I participate in several cooperative food buying clubs (aka "co-ops"). Each co-op runs a bit differently, but they all help me to provide my family with healthy food & household products at minimal cost. (Think Whole Foods at a discounted rate). This series will cover how co-ops work, how they can save you money & overview the co-ops I participate in.
What is a co-op?
A co-op is an organized group of people who buy food together from a for-profit food distributor. The goal of the group is to receive low cost healthy food & products from the distributor.
How do most co-ops operate?
- the distributor has a purchasing amount minimum for the group to reach each month (in order for the delivery to be worthwhile for the distributor I assume). ie, the group must spend $1,000 for the truck to make a delivery in your area.
- the members of the co-op have a committee (of sorts) or a single person that
- handle returns & collect payment
- triage information between the distributor & the members
- oversee the "splits" distribution
How do co-ops save money?
The items offered through co-op food distributors are largely sold in bulk (ie. 10 pounds of flax seed, 5 pound block of cheese, 12 containers of yogurt, etc...) You have to purchase the bulk amount to get the price break. Enter "splits".
A huge benefit of buying through a co-ops is the ability to buy items in bulk & split with others in the co-op. If you only need 1 container of organic sour cream to last you through the month & they are sold in packs of 6, email the co-op group to see if anyone wants to "split" the case & take the remaining containers.
All the co-ops have Yahoo accounts or email distribution lists for the group members to communicate. The day the food is delivered, the item is divided between the members participating in the "split" & money is exchanged. Doing splits was intimidating to me at first, but it quickly became easier & well worth the little effort it takes to participate!
How do I pick-up the products?
Each co-op operates a bit different, but most have a prearranged monthly drop schedule for the entire calendar year (i.e. last Saturday of the month at 1pm). This helps my schedule-oriented self to plan activities around the pick-up times.
There is a permanent pick-up location for each co-op. (All of the co-ops "drop points" are within 5 minutes from my front door, talk about convenient!)
On the scheduled delivery day & time, the tracker trailer comes to the designated location & the members help unload the truck & distribute the items to each member.
Truck drop for the Azure Standard co-op
Part 2 will discuss co-ops I buy the majority of our packaged food & household products through: United Natural Foods & Azure Standard co-ops.