Food co-ops are an easy way to get lots of fresh fruits, veggies, and meats at great prices! Learn what a food co-op is, how to find a local one, and how they benefit you!
What is a food co-op?
A Food Co-op is a food distribution outlet that acts as a cooperative. That means the decisions about the production and distribution of its food are chosen by its members.
Some food co-ops have produce, some have meats, and some have both. There are even a few that have processed food along with the fresh.
How Does A Food Co-op Work?
Each co-op functions slightly differently when it comes to ordering and distribution. But basically, the co-op is there to do bulk orders of items. They make a bulk amount by having each person in the co-op order the food items they want. Then they take the orders to the providers or farmers and they put the order in and get the discount.
There are some food co-ops like The Food and Meat Co-op in Utah where the organizers of the co-op will work with local farmers and food providers to get special pricing just for those who order through the co-op. They also get closeout deals from distributors at a lower price than they would get otherwise.
I like this type of co-op because it is constantly changing and you get to try new things and have variety.
Benefits of a food co-op
There are so many benefits to a local food co-op. Here are what I feel is the biggest benefit.
1. You get to try new foods!
Food co-ops are a great way to try new things. If you are in a produce co-op there are often boxes that you don’t get to pick what is in it. So each week you get a box, you get new items you can learn to use. It is also a great way to not spend a fortune trying things.
One of our favorite new foods we picked from the food and meat co-op is the manicotti they have had. Everyone in my family loves it and it is a great fast meal to prepare.
2. You get fresher produce and meats
Depending on where you live and the time of year, you can find local meat and produce in your grocery store. But for the most part, the store will go with the cheapest place they can get the item. So if there is a producer further away that will give them a better price, they will go with them.
Food co-ops usually get their produce and meat closer to the time it is picked or processed. This not only helps support local farmers and ranchers, but it also means you get fresher items. This also means the product is left on the plant longer which makes it healthier for you.
3. You save money on food
While there is no set-in-stone percentage that a co-op gets off, oftentimes it is cheaper to get a bulk pricing on food products. So when you go in with a group, you get better pricing than if you were an individual buying at the store.
Most local food co-ops get you the product up to 50% off the regular price. This is often cheaper than when you shop the sale prices at stores. So it is important to use all your options and compare prices to get the best price.
4. You can keep variety in your meals
One of the biggest struggles in cooking is not getting in a rut. You do that when you make the same thing over and over again.
This can be avoided by buying a variety of food and planning your meals. Buying from a food co-op makes the variety part easy. Most food co-ops will rotate topics or they will buy foods in season so if you are buying from the cooperative consistently you will always have variety in your meals.
How to find a local food cooperative
Some areas have lots of food co-ops and others have very few. So it may be difficult to find one.
The best way to start finding one local to your area is to search Google. You will want to use your city, county, or state to search so you can find the one closest to you.
This should bring up any co-ops that have a website.
If you are local to Utah, I recommend using a local co-op called “The Food and Meat Co-op. It is all over northern Utah.
This co-op has meats and vegetables and a huge amount of super yummy food. Each month they open up for orders and they sell out quickly. One of the great things about this co-op is that it is free to participate.
I also love that they offer a premium VIP subscription where you get the first pick of what opens each month and 5% off! It is so affordable too!
Another good place to search is facebook as lots of local co-ops will have Facebook groups or pages. There are also co-ops that function just on Facebook. So it is good to look up your city or county food co-ops on Facebook as well.
Lastly, I would ask everyone around you if they know of one. If they don’t you may want to get a group of neighbors together and start your own co-op.
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Be sure to check out other ways to save money on food!