Thrifty Green Thursday: Natural Foods for Less

Thrifty Green Thursday

Join a Co-op and Bulk Up for Cheap!

Grocery prices got you down?

Organic foods seem out of your budget?

Join a co-op and buy natural foods in bulk. Order ahead and get what you’d need for a month, and you’ll always have the staples at hand, being thrifty at the same time.

Most whole foods are available by the bag or box, with 10, 25, and 50 pound sizes being the usual. Rice, lentils, beans, oats, wheat, pasta, nuts and seeds are all available for much less than you’d pay for the fancy box with the cool colors, and you’ve contributed less waste to the landfill. Produce, grocery products, and personal care items are all candidates for bulk purchases.

Many co-ops will take special orders for bulk foods and other food items in quantity, for a discount. For a list of food co-ops across the US, see the Food Co-operative Directory at the Cooperative Grocer’s website.

From the International Cooperative Alliance:

A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise. Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

The advantages of being a member of a co-op:

  • Cooperatives are owned by their members
  • Co-ops exist to serve the needs of their members and their community
  • Co-ops abide by the cooperative principles, which are:
    1. Voluntary and Open Membership
    2. Democratic Member Control
    3. Member Economic Participation
    4. Autonomy and Independence
    5. Education, Training and Information
    6. Cooperation among Cooperatives
    7. Concern for Community

The advantages of buying in bulk:

  • Much less packaging.
  • Lower price per pound or package.
  • Your pantry is stocked with the foods you always eat, making it less likely to eat junk food or eat out.
  • Buying whole foods in bulk means fresher food.
  • Ordering ahead helps in planning a food budget and sticking with it.

We order fruit by the case, and rice, beans, sprouting seeds and herbs for tea in bulk. Our TP comes in a huge case, so we don’t ever run out. I like peanut butter, so I get that in a 15 lb tub, which lasts a long time. Many people that drink soy or rice milk order it by the case, and shampoo, soap, and cleaners are available as well. And if you eat only gluten-free foods, you can ensure your supply by buying in bulk.

Stock up and save at your local food co-op.

For more thrifty green ideas, go to: Thrifty Green Baby Guide

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

5 thoughts on “Thrifty Green Thursday: Natural Foods for Less

  • August 14, 2008 at 6:54 am

    What a great link! We have a growers coop here but I’m not sure that they have anything other than produce. I’m going to double check that it doesn’t have dry goods, and if not, I may hit a coop in a neighboring town (that I never knew about before viewing the link). Thanks!

  • August 14, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Ah, I am jealous! We’ve had two co-ops go under here in the last few years. One was terribly organized I must say, and the other got a building with high rent, thus charged high prices, and although we may say that we’ll pay more to support community based stores, in practice folks clearly were not willing to double down for the co-op. Oh well.

    BTW — does anyone know of a co-op that delivers? When I was in college I lived in a housing co-op and we order our groceries from a co-op that delivered to the Mountain-Desert region (NM, WY, CO) from Utah. They came once a month with a semi-loaded with bulk stuff. I’ve since lost track of my roommates and I don’t recall the name of the business…if anyone knows, please pass the info along!

    Thanks for your Thrifty Thursday tips!

  • August 14, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    I used to live within walking distance of a co-op in the last two places I lived, but I never became a member. I still shopped there every now and then, though. After reading your post, I’m disappointed to live nowhere near a co-op anymore! I could also go through 15 lbs. of peanut butter fairly quickly. . . .


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