Grocery Delivery Series: CarShare and Public Transit

To conclude our series on grocery delivery, we decided to go in a little bit of a different direction and "deliver" groceries to ourselves. This is a comparison of two weeks of groceries. One week we rented a car from Enterprise CarShare to go get groceries and this week Rachel went to the store via the Chicago Transit Authority. This was also our attempt at a control in this experiment, so when we wrap up for you, you can have a pretty good idea of how the different delivery options compare to getting your own groceries. For those of you who were hanging on for the CSA post, we are still planning on a future post about what to expect from a local CSA farm share in the Midwest, including a compare and contrast of some of the more popular Chicagoland CSAs. When we talked about selling the car, it was always part of our plan to join one of the car sharing programs in Chicago. Sometimes it just makes more sense to take a short trip in a car. Time, location, and even cost can often make using a car the most reasonable option. Conveniently, Enterprise and Zipcar both have cars within a couple blocks of where we live. Also, they both have plans that meet our needs, and they are competitively priced. We chose Enterprise because they have electric cars parked at Uncommon Ground Restaurant, and we wanted to have the option of using an electric car. I mean, we are Sustainably Queer after all.

Rockin' out with our carshare

 

In regards to the CTA, for those of you who live in the great City of Chicago, this is old hat, but if you don't, a ride one-way is $2.25. There is a Whole Foods in Evanston and a Whole Foods in Boystown that are about equidistant from the train. We tend to go to the store in Evanston because it is less busy and occasionally cheaper for some things. This week Rachel did the shopping by herself and so it only cost $4.50 to "deliver" the groceries, but she couldn't carry as much as we could have had we gone shopping together.

Grocery shopping for ourselves!

 

On to the groceries! Turns out, we spend way more on groceries when we are in the driver's seat. Our total at the Whole Foods from the CarShare trip was $90.58. Dude. What happened? Well, first off, we had friends over for pork tacos that Monday, and we got high quality pastured pork shoulder for that. That alone was $36.55. We aren't mad about making delicious pork tacos from relatively happy pigs, but that's an unusual expense. Take the (pork)fat off the top and we're down to $54.03. This is still a little high, but more in our typical range.

Here's the rest of the list:

3 Pears - $2.48

1 bunch Green Onions - $0.77

3 Avocados - $3.00

1 Yellow Onion - $0.67

1/2 lb Mushrooms - $2.99

Ginger Root - $0.51

1 Garlic Bulb - $0.55

5lb bag Carrots - $4.99

1 head Cauliflower - $4.99

1 lb Spring Mix Greens - $5.99

3 Baby Bok Choy - $1.01

Hungarian Paprika - $0.32

Soy Sauce - $2.99

Nutzo Nut Butter - $10.99

Green Salsa - $3.99

Cottage Cheese - $3.19

Ok, so obviously, we do not buy soy sauce, paprika, nut butter, or salsa every week. Great! Then, if we remove non produce items, we only spent $32.55, which is the lowest amount that we have spent on produce, specifically. So, really we didn't spend more. We were just stocking up on pantry items we were running out of. Also, other weeks, we had to make multiple trips to the store, and last week we didn't.

However, was this the most sustainable week? Our trip in the car cost us $17.06, and it also cost the atmosphere some burnt gasoline. Could we have gotten similar groceries and kept one more car off the road?

Here's a random picture of Rachel on the CTA.

Well, what did Rachel get when she went shopping solo on the train? Here's the run down:

1 Bunch Green Onions - $0.77

1 lb Spring Mix Greens - $5.99

2 Bunches Kale - $4.00

4 Pears - $2.84

1 Celery Crown - $2.01

5 lb bag Potatoes - $5.99

2 Jewel Yams - $5.10

2 Red Grapefruit - $3.17

1 Avocado - $1.50

4 Golden Beets - $7.12

Cottage Cheese - $4.69

The total for this trip was $44.22. Who knows why golden beets are so freaking expensive, but we will treasure them as we eat them. For traveling on her own and not having extra arms to carry things, Rachel actually didn't do too bad. The number and cost of produce items was slightly higher for this trip than the average. It's a tricky time of year for produce. Prices will go down once Midwest producers start putting out their own vegetables again.

We will use Enterprise CarShare again, it's a smart program and it certainly makes sense in a crowded urban environment. We will do a full review of it after we've used it a couple more times. I'm not sure that it will always make the most sense for us to use to run to the grocery store. Granted, taking the car only took us a little over an hour. It took Rachel two and a half hours on the train. Sometimes, time is money. Luckily for us, there are small grocery stores dotting our neighborhood and there is an Edgewater Whole Foods slated to open at the end of April. This will make it a lot easier for us to get groceries without having to worry about a vehicle at all.

What we are looking forward to most is the growing season and farmer's markets starting up again. Fresh local food trumps all when it comes to deliciousness, affordability, and sustainability - you've just got to know what you're looking for.

Let us know what you think of this series in the comments! Have you used grocery delivery or a carshare to get your groceries? What has your experience been? 

Good Food Festival - Chicago: Our Overview

Selfie at the Exhibition Hall  

 

Recently, on March 14, Rachel and I went to the Food Policy Conference at the Good Food Festival, because we're giant nerds. (Seriously, we were talking about it and decided to go for it since neither of us could remember the last time we'd done anything "fun" other than going out to eat - yes, we decided going to a Food Policy Conference would be a good use of our fun money.) We opted to skip the morning symposium and arrived just after 10am to explore the exhibition floor before the first talk.

