A food co-op is a cluster of people that are dedicated to assisting with the purchase and division of bulk groceries, for the well-being of the group members. This can be a great option for people looking to reduce their grocery bill because substantial savings can be made by buying in bulk.
Photo Haikou- Wikimedia Commons
A few years ago some friends and I started our own fruit and vegetable co-op, to benefit our families. By getting up early on a Saturday morning and buying from a wholesale grower's market, we were able to purchase our goods in bulk. Once divided equally, each family would get a large box of fresh quality produce for each for around $30.
Here are a few tips for getting your own food co-operative group started:
Who will be involved?
My co-op began over a coffee conversation between 3 friends. We all liked the idea of saving money on fruit and vegetables and there it began!
You could approach family or friends with the idea and see if they are interested.
How many people do we need?
Decide how many members you want to include. There are advantages and disadvantages to having both a small or large group. With a smaller co-op you will be able to get a bigger amount of produce as there is only a few families to divide the goods between, but it may be only be of a selected variety due to budget constraints.
In a bigger group there is more money to work with, so a larger variety of goods can be purchased. Also there are more people on board to share the workload.
Photo: Yusuke Kawasaki- Wikimedia Commons
What kind of goods will be bought?
What is the group interested in buying? Bulk meat, fruit and vegetables and dry goods are all great possibilities.
Set a budget
What is a reasonable price that will enable the group to get a good selection of food? It is a sound idea to first visit the suppliers and and get a fair idea of how much they are charging. Then a price can be agreed on. My co-op decided we could get a lot of fruit and vegetables for a total of $90. This meant each family would pool $30 a fortnight towards each shop.
Photo: Martin Kingsley- Wikimedia Commons
Make a request list
What are the needs of the group? If you are shopping for fruit and vegetables, are they happy with what's available and in season? Consider starting with staples like onions, carrots and potatoes and go from there. Then add any other requested items.
Set up a roster
It is important to set up a roster so everyone involved can take turns to do the shopping. This also ensures the co-op a greater chance of success in the long term.
When buying large amounts of food, it can be a good idea to have 2 people responsible at each time for the shopping, as there can be heavy lifting involved. A flat trolley and scales also may need to be purchased when setting up.
Will the people doing the shopping also be responsible for weighing and dividing up the goods?
These are all important factors to consider and discuss with the group.
Being part of food co-op can be a great way of saving money and building some lasting friendships in the process.