordered a produce share and 2 loaves of whole wheat bread, for a total of $22.50.  For comparison purposes, I am including only 1 loaf of bread ($3.25) to bring the value of the order to $19.25.  So I paid roughly the same amount for each share of produce. (Note that a Standard Share at the co op normally includes 5 fruits, 5 veggies, PLUS 1 loaf of bread, 2 lbs chicken, 2 lbs ground beef, and 2 lbs bacon for $25.  Bountiful baskets charges less--$16.50--for your second or subsequent shares.This week my order was just a produce share and extra bread to try to make the orders as close to the same price as possible.  )

Here is what I got from the Community Co Op:

And from Bountiful Baskets:

VALUE: At first glance, its clear you are getting more food from Bountiful Baskets.  However, when you consider the value (relative cost and nutritional value) of the types of fruits/veggies included, (ie: blueberries vs brussels sprouts) I believe the value of each share is approximately the same.  Looking at pure volume of food, if you are feeding a large family BB definitely has more bang for your buck. Note that if you buy a Standard Share at the Co Op, the great value on meat and bread I believe makes its a better value over all, but if you are only looking at produce, Bountiful Baskets seems to be the winner.

QUALITY: I felt that the quality of the items included were comparable.  The cauliflower is the exact same cauliflower from each co-op.  All items were fresh, not over-ripe, and unblemished.  Both the Co-Op and BB offer Organic shares (at a higher price) as well.  In the past, the Co Op has included some organically grown items in a standard share as they are available.

CONVENIENCE:  Both Co Ops offer an easy online ordering system, and both require that you order in advance.  However, I like how the Community Co Op sends an email a few days before pick up with exactly which fruits and veggies you will be receiving, which is nice for menu planning.  Pick up at each site was quick and easy, both sides seemed organized and happy to help.  Bountiful Baskets is available every week, the Co Op is only available in my area on the first and third weeks of the month.  Bountiful Baskets sent me 3-4 emails reminding me about pick up and warning about potential changes, but it was harder for me to figure out what the changes were (turns out there weren't any) from the website.

FEES: Bountiful Baskets has a first time fee of $3 to cover the sorting baskets, but if you quit or don't go back you don't get to keep the basket so this is more of a handling charge IMO.  The Co Op asks for a $5 yearly donation, however members can donate extra to help the needy, and if you can't do the donation you can do some extra volunteering instead at the warehouse.

Other thoughts...
  • Bountiful Baskets seems to rely more heavily on local volunteers to sort produce and manage the site.  I received a call before pick up asking if I could come down and help unload the truck because the truck was early and volunteers were not there yet.  
  • At  the Co-Op, a team site coordinator picks up the food from Salt Lake (no doubt this is a chore for the coordinator!), but it is already apportioned out by share, so only 2-3 people need to be at the site on drop off day to check off deliveries.  With the Co Op, I have signed up to volunteer several times, and when I got to the site, I wasn't needed and had little to do.
  • There is no limit to how much you can order from the Co Op, since food orders are made after member share orders are placed.  
  • Bountiful baskets limits you to 3 baskets, and at a busy site, you have to compete to get your order placed before they run out of baskets.  
  • The Co Op shares come pre-boxed with new cardboard boxes.  This is nice if you need a big box for something else every week, however I always wonder how all the packaging costs are impacting the amount of produce I am getting.  
  • BB divides produce into baskets at the site (which are reused), but you bring your own bags/baskets to pick up your order. 
  • Both sites offer add ons.  This week at BB, you had the option of ordering bulk tomatoes for canning this week, bread at a phenomenal price, and various other add ons depending on the week.  
  • The Co-Op offers local as well as organic meats, cheeses, bread, honey, organic snack foods.  They also detail on their website where foods are being sourced from and make an effort to find finds that are locally produced to support local farms.  In the past, my cheese orders came from a farm not 2 miles from my home!
  •  Bountiful Baskets offers add ons like bulk bread, (5 loaves!), and The Co Op offers a standard share that includes meat and bread.  The Co Op also offers a smaller sized share at a reduced cost.
  •  The Co Op has market sales in Salt Lake where you can buy more of this week's offerings, as well as farm fresh milk and eggs.  They are open 3 days a week.
So there's my break down!  Check out both Bountiful Baskets and the Community Co Op to see how you can participate in either (or both) of these great organizations!

EDITED:  Since this post, the Community Co Op is now available in my area every week!  


Unknown said...

Thank you for this post! It was so helpful! I'm going to go check out the Community Co-Op and give it a shot. I love the fact that it includes meat too! Thank you! :)

Lorna Marie Larson said...

I tried the Co-Op and hated it. The produce was overripe, the price was not better than shopping the sales flyers would have been, the description was misleading, those running it not helpful or especially organized, and it all just seemed like buying old food for too much money and having to show up at an inconvenient and exact time to pick it up. My bacon was 90% fat, too, with no redness to speak of and cost me $1 more than my local store for the same brand. My friends really love Bountiful Baskets, but i appreciate the points made here.

Agent_orange37 said...

I'm fed up with bountiful baskets. Never ordering from there again. Our first basket was phenomenal, with delicious radishes and juicy cherry tomatoes... we kept ordering and the quality kept dropping. We are organic, so we order the organic basket. We get significantly less in our baskets than our neighbor, who orders conventional. We also find ordering an organic basket and then the juice pack (which is not organic) was pretty dumb, so half our stuff we order ends up being not organic. Kind of defeats the purpose of being and ordering organic, right? Then we ordered a 30lb box of organic oranges (no way to order less than a 30lb box), and usually organic stuff has more flavor... not these. It was like eating water. And why is all the produce from mexico? I guess I prefer co-op so I'm not stuck ordering a huge 30lb box of (crappy) oranges, or whatever fruit or veggie is being offered. Also the pick up times are very inconvenient

Drewzie Woozie said...

I feel that CSA is more local produce. Most of the stuff I've seen from BB has the same upc codes on it that the do in the store.