What does Co-Op mean and how can they save you money?

Published on December 15, 2015 By Lauren
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    Have you ever wondered what a Food co-op is? Here is a post that explains just how this different way of shopping can help you save hundreds a year!

    If you’ve recently made the decision to start shopping organically and make healthier food choices for your family, you may have noticed the higher price tags or your grocery bill going up.  There are many reasons why these options often cost more, but I’m not here to tell you why; I am here to tell you that it does not have to be that way.

    Shopping organically not only benefits your personal health, but others as well.  Local farmers, the environment and the overall community you live in can all benefit from this change.  Where you shop matters as well.  It can be difficult to choose which store to shop at when big-box stores advertise unbeatable low prices for household staples.  You have options, and it’s possible to balance these strong moral values with a tight budget.

    Co-Ops, or cooperative grocery stores or markets, are a group of grocery chains committed to higher quality, locally and ethically sourced food and household products.  They source produce, grains, meat and dairy mostly from local farmers, and provide knowledge and resources on how to live a healthier lifestyle.  This is all very important to me when I shop for my family.

    How does it work to shop at your Co-Op?  You do not have to become a member, but it can offer you discounts (ours gives a 10% discount once a month on non-sale items), as well as mailings, news, and more.  Check with the service desk if they offer any other programs to help you save money.  Ours offers a program called F.L.O.W.E.R. This program benefits families that receive government assistance from WIC, food stamps, Medicaid, etc. 

    I use many of the same rules to shop my Co-Op as any other store or shopping trip, here are my top ways to save:

    1.) Sign up for WholeShare.com and get a FREE $50 credit if you start your own group!

     

    NatureMarketplace

    2.) Print or clip your coupons, especially the high value ones when they come out.

    Before you shop, check with your store’s service desk to see what their policy is for coupon acceptance.  My store does not have a formal or written coupon policy, but do adhere to the guidelines written on the coupon by the manufacturer, so I have gotten very practiced at reading the fine print.

    Here are some other places to find organic coupons:

    • Co+Op Deals issues a coupon book that match up with sales over the course of a month
    • Wegmans Nature’s Marketplace magazine has really good manufacturer coupons (free and located in the Nature’s Marketplace section at Wegmans grocery store)
    • There are many printable coupon sources such as: Recyclebank, Common Kindness, and Mambo Sprouts.

    3.) Watch the sales: Co+Op chain releases a sales flyer (Co+Op deals) every two weeks.

    Stock up on rock bottom prices when you see them.  I have gotten frozen vegetables, organic coconut oil, eco friendly cleaning products, diapers, and more for free or next to nothing.

    4.) Become familiar with the products carried at your store, and comparison shop.

    I am not able to fill all our needs by shopping at my store every week, but rather shop specific needs that are cheaper here than anywhere else.

    Here is what I usually shop for at my store:

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    1.) I love buying bulk foods from the Co Op.  You can find some great prices!

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    2.) Spices; on sale or not, you cannot beat the price per ounce than anywhere else (Aldi, the Dollar Tree, Walmart, etc).  Usually listed are the price per pound, so as you can see in the photo above, organic ground pepper on sale at $11.99/lb divided by 16 ounces in a pound = $0.75!  Aldi charges $0.99 for a container of black pepper.   The Italian herb mix is another one we go through a lot here, and even when it’s not on sale still only ends up being $1.21 per ounce.

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    3.) Grains, legumes, flour: price you pay is a steal considering the supply is provided by small farms in your area.  Our store offers a “case Sale” where you can buy these items and more in large quantities or packages for less.

    To find a Co+Op store in your area, visit https://strongertogether.coop/coops/. or sign up for Wholeshare.com and join a local group.

    Another ways to help your family eat better on a budget is to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or farm share over the summer.  This allows you to get an abundance of produce fresh from the farm, try new things, and eat seasonally.

    There are many different types of CSA’s, such as vegetable, fruit, meat or dairy.  I am lucky to have two uncles who raise beef and poultry (one in Lansing, NY and one in Greenwich, NY) which is where we get our meat from.  Wholeshare.com is another way to grocery shop, similar to a cooperative market, but from someone in your area instead of a store.  You can find a group on the website, or start one of your own.  There are many benefits to starting a group on Wholeshare.com.  Summer is coming, and that means farm stands, pick your own produce, and gardening which can also help save money.

    I would LOVE to know, what is your favorite way to shop at your co-op? Are there any favorite foods you like to buy?

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