by Laura Edwards-Orr
This is the 5th post in our series, Six Ways to Shop Your Values without Breaking the Bank.
These tips to help you get the most for your money and make the most impact with your purchases. We can’t all be perfect, so remember: When you make one change for the better, you’ve made a solid move in the right direction!
Shop Your Values Tip #5: Join the club.
Buying clubs were popularized in the 1970′s and are seeing resurgence among consumers who are looking for high quality, locally grown, and organic food for a better price. Essentially, a group of people gets together (most clubs recommend between eight and twelve families to start, and place monthly orders of bulk food which is delivered to a designated drop off point). With a buying club, you are able to plan ahead for all of your staple groceries, buy in bulk to get a better price, and make selections based on your personal food values. Depending on which club you go through you will find a stronger emphasis on organic and family farm identified foods. To find a buying club in your area or to learn how to start one, check out United Buying Clubs, which currently operates in 37 states.
Many buying clubs from way back eventually developed into neighborhood co-ops. Co-ops are member-owned grocery stores that often specialize in local, organic and natural foods. Co-ops are usually smaller, organized differently and carry products and brands than your local mega-mart. On a deeper level, most co-ops generally subscribe a few core principals: voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, member economic participation, autonomy and independence, education and information, cooperation with other cooperatives and concern for community. You can read more about these principals at the National Cooperative Grocer’s Association website. Lists of member co-ops and information on how to start your own co-op can also be found on the site. Another good place to find a co-op near you is Local Harvest where you can search by zip code.
It’s not just the small and funky buying clubs and co-ops that are trying to make local, sustainable, and organic foods more accessible, however. Some of you may have read that BJ’s Wholesale Club recently announced that it’s “farm to club” local sourcing initiative will be expanded to all 195 stores (15 states). Other wholesale shopping outlets are also working hard to get on the trend and offer shoppers opportunities to buy within their values and buy in bulk when prices are low. So, buy low, buy in bulk and freeze, can, and store your way to savings!
Laura Edwards-Orr started her career as a local foods advocate at Farm Aid – America’s longest running concert for a cause. She now works for Plainville, MA based Red Tomato where she connects farmers across the Northeast with access to wholesale markets, like grocery stores.
Laura also works as a freelance writer, researcher, and data nerd for organizations and businesses working to create family-farm based food systems and value chains. She lives in Providence, RI with her husband, toddler twins, horse, dog, and two cats.