The Realistic Lettuce Alternative During Price Hikes And Shortages

The rising price of food has led many to tighten their belts, paring down their grocery lists by scratching off all but the necessities. It's a budget-balancing act that many have been forced to do. But, who could have dreamt that the price of a simple head of lettuce would take it from the "necessity" column and place it firmly under the heading "luxury?" If you've priced a head of romaine lately, you were likely astounded by the cost. After all, lettuce used to be one of the produce aisle's more affordable items. 

According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, lettuce prices increased by an astounding 8.9% between October and November of this year, alone. The second highest increase in produce was seen in apples, and that paled in comparison, standing at just 3.2%. A produce distributor told NPR that a box of 24 heads of lettuce used to go for $25 to $30 but now sells for $100. While several factors are working together to create this price hike, the main cause is the impatiens necrotic spot virus, otherwise known as INSV (via Ag Alert). This virus has ravaged crops in the Salinas Valley, the "America's Salad Bowl" region that grows over half of the nation's lettuce. As a result, farmers have lost "more than 80%" of their yields. Hence, the lettuce shortage. Thankfully, there is a more affordable leafy green alternative to carry you through this lettuce catastrophe. 

Kale is significantly cheaper than lettuce

This may come as a huge surprise, but kale is currently much more affordable than romaine lettuce. According to the USDA, a carton of romaine lettuce sold for between $42 and $60 on December 16 in Boston, while kale sold for $14 to $16. Right now, making your salad with kale instead of romaine could save you serious money, especially if you skip the bagged kale and opt for lower-priced bunches instead. Either way, kale is a perfect lettuce replacement, taking its place in sandwiches, salads (like this sweet kale salad recipe), and anywhere else you'd use your romaine, iceberg, or butterhead. 

As an added bonus, kale actually packs a heartier nutritional punch than lettuce. SFGate reveals that raw kale provides 32% of your daily requirement of vitamin C, while lettuce only gives 2% or 3%. Moreover, kale gives you 141% of the necessary vitamin K, but romaine offers just 60%. And, as a cruciferous veggie, the Mayo Clinic says that kale can also cut down your "risk of various types of cancer." Yay, kale. For now, the best way to avoid the dismay of sticker shock is to step away from the lettuce and grab a bunch of kale. Your wallet and your body will thank you.