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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Family Food Co-Op


By Guest Bloggers Angela Smith and Amy Memory

We all know buying fruits and veggies can be very expensive, especially when you try to buy organic foods. In order for us to save, we joined a food co-op. Although this is not a true co-op in the sense that we’re not partnering with local farmers, we’re helping each other save money by purchasing in bulk. We get tons of great food twice a month. We thought other Smarty moms might be interested, so here's how our co-op operates:

Our co-op group, which is called Organic for Dirty Dozen, includes 10-12 families who participate. Every other Saturday, two families (or designated members from each family) meet at Vernon’s Produce (around 6 am) on Cherry St. in WS to place the order for the group (a maximum of $35 per family). This gives us about $420 (including taxes) to order from a list of available items which are categorized by types of fruits, vegetables, and even eggs, tofu, and salad dressings. In our group, each household is required to participate in the ordering process once every 4 months or so.

Some of the great organic items we purchase this way include avocados, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, squash (winter squashes as well as yellow squash in the summer), pineapples, grapes, kiwis, oranges, apples, pears, leaf lettuce, swiss chard, potatoes, cilantro, onions, baby-cut carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, okra, spinach, mixed greens, mushrooms, and mixed bell peppers.

After picking up the order at Vernon’s, the designated family members go back to someone’s house and divide everything into the number of boxes for those families who are participating that week. Most items are easy to divide by 12 (our typical number participating). Other items are a little more difficult. For example, the grapes come in 8 (2 lb) bags so you have to divide the grapes out as evenly as possible, or else order 3 total orders to get 24 bunches so each house gets 2 bunches.

It may sound confusing, but in the end, it saves us all a lot of time and money. There are some pros and cons, however, and they include:

Pros:
-Cost savings: We’ve calculated approximately a 40% to 60% savings over shopping for same items at regular grocery stores—even when the items are on sale at grocery store.
-Helps with meal planning.
-Makes you meal plan so that you don’t waste things.
-Exposes you to new things you might not otherwise buy or eat.

Cons:
-Allowing others to do your shopping and spend your money can be difficult.
-Shopping for others (when it’s your turn) can be a bit stressful.
-May get things you don’t like or don’t know how to cook.
-May have things go to waste (but it’s such a savings, we often give things away to family members or friends that aren’t in the co-op and don’t feel like we’re losing money).

In today's economy, something like this can go a long way. Let us know if you participate in similar food co-ops and tell us how yours work!”

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a food idea. I have heard great things about Vernon's Produce and also about the Farner's Market in Greensboro. Sounds like we could save a lot of money.

Anonymous said...

Oops - I meant to say "good" idea on the comment above! Guess food was on my mind!

Beth W said...

I have never thought about doing anything like this! There are truly some "Smarty Moms" out there. I love reading all these new ideas!

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