The first talk we attended was called "Urban Agriculture and Local Food Enterprises" and the panel included a couple speakers presenting on community-focused food and agricultural developments in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago.  There was also a representative from the City of Chicago's Planning and Development department.  The panel finished up with a speaker from Cleveland's Green City Growers, one of the Evergreen Cooperative's community-owned, job-creating companies that focuses on farming in their city.  The panel was illuminating and a good introduction to our day. We hope to give you a more detailed post of some of these organizations in later posts.

After this panel, we got a whole hour for lunch and some time to browse around the exhibition floor. We got a kale burger from Green Spirit, a pulled pork sandwich from Gunthorp Farms, and mac and cheese with bacon sausage from Big Fork.  We usually take the opportunity to eat meat when we can be sure of the production practices behind it, so we chose the pork and sausage because they were locally sourced from farms we trust.  The kale burger was from a small vegan restaurant in Rogers Park, and the best thing about it was the beet ketchup. Go figure. After eating, we nabbed some Butter Bella cookies for later and talked to the folks from Seeds of Change.  Seeds of Change was giving away cool bags and free grocery items, like jars of tikka masala sauce. We never say no to free food.

Seeds of Change had a #PledgeToPlant photo booth

After lunch, we went to our next panel session on "Creating Justice and Food-Secure Communities with Sustainable Methods," which featured more speakers from the south side of Chicago, working on various projects related to alleviating food deserts and giving people more agency when they are making choices about what they eat.  Most striking from this bunch was Naomi Davis from Blacks in Green, who not only gave us a full picture of their vision for a fully walk-able economy in West Woodlawn, but was also inspiring in a general sense.  Here is a quote from Blacks in Green's website:

"We serve as bridge and catalyst among communities and their stakeholders in the design and development of “walk-to-work, walk-to-shop, walk-to-learn, walk-to-play villages” within black neighborhoods...our walkable villages are designed to increase household income, by increasing the rate at which neighbor-owned businesses are created and sustained, thus keeping resident money active locally, supporting community self interests, and preserving the heritage of a place. Thus, we address the terrible triplets of pollution, poverty, and plutocracy."

Pretty inspiring, right?  I know, here in Edgewater, we have some semblance of this, especially when the majority of our work, food, and play takes place within walking distance. It's not meant to say we never want to leave the neighborhood, merely that the ideal sphere for human interaction and community building is within a 1/4-1/2 mile radius of your home.  Click through to Blacksingreen.org to learn more about their Eight Principles of Green Village Building.  Clearly, this is fodder for a whole post separate post, as well.

Fair Trade banana from Dill Pickle Co-op

Finally, we thought Rachel would find the "Good Food U - How can Chicago-area higher education support healthy local food?" session a very interesting melding of her professional interests, but about 10 minutes in, we decided to try a different session (mostly because they wanted a group discussion and we wanted to listen and learn).  We hopped over to the session on "Fair Food for Global Sustainability" just as Sharon Hoyer from the Dill Pickle Co-op in Logan Square was finishing up her presentation about Fair Trade Bananas.  We, unfortunately, missed the opening remarks from Nancy Jones of Chicago Fair Trade, but the information about bananas was fascinating (we hope to do a post about Fair Trade in the near future, but for now, check out this video about the bananas!).  Then our favorite speaker of the day, Eric Rodriguez from Café Chicago, started telling us about the issues with undocumented day workers in the Midwest and his group's initiatives to give them more agency and power to control the type of work they do.  Café Chicago is a coffee roasting cooperative based on these concepts and we are 100% hoping to sit down with Eric at some point and possibly visit their location for more information, but their website gives a succinct run-down of what they do:

Cafe Chicago Coffee"Café Chicago is a worker-made, worker-run cooperative that roasts, packages, and distributes great tasting, fair trade, organic coffee in the Chicago area. With a new model of job creation, job training, and social action that create living wage jobs and provide training in coffee roasting and cooperative management, the for-profit Café Chicago also funds the social justice organizing of Latino Union at a time of dwindling non-profit funding. "

 

 

We left that presentation feeling inspired to buy Fair Trade across the board, and if we ever need coffee, a bag of Café Chicago coffee will be the first place we turn. About four days later, we were at True Nature Foods and right there on the shelf was freshly roasted coffee from Café Chicago.  It's very exciting that organizations like this exist and that their products are readily available all over the city!

We then headed back to the exhibition hall for some serious snacking and chatting with reps from all the delightful, local food organizations and companies.  I'm not going wear out our welcome and list everyone we talked to but some highlights were The Brinery (delicious fermented veggies from Ann Arbor looking to get more into the Chicago market), Mo Rub (meat/dip/veggie seasoning from Iowa now available at some Chicago-area Whole Foods), the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (advocacy group supporting our local food system), and the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship (national group of lawyers, based at U of C in Chicago, who focus on providing pro bono legal advice and support for new business owners in the city, specifically local food businesses).

It was a very full day and we learned a lot, but the Friday version of the Good Food Festival is not for everyone.  Last year we went on Saturday, and that was more our speed at the time.  There are more booths in the exhibition hall, and the presentations are focused on topics like "Brew Your Own Beer" or "Home Butchery and Curing" or "Food Co-ops 101", that kind of thing.  It's more focused on things you can do at home and less so on things that are happening in the community and the world of urban agriculture. We're hoping to make it to both Friday and Saturday next year, if we have the energy! (Also, we didn't even mention the Localicious Party! We didn't make it this year, but hope to budget for it next year. It's a party celebrating "the farmers who grow our food and the chefs who transform it.") The moral of the story is that if you like food, the Good Food Festival has something of interest for you, so you should check it out next year!