Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Food Co-ops - The Smart Buyer's Destination For Locally Grown [Organic] Produce

"But it's too expensive to eat healthy!" If I had a dime for every time I heard this excuse I'd be one of the youngest retirees on the face of the planet. Eating healthy has become synonymous with eating expensively, but it doesn't have to be. It is what you make of it.

You can spend a fortune shopping at the trendiest and fanciest health food store down the block filling your cart full of high end organic produce, or you could accomplish the same by seeking out less conventional routes for grocery shopping. This is where food co-ops come into play.

What Is A Food Co-op?

A food cooperative (or food co-op) is simply a food distribution outlet organized by a group of volunteers working together to meet their common economic and social needs. In other words, it is a member owned "grocery store". This doesn't mean there has to be an actual grocery store to shop at. Many food co-ops simply have pickup sites where once a week members will come pick up their "share" of the crop for that week.

Food co-ops almost always focus on buying from local farms if at all possible. Many will also concentrate on buying organic goods or at least have organic goods available for their members should they choose this option.

Overall, buying the bulk of your fresh produce from a food co-op can save you a lot of money. It's not unheard of to save 50% or more off of regular retail prices at the local supermarket for the same items. Plus, the fruits and vegetables are typically fresher since they've been picked a day or two prior (if not the same day) to you picking them up. You get fresh produce at a fantastic price that's even organic in many cases.

How To Find A Local Food Co-op

Finding a local food co-op is pretty easy. There are a number of great programs and organizations which make the search as simple as ever. I'll highlight a few below that you can check out to locate a co-op near you.

1)  Local Harvest
     - Search the entire United States for Community Supported Agriculture Farms and Co-ops

2)  Bountiful Baskets
     - Food co-op program operating several local branches in up to 22 U.S. states

3)  Cooperative Grocer Network
     - Searches all of North America (U.S. and Canada) for local food co-ops

4) Stronger Together
     - Local co-op search listings for programs in 36 U.S. states

Joining a local co-op could be the best thing you've ever done. It's a win-win situation. You support the local community and the farmers surrounding the community while in return getting fresh, delicious, and sometimes even organic fruits and veggies at a bargain price. There's no more excuses for adopting a healthy lifestyle! Get started today and live a better tomorrow.

Photo credit: Artaxerxes (Wikimedia Commons)

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  1. I'm still trying to learn how to eat on a budget - would really love to learn more about co-ops in my area :)

  2. Growing my own veggies has helped me eat vegan on the cheap as well as buying in bulk for the more expensive items.

  3. We are family of 3, eating only organic food, mostly shopping at Central Market, making all homemade meals - trying to stay on budget and eat fresh and healthy

  4. We have several wonderful co-ops and farmers markets in my area within a 50 mile radius. We love to shop at all of them- it's affordable and you can get some really good finds!!

  5. I was a member of the E. Lansing Mich. coop for over 40 years moving and am a strong believer in coops especially worker owned cooperatives. There is a great deal of literature right now about cooperatives and I would like to recommend a book that gives the reader an overview of what is possible citing examples from around the world.
    Humanizing the economy:co-operatives in the age of capital by John Restakis, c. 2010.
    If we want to change the food system we have to figure out various scenarios and coops are one of many.
    betsy shipley

    1. Thanks for the great info Betsy! That book sounds very interesting, and I'm sure many others appreciate you sharing it. I agree co-ops are needed on a much bigger scale to have a more sustainable (and healthy) food system in this world.

  6. The farmaers market helps, also, I do go to health food stores, but I buy in bulk and don't get the expensive stuff. If you watch you can get foods at the supermarket and even use coupons. I don't spend a great deal on food- I cook from scratch a great deal, and that helps as well. I don't think it is hard to eat healthfully on a budget. You just have to be careful,but it isn't hard. I am more surprised by what junk food and fast foods cost.

    Rainn Kenyon

  7. Find vegies that go further like eggplant and butternut squash.

  8. I try to buy what's in season. Also things like butternut squash and eggplant can go a long way. And I'm really good at making soup from whatever is left in the frig!

  9. One thing I do is to cook my own beans. One pound of dry beans equals approximately four cans of beans. I divide them up and freeze to have on hand. And, they're salt free.

  10. This would be a great book to get. I'd share it with my nephew who's in grad school.

  11. I am loving spring with all the fresh greens at our local market - I love buying fresh, local, and organic where possible. Support your local farmers!


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