ShopSmart Uncovers the True Cost of Convenience at the Supermarket

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When it pays to buy recipe-ready fresh foods and when it doesn’t

ShopSmart June 2015

"Unless you are really strapped for time, there’s little reason to pay enormous premiums on most pre-prepped, fresh grocery items,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "However we found some items that may be worth the cost.”

Precut fresh fruits, veggies, and meats may help get dinner on the table faster, but the markups on these can be huge. The June 2015 issue of ShopSmart, from Consumer Reports, uncovered how much more shoppers will pay for 12 ready-to-cook items versus their unprepped counterparts including onions and green beans, which pre-cut, cost 370 and 192 percent more respectively.

"Unless you are really strapped for time, there’s little reason to pay enormous premiums on most pre-prepped, fresh grocery items,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "However we found some items that may be worth the cost.”

While the time vs. money trade-off may be appealing, shoppers may find the price premiums on some foods surprising. The prices listed are per-pound averages based on national statistics; the unprepped prices are for whole produce. Here are some examples from the full list featured in the ShopSmart’s June issue, on newsstands now:

  •     Potatoes. Pre-wrapped and oven-ready, spuds cost about $3.11 versus unprepped potatoes which cost about $1.26 per pound – a 147 percent difference. And encasing them in foil or plastic at home takes only seconds.
  •     Pineapple. Shoppers will pay 55 percent more for pre-cut pineapple, $4.28 vs. 2.75 per pound. But the investment may be worth it because cutting a whole pineapple can take a while.
  •     Kale. Washing and taking the stems off can be tedious, so it may be worth paying the 317 percent markup for kale that has already been washed and trimmed.
  •     Broccoli florets. Precut, they actually cost about 12 percent less than whole broccoli because a lot of the waste is eliminated from the stalks that get cut off and tossed. But those who like to eat the stalks will get an even better deal buying the whole head of broccoli which cost about 50 percent less per pound than florets.

About Consumer Reports:
Consumer Reports Consumer Reports is the world’s largest and most trusted nonprofit, consumer organization driving marketplace change to improve the lives and amplify the voices of consumers. Founded in 1936 Consumer Reports has achieved substantial gains for consumers on food and product safety, financial reform, health and other issues. The organization has advanced important policies to cut hospital-acquired infections, prohibit predatory lending practices and combat dangerous toxins in food. Consumer Reports independent testing and rating of thousands of products and services is made possible by its member-supported 50 plus labs, state-of-the-art auto test center and consumer research center. Consumers Union, a division of Consumer Reports, works for pro-consumer laws and regulations in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace. With more than eight million subscribers to its flagship magazine, website and other publications Consumer Reports accepts no advertising, payment or other support from the companies whose products it evaluates.

About ShopSmart magazine:
Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon the publication’s celebrated tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. ShopSmart features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and “best of the best” lists. It’s ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $4.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Kroger, Safeway and Publix. ShopSmart is available by subscription at http://www.ShopSmart.org.

ShopSmart is available 10 times a year. Subscribe at http://www.ShopSmart.org.

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Melissa Valentino
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