5 Questions to ask before joining a food co-op
Food co-ops can be a great way to get discounted foods, fruits, and vegetables fresh from the farm, organic foods, or items your grocery store doesn't carry. But before you join, ask these questions to see if the co-op is right for you.
- Do I have to join to get bargains? Co-ops are owned by their members, which includes both the farmers who grow the food and the people who buy it. Some co-ops allow nonmembers to buy from the co-op, but only members get discounts. Other co-ops sell only to members.
- Is every member expected to volunteer? To join the co-op, members may be required to pay a fee, volunteer part time at the co-op, or both. If you work, you may prefer a co-op that does not put demands on your time.
- Will I save money? Some co-ops claim to save as much as 40 percent off your grocery bill, but savings may vary form one co-op to the next. If the co-op requires a membership fee, make sure you can save more money than the fee costs. Also, check each product's prices and unit prices to see how co-op discounts compare to prices at other places where you shop.
- Do I have to buy in bulk? Ask if your co-op only offers discounts on bulk orders or if you can get price breaks on smaller orders, too. If you must buy in bulk, determine whether you have enough cash for the bulk buy, whether you can use the food before it spoils, and whether you can make space to store or freeze it.
- How do I shop at the co-op? Some co-ops are open most anytime you need to buy, while others have limited hours or require you to shop or pick up your order within a limited time. Find out how your co-op wants you to buy and whether you can be available at the right times.
Find a co-op near you
You may be living right on top of a food co-op and not even know it. Ask at local food stands or farmer's markets to see if they know of any food co-ops in the area. Head over to the website www.coopdirectory.org for more information and to find the closest food co-op.
- FC&A Staff Writer