Cooking,  Local Products

Broccoli Economics

A Holiday Weekend Conversation
Friends: “We’re going to the farmers’ market in the morning. Want to meet us there?”
Me: “Let’s do it! But we have to get broccoli. We need 70 bags.”
Friends: “You’re going to buy WHAT?”
Me: “Broccoli. We’re going to freeze 70 quart bags this year.”
Friends (with the you’re-absolutely-insane look): “Sure you are. We’ll see you in the morning then.”

The following is meant to convince the friends who joined us for the farmers’ market last Sunday that I am indeed not as crazy as I seem. And after four hours of washing, trimming, blanching and bagging this weekend, it’s meant to convince myself too.

This weekend we started freezing broccoli, hands-down our favorite fresh and frozen vegetable. Last winter it appeared on our plates steamed, baked in casseroles, and in soups until we ate the last bag in early February. Even then we had to ration what was left. Determined not to buy any out-of-season, non-local produce, we roughed it in March, April and May without our favorite veggie fix. Avoiding broccoli deprivation in late winter is the first reason 70 quarts is not so crazy.

My other reasons rest somewhere in a quick home economics lesson. There’s money (and an economy. and an environment) to be saved in broccoli. Take a look:

Broccoli season ends in October and doesn’t start up usually until May. That’s roughly 8 months we rely on our freezer for produce. On average last season we ate 1 quart bag of broccoli per meal (2 large servings and maybe 1 for lunch the next day) and 2 bags per week.

2 bags per week x 4 weeks per month x 8 months = 64 bags
(add a handful for larger meals with friends) = 70 bags

This weekend we purchased 17 heads of broccoli (17.43 lbs) for $19 at the farmers’ market or about $1.09 per pound. After prepping, blanching and bagging we ended up with 16 quart-sized bags of broccoli. Each bag averaged just about 1 lb., bringing our total to $1.18 per bag. Add the cost of bags (about $0.10 each) and our final cost per bag is $1.28.

$19/17.43 lbs = $1.09 per pound
$19/16 bags = $1.18 per bag + $0.10 for the bag = $1.28 per bag.

Now I wont hash out all the environmental/taste benefits to buying local produce, but here’s a good financial one: In our local supermarket ad this week, a fresh head of California broccoli was on sale for $1.69. Even on sale, this broccoli is about $0.40 per pound more expensive than the fresh broccoli we bought at the farmers’ market. Multiplied by the 70 heads we need this winter, if we were to buy supermarket broccoli (at the sale price) that’s $42.

$1.69-$1.28=$0.41 difference between fresh and frozen x 70 bags = $28.70 savings.

This is for a conventionally grown head of broccoli, shipped over 1500 miles. It’s $30 I can spend on other good food. The difference is even greater if you were to buy an organic head of California broccoli from your supermarket or co-op, priced at closer to $3.00 per pound.

$3.00-$1.28 = $1.72 difference between organic fresh and frozen x 70 bags = a whopping $120.40 savings.

Enough math. Here’s the bottom line. We love broccoli. Nothing beats the green bunches at the end of a cold, snowy Minnesota day. But to get a broccoli I can both afford and feel good about buying, there’s some work involved. 70 quart bags is no small feat to freeze in one summer. Come February, the extra change in my pocket and broccoli on my plate will be well worth it.


  • Michael Moore

    Hi Amy,
    I just discovered your blog last week, nice work!

    Our friends give us the same funny look. Two weeks ago we found strawberries for $0.42/lb at Mike’s discount grocery and bought 208 lbs.

    This post was a good reminder that I need to get a chest freezer too. The freezer above the fridge is packed with berries so I couldn’t even freeze broccoli if I wanted to.

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