Conscious Groceries

Some market items, cooked and priced out for future budgeting knowledge.

On Sunday, I biked along the Hudson River, read a book in Tomkins Square Park, met my brother at the SOHO House, saw improv at UCB, and shopped for groceries.

Along this journey, I made a grocery detour at Dual Specialty Store (91 1st Avenue), the Indian market open seven days a week, 11am - 1am. When living in the Alphabet City 2013-2014, this was my first choice store for spices, nuts, and grains. I've always wondered though, given their seemingly affordable prices, if the cost to cook and eat the bulk items proved more effective than purchasing the more conventional and convenient already-cooked versions, elsewhere.

This is the first in a series of experiments, in order to shed light on more conscious consumption of market goods. (Note: If your prices are less, please let me know where it can be found, and for which price. Similarly, if you have thoughts or ideas about this exploration, please share below.)

Almonds (Raw) 1 lb. - $10.95 - GOOD

I like to make homemade nut milks after dad started doing so in his blender-to-rule-all-blenders and nut-milk bags. Soaking almonds in water overnight then pulverizing + straining seemed easy enough. I don't care for the store-bought versions because of things like xantham gum (thickening agency), and quantities of sugar and salt higher than I would like to consume. Plus, I like to customize the flavor with vanilla, cinnamon, and whichever local honey I've stocked at the moment. 

When making this almond milk, though, I figured there must be something I could do with the almond pulp. I began extracting as much milk as I could, and storing the fresh pulp with paper towels in an airtight container in the fridge, absorbing most of the moisture and becoming a fresh almond meal, ready for baking, smoothies, breakfast cereals, and the like.


$3.65 / c. raw almonds yields:

  • 1/2 c. almond meal, costing $1.83
  • 32 fl. oz. almond milk, costing $1.83 (using the 1:3 ratio almonds: water)

Compared to Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal, which runs a 16 oz bag at about $0.65/oz, costing $2.59 for 1/2 cup of meal, made fresh is roughly 30% cheaper and more delicious and nutritious.

For Almond Milk, you are getting something like a 32 oz. carton of Silk or Blue Diamond for $2.35, whereas homemade is roughly 22% cheaper, packed with more protein, better flavor than the gummy, starchy, ingredient-added mass versions. Don't let anyone ever sell you freshly-made, Raw Almond Milk for anything more than $4.00 - what a rip-off.

Black Beans (Dried) 1 lb. - $2.75 - GOOD

I used to buy GOYA brand black beans in the can because of the ease of scoop-and-heat and then refrigerate the leftover, unused beans until a later meal. But it is far cheaper, universally, to cook with dried beans, and they come in larger quantities. Soaking overnight and customizing a flavor, making a large batch lasts for at least a week. This is self-explanatory.

$2.75 / lb. yields:

  • 2 1/2 c. / lb. (uncooked) --> 5 c. / lb. (cooked)
  • 1 c. uncooked = $1.10  = 2 c. cooked = 4 half-cup servings = $0.275/serving (cooked)

A 15.5 oz. can of Goya Black Beans weighs in at about $0.08/oz, which at 3.99 oz per half-cup serving, costs about $0.32/serving (cooked), but with all of that unwanted sodium. Homemade saves you roughly 15% up front, BUT the best part, is that with your initial 1 pound purchase, you don't have to go buy more beans for another 1-2 weeks, expend extra energy and resources, etc.

Farro Organically Grown Whole 1/2 lb. - $3.35 - NOT GOOD

This is one of those grains that isn't particularly cheap, but when you buy in bulk, it makes this Italian grain worth it:

$6.70 / lb. yields:

  • 3 c. / lb. (uncooked) --> 6 c. (cooked)
  • $2.23/ c. (uncooked) = $1.12 = 1 c. cooked = 2 half-cup servings = $0.558/serving (cooked)

A store-bought Nature's Earthly Choice Organic Farro runs about $3.44 / 14 oz, equating to approximately $1.97 / 8 oz. So here, I've paid $3.35 for 8 oz, and thus overpaid 70% by buying this grain in bulk. Lesson learned, at Dual Specialty Store, for this instance. You should be paying the going rate of about $3.93 / lb. for organic farro.