The Price Of Convenience

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:27 am on Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Most of us know that when you choose convenience in the grocery story–the food that has been sliced, diced, and pre-prepared for you–you pay for the privilege, but a recent article in ShopSmart, a magazine put out by ConsumerReports, demonstrated just how much.

The magazine sent their staffers to grocery stores in New York to compare the prices of “convenience” groceries such as pre-sliced apples or crumbled cheese to their whole counterparts. They found that sometimes you are paying a whopping 60% more for products that have been precut for you. Here’s the breakdown of what they found:

Baby carrots cost 63% more than whole carrots, at $3.99/lb. vs $1.49/lb. Since most baby carrots are whole carrots that have been sculpted down, that’s a pretty big savings. Switch to carrot sticks?

Broccoli florets cost 63% more than whole broccoli
, at $3.99/lb vs. $1.49/lb. It takes approximately 30 seconds to cut a whole broccoli into florets.

Crumbled feta cheese costs 63% more than whole feta cheese, at $8.65/8 oz. vs. $3.23/8 oz. I didn’t know this one, but I did know that crumbled cheese molds faster than whole cheese.

Sliced granny smith apples cost 50% more than whole apples, at $3.97/lb. vs. $1.99/lb. Like the broccoli, that’s a lot to pay for a few minutes of work.

Ground beef patties cost 33% more than regular ground meat
, at $5.99/lb. vs. $3.99/lb. You still have to handle the meat either way, right?

Cut-up chicken costs 25% more than whole chicken, at $1.99/lb vs. $1.49/lb. I can understand not wanting to cut up a whole chicken, but if you eat a lot of it, that’s a savings that’s hard to ignore.

The moral here? It sounds like you can passively add savings to your shopping cart just by opting for the more labor-intensive product. Convenience costs a lot.

And while we knew that, it’s still nice to see the numbers.


Comment by Jen

May 10, 2011 @ 10:21 am

This is really great information. I do have one question: “Whole chicken costs 25% more than cut up chicken, at $1.99/lb vs. $1.49/lb.” I think this should be 25% less, not more, correct?

Comment by Savvy Housekeeper

May 10, 2011 @ 10:22 am

Jen–Yep! That’s a typo. Thanks for catching it for me.

Comment by jac

May 10, 2011 @ 11:34 am

cutting broccoli into florets may be easy, but there’s so much waste and weight on broccoli that isn’t really used. so sometimes it is a better choice to get florets.

Comment by Savvy Housekeeper

May 10, 2011 @ 11:37 am

Jac, that depends. Personally, I eat all the broccoli, including the stem. Actually, the stem is my favorite part.

Comment by Rob

May 10, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

Thanks for posting this… it is amazing to me that people will buy things like sliced apples. Also a quick hint about cheese if you freeze it,thaw it, it crumbles beautifully

Comment by WolfSong

May 10, 2011 @ 12:48 pm

I’m with Savvy on those broccoli stems. The only waste off of broccoli in our house is the peel-and I use a vegetable peeler to peel stems, so it’s very little-and even then, I chop the stem peel and add it to the dog’s food.

Comment by Cath

May 11, 2011 @ 11:33 am

While I agree that you definitely normally save by cutting up your own products, some people with really busy schedules may figure the higher price of pre-cut saves them from eating out more.

And it may also differ somewhat by area of the country. Stores here don’t sell broccoli florets (except frozen) but baby carrots are usually 99 cents per lb. But I may buy the whole carrots simply to be able to get organic ones.

Comment by Melissa

May 31, 2011 @ 6:33 pm

The exception, I’ve found, is cheese. I don’t care for the pre-grated stuff. It has powdery gunk on it to keep the strings from sticking to each other. I much prefer to grate my own. But an 8 oz. block of cheddar goes for over $3, while the same amount of pre-grated stuff can be had for $2.50 or less. Grr.

Comment by Ruth

June 28, 2011 @ 8:26 pm

Mushrooms! Pre packaged, sliced or not, can be more than double the price of the loose ones. Worse, when you see “$11.99 per kg” vs. a prepackaged lot for $5.99, unless you look for the fine print it’s harder to see that $5.99 is getting you only 400 grams worth.

Supermarkets over here do give a comparable price in fine print on the shelf slips, really worth reading! Especially when buying instant coffee – sometimes when the smaller ones are on sale, they end up cheaper per 100 grams than the bigger ‘value’ sizes, but not always…

(Prices are in New Zealand dollars, and sorry I don’t know the weight conversion, but you get the idea).

Comment by Nikki

August 28, 2011 @ 9:09 am

I agree with both sides on the broccoli. I love to eat the stems as well myself but most of the nutrients are in the floret so its not totally wrong to pay extra for the important part.

Comment by Sandra

April 8, 2014 @ 8:28 am

What most people don’t realize is that “baby” carrots are essentially odd-shaped “rejects” that wouldn’t have been salable otherwise – too small, crooked, branched, etc. So they provide another source of income for farmers. True, they do cost more, but they’re not made from a full-sized carrot that could have been sold un-babyfied.

Comment by Savvy Housekeeper

April 10, 2014 @ 9:08 am

Sandra, worrying about what farmers will do with their rejects isn’t really a priority for me when I’m grocery shopping.

Comment by Sandra

April 10, 2014 @ 11:44 am

True, but with money as tight as it is, the farmer has to take it where he can find it. That doesn’t mean that *you* have to buy them, but at least you know they’re not wasting large carrots to make “baby” ones.

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